People all around the world love the sugar apple fruit for its heavenly sweet flavor. It makes a great addition to desserts, fruit salads, and drinks. Previously it was believed that the sugar apple was native to India, but today, its origin is believed to be from India or Central America. The sugar apple tree is easy to grow and care for as long as it receives a good amount of sunlight and wet draining soil.
Botanical Introduction to the Sugar Apple Tree
The scientific name of the sugar apple is Annona squamosa and it belongs to the Annonaceae family of plants. Sugar apple trees are either large shrubs that can grow to a height of 3m to 7m, featuring an open crown, or are low-growing, semi-deciduous trees. The branches of sugar apple trees are irregular. Young shoots grow in a zigzag order and are odorous and waxy when crushed.
Sugar apple trees produce fragrant flowers that feature a green tint outside and are cream-colored from the inside. The flowers are bisexual (hermaphrodite), axillary, and pendulous. The flowers grow solitarily most of the time but you may see the flowers growing in bunches of 2 or 4 as well.
The most prominent feature of the sugar apple tree, that’s also the reason why these trees are so popular, is its fruit. The sugar apple fruit is oval-shaped. It’s green-yellow in color and usually has a diameter of 5 to 12cm. The pulp of the fruit is yellowish-white. The sweet, aromatic fruit has a buttery and creamy flavor that can add life to desserts and fruit salads.
Sugar Apple Tree Growth Requirements
The sugar apple tree is easy to grow and maintain. If you want to grow sugar apple trees in your backyard or fruit garden, you may want to familiarize yourself with the basic growth requirements. If yes, continue reading ahead for a complete sugar apple tree growing guide.
Sugar apple trees are tropical plants and therefore, have a low resistance to cold. They grow best in regions where the temperature is in the range of 50 degrees Fahrenheit and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Seedlings and young sugar apple plants die if the temperature falls below 32 degrees Fahrenheit. However, mature sugar apple trees are more tolerant to a colder climate than young plants. They can survive at temperatures few degrees below freezing point. A lower temperature reduces the number of fruits the trees produce, affects pollination, and even reduces post0harvest life, but the plant doesn’t die. It survives.
When we say sugar apple is a low-maintenance plant variety, we mean it. The sugar apple plant can go extended periods without water. They’ve got excellent drought resistance. In case your region is going through a dry phase, you don’t really have to worry about your sugar apple plant. You may notice fruit and leaf drop during the drought season, but your plant won’t die.
Sugar apple trees require 750mm to 1200mm of annual rainfall for optimum growth. You may not water the plant at all when the weather is rainy. You should water your sugar apple tree once every 15 days when it’s not raining.
Another important factor that you must keep in mind when growing sugar apple trees is to ensure that the soil is adequately moist. Moist soil promotes the blooming of flowers and the growth of healthy sugar apple fruit. You should water the sugar apple trees every 2 weeks (or at least once in 4 weeks, depending on the climate) during the off-season and every 3 to 5 days during the flowering phase. The soil must be kept moist during the time when the tree is producing flowers and fruits because fruits are more sensitive and will get affected more than leaves when there’s insufficient water.
Sugar apple trees aren’t very demanding when it comes to soil. They grow well in poor and stony soil that has a pH between 7 and 8. This plant performs well in sandy and clay to loamy soil, but if you want to provide the most favorable conditions to your sugar apple tree, you should make sure that the soil is deep, fertile, looser, and neutral to slightly alkaline. The soil should be well-draining. Wet soil can promote diseases in sugar apple trees.
Humidity has a significant impact on the pollination and flowering in sugar apple plants. The sugar apple trees require a high humidity of at least 60% or above for the flowering to occur. The plant can do well in lower humidity when the plants are not flowering, but when they are, high levels of humidity are vital.
The growth of sugar apple plants is directly impacted by the organic matter in the soil. The higher the nutrients in the soil, the better the plants will grow. Fertilizing the soil is crucial, especially in the early years. You should fertilize the soil with 60 to 80kg of compost or aged manure every year to boost the healthy growth of your sugar apple trees. Organic fertilizer promotes root development and improves the texture of the soil.
Growing the Sugar Apple Trees
You can grow sugar apple plants from seeds and seedlings.
Growing Sugar Apple from Seeds
Most people grow sugar apple plants from seeds. It’s the traditional method of propagation that is widely used even today. Seeds from a fully ripe sugar apple fruit are collected. Make sure you pick the fruit from a tree that has excellent fruit production and whose fruits are tasty and healthy. The seeds are viable only for 6 months after which they won’t grow into a plant. You should plant the seeds from healthy and fully ripe fruit as soon as possible to make sure you get the most viable seeds.
Plant the seeds horizontally, about 2 to 3cm deep into the soil and 1.5cm apart from each other. Germination takes about 30 days. If the seed coat is tough, the germination may be slower and it may take longer for a shoot to pop.
As much as this method of growing sugar apple trees is popular, it’s associated with numerous disadvantages. Some of the most prominent disadvantages of growing sugar apple from seeds are late harvesting, taller, more difficult to hand plants, high genetic variability, and low germination rate.
Growing Sugar Apple from Seedlings
You can grow sugar apple plants from young seedlings as well. This method is slower than growing the plant from seeds but produces healthier plants. Wrap the seeds in a paper towel and soak them in water in a Ziploc bag for about 3 days. You can either do this or scarify the seeds using sandpaper and then soak them in warm water for 24 hours. Then plant the seeds in a container containing soil rich in organic matter. Place the container at a spot that receives plenty of sunlight.
The container should be 3 inches deep and should have drainage holes at the bottom. Plant the seeds at least 3cm deep and ensure the soil is adequately moist but not wet. You can then transplant the seedlings to your garden soil, but make sure you do this when the temperature is warm. Young seedlings can’t tolerate cold but will thrive in the warmer temperature.
Caring for the Sugar Apple Trees
It isn’t hard to take care of the sugar apple tree. It’ll thrive and produce high-quality fruit if you give just the right amount of care and attention.
Protect from Wind
The sugar apple tree is a softwood tree and strong wind can damage it. The branches may tear and break under strong wind spells. The sugar apple fruits can also get damaged when the branches rub against each other. If the wind is dry, it’s even more dangerous for your sugar apple tree. Dry wind can dry out the stigma and lead to reduced pollination. Therefore, you should plant sugar apple trees in an area that’s well sheltered from the wind.
Use Fruit Covers
Sugar apple fruits attract pests and insects. Pests and insects can damage the fruits and deem them useless. You should always use fruits covers to protect sugar apple fruits from all sorts of insects and pests. Polyethylene, paper, or plastic bags, all of these make good fruit covers. The cover should cover the fruits entirely during the development phase. Micro-proliferations would provide the fruits with the air and moisture they need to grow and will also provide the outlet for extra moisture and gaseous waste. Chemical pesticides aren’t your best as they’ll also kill the insects and pollinators that are good for the plants. The major pests and insects that you should keep an eye out for include aphids, moths, scales, and mealybugs, and you can protect your sugar apple fruits from all of these by using fruit covers.
One of the most important care tips when growing sugar apple trees is to manage weeds. Weeds can affect the growth of sugar apple trees significantly and therefore, you should employ the right methods to get rid of the weeds. You can use herbicides, opt for a mechanical method, or do it manually. Mulching at the base of the tree also helps a great deal.
If you manage to grow sugar apple trees successfully, you can enjoy the sweet fruits for years to come. The initial years are the most crucial when you’re growing sugar apple trees. Once you manage to move past the development stage successfully, there’s not much that you’ve got to worry about.