How To Grow A Sugar Apple Tree In Florida

Growing sugar apple in Florida is one of the best tropical fruits to cultivate. Its sweet and delectable taste will drive you to include a tree in your home garden.

When growing sugar apples in Florida, you should consider a few things before buying your first tree or planting one. 

In this guide, you will learn everything you need to know about how to grow a sugar apple tree in Florida.

The sugar apple (Annona squamosa) is a fruit tree part of the Annonaceae fruit family. It is known as the cherimoya of the lowlands because of its ability to be productive in low elevations such as Florida.

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Sugar apple fruits in Florida
Sugar apple (Annona squamosa) fruit grown in Florida.

Sugar apple care guide

Common namesSugar apple, Sweetsop, Anon, Annona, Custard apple, Mang cau dai, Srikaya, Sitaphal
Scientific nameAnnona squamosa
Months of sugar apple harvest in FloridaMay to November
Sun requirements for sugar appleFull sun to partial shade
Water requirements for sugar applesWater twice a week water during the growing and fruiting season. Water should increase as the sugar apple tree is flowering and fruiting.
Soil requirements for sugar appleWell-drained, loamy, nutrient-rich soil.
Fertilizer for sugar apples Sugar apples should be fertilized 2 to 4 times per year. Osmocote + 15-9-12 is our recommended fertilizer for sugar apples.
Sugar apple pestsMealy Bugs, Ambrosia Beetles, Annona Seed Borer, Plumose Scale, Philephedra Scale, Potato Leafhopper
Sugar apple diseaseDry Fruit Mummification, Fruit rot, Branch dieback
Sugar apple care guide updated: November 15, 2022

How to grow sugar apple trees

Sugar apple trees are adaptable to various planting situations but will do best when planted with full sun.

Sugar apples can be planted with high density. The sugar apple tree responds well when pruned vigorously; actually, the tree prefers to be pruned as it triggers it to send out flowers and new leaf growth.

Best place to plant sugar apple tree

The best place to plant a sugar apple tree is a spot where it will receive full sun and have well-drained soil.

Sugar apples will grow in various soils and can grow in Florida’s sandy soil.

Sugar apples can be planted in semi-shade and still produce fruit, but they might face more pest problems and have slightly less production.

Purple sugar apple how to grow sugar apple tree in Florida Annona squamosa
Purple sugar apple (Annona squamosa) growing in Bradenton, Florida zone 9b.

About planting a sugar apple tree

Sugar apples can be planted at various stages of growth, but it is best advised to produce a sugar apple tree with a well-established root system in a 3-gallon or more.

Sugar apple trees should be planted in well-drained soil. Florida’s sandy soils are ideal for growing sugar apples and other Annonas, such as atemoya.

If you are growing sugar apples from seed, it is advised that you plant the seedling when it’s at least six months to one year of age.

How to plant a sugar apple tree

  1. To plant a sugar apple tree, dig a hole that’s about twice the size of the pot in which your sugar apple tree is growing in.
  2. Plant the sugar apple in the hole but ensure the tree is slightly above the soil level. It is better to plant fruit trees higher than below the soil level.
  3. Water the sugar apple for at least two minutes or until its roots, are thoroughly soaked. Repeat this two to three times a week for the first month so its roots establish.
  4. Sugar apple trees should be planted in well-drained soil. Planting sugar apple in sandy soil is fine. Amendments such as wood chip mulch, organic fertilizers, and granular fertilizers are highly recommended to supplement the sugar apples’ nutritional needs.

Fertilizing sugar apple trees

Sugar apple trees can be fertilized once planted into the ground the day they are planted with fertilizer, such as Osmocote 15-9-12 for established sugar apple trees or Osmocote 14-14-14 for seedling or smaller sugar apple trees.

Organic fertilizers can be used to fertilize sugar apple trees, such as chicken or cow manure, as Annonaceaes thrive with organic materials.

It is advised to fertilize about half a cup of fertilizer per sugar apple tree and spread around evenly around the tree.

After fertilizing, it is vital to continuously water the sugar apple tree as water will trigger the fertilizer to release nutrients for the roots of the sugar apple to absorb.

It is recommended to fertilize your sugar apple trees for the first few years two to four times a year with organic or synthetic fertilizers until they are big, healthy, and strong.

Check out this article for more information on fertilizing tropical fruit trees

Sugar apple fruit Annona squamosa growing in Florida
Green sugar apple ‘Lessard Thai’ ripening on the tree in Florida.

Sugar apple water requirements:

Sugar apples, when first planted out, require water at least two to three times a week during the active growing season in the spring and summer months.

Younger sugar apple seedlings and saplings require more water generally than older established trees.

Sugar apple trees are relatively drought-tolerant and will survive if you forget to water them.

Sugar apple flowers

Sugar apples can produce flowers as early as six months of age from seed.

Sugar apple trees can flower and set fruits as young as one year, but it is highly advised to keep the sugar apple tree from holding fruits so early.

Young sugar apple trees that hold fruits at an early age (Younger than three years of age) may become stunted in growth as all the life force energy goes to producing the fruit. This energy is better invested in growing leaves and size.

Sugar apple flowers will bloom first as female flowers and, within 24 hours, change to male flowers.

How to pollinate sugar apple flowers

Sugar apple flowers will first start as female flowers. Within 24 hours, they will switch from female to male flowers on the same flower.

Female sugar apple flower pedals are more enclosed and tight together, while male sugar apple pedals are spread open.

The best time to pollinate female sugar apple flowers is in the early A.M from 7 AM – 11:00 AM as the stigma is moist.

Male sugar apple flowers in Florida (Annona squamosa)

The best time to collect male sugar apple pollen is from the morning to noon time. Pollen can be stored overnight in the fruit and vegetable compartment in the fridge.

  1. First, collect pollen from the male sugar apple flower while using a small container and a small paintbrush to brush the pollen.
  2.  Second, identify the female flower and apply the male pollen directly to the female sugar apple flower.
  3.  Within three to four days, if the flower is still attached to the tree, the sugar apple successfully has set and is beginning to grow.
Fruit set sugar apple and flowers on a sugar apple tree
Sugar apple fruit set (Annona squamosa)
Learn how to hand-pollinate sugar apple (Annona squamosa) flowers in one minute.

How to know when sugar apple fruit is ready to harvest

The sugar apple fruit will be ready to harvest when the segments between the sugar nodes begin to turn white. The sugar apple fruit will also become soft on the tree, but it is recommended to harvest it before it gets too soft to where it could fall off.

How to harvest sugar apple fruit

  1. Identify that the sugar apple has white lines in between the nodes of the sugar apple.
  2. Touch the sugar apple fruit and check if it is soft. If it is soft it is ready to be harvested but if it is still rock hard it will need more time on the sugar apple tree.
  3. Cut the sugar apple fruit from above the stem and store the sugar apple in a cool environment inside.
  4. The sugar apple fruit once harvested from the tree will begin to ripen fast. Once soft the sugar apple is ready to eat.

Sugar apple pests

Sugar apples in Florida can be attacked by aphids, mealy bugs, white flies, chalcid wasps, and potato leaf hoppers.

For treating sugar apple pests such as aphids, mealy bugs, and white flies, I recommend a product like neem oil to treat them.

Whiteflies growing on a sugar apple Annona squamosa leaves
Whiteflies on sugar apple. A common sugar apple (Annona squamosa) pest in Florida.

For potato leaf hoppers, an organic pesticide such as Pyganic works great to kill potato leaf hoppers on sugar apples and other Annonaceae fruit trees.

How to grow sugar apple tree from seed

  1. Allow the sugar apple seeds to soak in water for at least 12-24 hours (or longer) to absorb water and begin the germination process.
  2.  Plant the sugar apple seeds in one inch of soil and lightly cover the sugar apple seed.
  3.  Pro tip: I always get better germination results when I plant the opening of the sugar apple seed (there’s only 1) up toward the sky.
  4.  Water the sugar apple seed in the soil once or twice weekly or whenever the soil gets dry.
  5.  It is essential to place your sugar apple pot where it will be warm enough to sprout. I suggest placing it under a tree where it can still get some shade but still get some warmth.
  6.  Fresh sugar apple seeds should sprout within 2-3 weeks of planting during the active growing seasons in Florida. Seeds may be sprouted indoors with a heated seedling kit, My favorite one that I’ve used to sprout several sugar apples indoors is this one.
  7.  Once the sugar apple seeds sprout, it is important to keep up-potting the seedling into bigger pots as it grows to allow the seedling to grow optimally over time.

About the sugar apple tree in Florida

The sugar apple is a tropical fruit tree originating in South America. In Florida, sugar apple has been grown throughout the state, and trees can fruit from Jacksonville down to the Keys.

In recent years in Florida, sugar apples have become a popularised yard tree to include in the home landscape due to their sweet tropical taste and growing compatibility in various types of soils.

Sugar apples make a beautiful specimen to grow in your yard and produce a delicious fruit that has adapted well to Florida conditions.

In Florida, the sugar apple (Annona squamosa) is most commonly called sugar apple, but you may hear it called custard apple, Annona, or Anon.

How To Grow A Sugar Apple Tree In Florida
Sugar apple tree in the yard in Florida (A. squamosa)

How to care for sugar apple trees

  1. Ensure that the sugar apple tree is watered at least two times per week during its growing season, which is the spring and summer months.
  2.  When sugar apples are young trees, they might produce flowers and set fruit. Removing fruits from young sugar apple trees younger than 2-3 years of age is vital to allow the tree to grow a strong trunk and branches.
  3.  Sugar apples will lose their leaves at the end of summer, entering the winter season in Florida. The leaves will turn brown, yellow, and even black and look diseased but rest assured, the tree is just going dormant and will wake up in early spring.
  4.  During the growing season, sugar apples can be attacked by pests, including mealy bugs, white flies, potato leaf hoppers, and aphids. Organic pesticides such as Neem oil or Pyganic for leaf hoppers will help your plants thrive.
  5.  Sugar apple trees and other tropical fruit trees thrive when fertilized with organic and synthetic fertilizers. Tropical fruit trees need to be fed with nutrients from a complete fertilizer (NPK) to thrive optimally in Florida.
  6.  Sugar apple flowers can be naturally pollinated in Florida by the nitulid beetle. You can attract the nitulid beetle into your yard by leaving fruit peels under your Annona trees, as that is their food.
  7.  Sugar apple flowers can be hand pollinated and are recommended if you want your fruit to be set nearly 100% of the time. By hand pollination, you will ensure your fruit has a uniform round shape to the fruit.
  8.  Sugar apples benefit from being pruned annually.
  9.  Pruning sugar apple branches can trigger flowers and new leaves to emerge.
Fresh sugar apple fruit harvest in Florida
Fresh sugar apple (Annona squamosa) fruit harvest in Florida.

Questions about growing sugar apples

Does sugar apple grow in Florida?

Yes, the sugar apple (Annona squamosa) grows great in Florida’s subtropical climate.

Is growing a sugar apple tree easy?

Growing sugar apples are easy in lowland areas such as Florida. Not many pests and diseases affect sugar apples, and they are drought-tolerant.

Does sugar apple tree attract rats?

No, while growing, the sugar apple fruit is rock hard, and its taste or smell does not attract rats. The pre-mature sugar apple contains a chemical that prevents animals from wanting to eat it.

Is sugar apple the same as atemoya?

No, Sugar apple (Annona squamosa) is different from atemoya (Annona atemoya).

Is the sugar apple tree poisonous?

No, the sugar apple tree is not poisonous.

Is the sugar apple fruit poisonous?

No, the sugar apple pulp is not poisonous and is eaten and enjoyed by millions of people around the globe.

Are sugar apple seeds poisonous?

Sugar apple seeds contain a chemical that may become toxic to humans if consumed in large amounts. It is advised to never eat the seeds of Annonaceae fruit. If you accidentally swallow a seed no harm will happen. Always spit out the seeds of the sugar apple while eating as you would while eating an orange with seeds. It is highly advised not to eat the sugar apple seeds.

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