How to grow an Atemoya tree in Florida

How to grow an Atemoya tree in Florida

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Florida is the perfect climate for growing Atemoya trees. This sweet and juicy fruit is a cross between a sugar apple (Annona squamosa) and a cherimoya (Annona cherimola), and it thrives in Florida soils and weather.

Here’s what you need to know to add an Atemoya tree to your fruit garden.

Recommended Products For Growing Atemoya

Atemoya care guide

Common namesAtemoya, Pineapple sugar apple,  
Scientific nameAnnona atemoya
Months of Atemoya HarvestIn Florida from June through December
Sun requirements for AtemoyaFull sun for best fruit production
Water requirements for AtemoyaTwo to three times a week during flower + fruiting season.
Soil requirements for Atemoya Rich, well-drained soil. Sandy soil will work in Florida.
Fertilizer requirements for Atemoya2-3 times yearly with Florikan, Osmocote, Azomite, Nutricote
Atemoya pestsWhiteflies, Scale, Potato LeafHoppers, Annona seed borer
Atemoya diseasesRoot rot
Annona Atemoya care guide updated: December 19, 2022

Atemoya fruit growing How to grow atemoya fruits guide
Un-ripe atemoya (Annona atemoya) fruit hanging.

Selecting an atemoya tree

Make sure to select a grafted atemoya tree

Select an atemoya tree that is grafted. A cultivar such as ‘Geffner’ always makes a great first atemoya tree due to its easy care and self-pollination.

Find out what rootstock it grafted onto

Not all atemoya rootstocks are equal. Some rootstocks, such as cherimoya (Annona cherimola), are superior over other rootstocks for Atemoya, such as pond apple (Annona glabra), which works better for grafting other Annonas such as ilama (A. diversifolia).

The best rootstock that has been reported for atemoyas is cherimoya (Annona cherimola), as well as the Custard apple (Annona reticulata). Last but not least, grafting Atemoya onto atemoya seedlings often works great.

Check the graft union 

Checking the graph union to ensure the atemoya tree is healthy and strong is recommended before buying the tree. 

By ensuring a strong and healthy graft union, you can make sure the Atemoya tree has the best chance to live a long and productive life.

Which varieties of Atemoya are the best to grow?

  • ‘Gefner’ atemoya: Green Self pollinating fruit, sweet classic atemoya flavor, and profile
  • ‘Lisa’ Atemoya: Pink/Green atemoya with a sweet tropical berry taste profile. 
  • ‘Priestly’ Atemoya: Green bumpy atemoya fruit with a sweet and juicy taste profile that is said to be superior in taste to ‘Gefner’.
  • ‘Dream’ Atemoya: A atemoya with cherimoya characteristics with a delicate, juicy, sweet flavor that is a favorite among many atemoya growers.
  • ‘Phet Pak Chong’ / ‘PPC Atemoya’: A jumbo chewy, sweet and juicy sugar apple-like atemoya that originated in Thailand.

Atemoya site selection

Where should I plant my atemoya tree?

The best spot to grow an atemoya tree should have well-drained soil, full sun, protection from strong winds, and enough space between each tree for maintenance and harvesting activities.

Atemoya tree standing 15 feet tall.

Where in Florida does Atemoya grow best?

Atemoya grows best in Florida in zone 9b-10a. Atemoya grows excellently in Miami, Fort Myers, Tampa, Sarasota, West Palm Beach, etc. 

Preparing the hole for planting atemoya

Preparing the hole correctly provides the proper foundation for the atemoyas roots to settle and ideally leads to a successful planting. 

Should I add anything to the hole before I plant?

It is recommended before planting Atemoya to add Azomite, an organic micronutrient supplement that will help feed your Atemoya.

How to fertilize Atemoya

Fertilizing atemoya trees is vital to maintaining the tree’s health and ensuring they produce fruits yearly and stay healthy. 

By providing fertilizer to the Atemoya, it helps provide the nutrients that Atemoya needs to help it thrive and grow.

When is the best time to fertilize atemoya trees?

Fertilizing atemoya trees should be done in the early spring (Late April to Early March) as trees will be in their prime growing season and hungry for nitrogen, potassium, calcium, and other micro-nutrient nutrients such as boron, zinc, manganese, and iron.

How many times should I fertilize an atemoya tree per year?

Atemoya trees should be fertilized twice a year, depending on your brand and type of fertilizer. 

Slow-release fertilizers are recommended over instant fertilizers as they might burn the tree’s roots if too much is applied. 

Slow-release fertilizers can also be applied fewer times per year and still provide nutrients every growing season every time the plant is watered.

There are many types of fertilizers for tropical fruit trees. Organic and synthetic fertilizers are available for tropical fruit trees and, in Florida, are necessary if you want to produce fruits from your fruit trees year after year.

To read more on fertilizers for tropical fruit trees, read this article here.

What is the best organic fertilizer for atemoya trees?

The best organic fertilizer for Atemoya is Azomite, which provides the Atemoya with the necessary micronutrients to help produce fruits yearly.

I also recommend adding organic compost, mulch, and teas to help your Atemoya be in its best health.

Which fertilizer is best for atemoya trees?

A quality slow-release fertilizer such as Osmocote 15-9-12 or Florikan works excellent for growing atemoya trees. 

For Atemoya trees to produce high-quality, delicious fruits must be supplemented with vitamins and minerals, as Florida’s sandy soil supplies little to no nutrients. 

Be sure to use only a little fertilizer as this might cause the leaves to grow due to the nitrogen content but at the cost of fruit production. 

Atemoya flowers

Atemoya flowers are similar in appearance to sugar apple (Annona squamosa) flowers and cherimoya (Annona cherimola) flowers.

Is Atemoya self-pollinating?

Some varieties of Atemoya are self-pollinating such as the ‘Gefner’ atemoya. It is recommended to hand pollinate atemoya fruits for a higher fruit set and a more uniform fruit shape.

Which varieties of Atemoya do not self-pollinate?

Atemoya varieties such as ‘Lisa’ and ‘Priestly’ may have a more challenging time setting fruit without assistance in hand pollinating the flowers.

How do I manually pollinate atemoya flowers?

If you are trying to pollinate atemoya flowers, you will need 

To pollinate female atemoya flowers, you will first need to collect male pollen from the male sugar apple flowers.

Male Atemoya Flower

Male atemoya flower petals are widespread, and the pollen can be extracted by lightly tapping on the atemoya flower with a black film canister directly under the flower.

Collecting male atemoya pollen from 10 am – 12:00 pm is best.

Male Atemoya Flower Pedals are wide open

Female Atemoya Flower

Female atemoya flower pedals are tighter together and have a banana liquor smell when in bloom. 

When ready to receive pollen, the stigma inside the atemoya female flower will be wet and slightly sticky so the male atemoya pollen can stick easily.

Female Atemoya Flowers with tight pedals

When is the best time to pollinate atemoya flowers?

The best time to pollinate female atemoya flowers is early morning, around Sunrise, to around 10:00 am, as the stigma is most receptive to the male pollen.

The best time to collect male pollen from your atemoya trees is late morning, around 10:00 am to 12:00 pm.

Atemoya pollen can be kept from the male atemoya and stored for up to 48 hours in the fridge vegetable and fruit compartment sealed. 

What is atemoyas natural pollinator?

Atemoya (Annona atemoya) natural pollinator is the nitulid beetle. The nitulid beetle is smaller than a grain of rice and can be hard to spot with the eye.

How do I attract atemoya natural pollinators to my garden?

If you want to attract the nitulid beetle (Atemoya natural pollinator) to pollinate your atemoya flowers naturally, you will need to include pieces of rotting fruits under the base of your atemoya trees.

The nitulid beetles like to hang out and reproduce within pieces of organic rotting material and prefer rotting fruits. So if you want to attract atemoyas natural pollinators, this is a must.

Atemoya fruits

Knowing when Atemoya is ready to harvest can be tricky–it requires patience, timing, and a trained eye to know the signs of ripening since they ripen at different times depending on climate conditions and the type of atemoya tree. 

But when done right, atemoya fruits provide an amazingly unique flavor that is sure to be remembered by many fruit lovers!

How to harvest atemoya fruits

To harvest an atemoya fruit, check to see signs of it being ready to harvest. Typically atemoya fruits are cut off the tree when still rock hard and are left to sit for 2-3 days before becoming soft and ready to consume.

How do I know when my atemoya fruit is ready to be harvested?

  1. Check the carpals on the fruit; if the spaces between the atemoya scales are becoming white and more prominent, it means your atemoya fruit is getting close to harvest.
  2. Check for any soft spots or softer areas. Atemoya fruits that are close to being ready to harvest may turn slightly soft.
  3. Check for any cracks on the atemoya fruit; cracks are due to irregular watering patterns. Once an atemoya cracks open, it will ripen slightly faster, so it’s essential to harvest the cracked fruits as soon as possible.

How to ripen an atemoya fruit once harvested

To ripen an atemoya fruit, simply place it inside a brown paper bag or a cardboard box. By placing the atemoya in one of these two will speed up the ripening process of the Atemoya.

How do I eat an atemoya fruit?

To eat an atemoya fruit, you must first wait until the fruit is soft all over, similar to a ripened avocado when soft. Once soft, you may cut it into the atemoya fruit with a knife or tear the Atemoya open with your hands.

It is important to eat only the atemoya flesh and avoid eating the skin and seeds of the atemoya fruit.

Is atemoya fruit poisonous or toxic?

All Annonaceae fruits carry small amounts of Annonacin which is concentrated in the seeds and skin of Annonaceae fruits. 

Annonacin is a chemical compound that may have toxic compounds to the human body if consumed. The flesh of Annonas is SAFE to consume compared to the seeds and skin, which is NOT safe to eat. 

Atemoya leaves and branching structure (Annona atemoya)

Pruning Atemoya

Pruning atemoya trees is essential for maximizing fruit production. 

Pruning atemoyas can also help to improve airflow, maintain an optimum leaf-to-fruit ratio, and encourage new growth each spring and summer. 

Proper pruning techniques include:

  • Thinning the canopy to increase light penetration.
  • Removing dead and broken branches.
  • Pruning long, thin, lean branches by 35-50%.
  • Thinning atemoya fruits.

When is the best time to prune Atemoya?

The best time to prune atemoyas is in the early spring. Prune atemoya trees in late April or early March to prepare them for the growing season.

Me standing next to an atemoya (Annona atemoya) tree I planted that stand over 15ft tall.

How do I prune my Atemoya?

  1. Identify any long lanky branches on the Atemoya that can be pruned back about 50% back. Atemoya branches that are long and lanky need to be pruned back at least 30-50%.
  2. Remove any atemoya branches crossing each other, as this will cause damage to the atemoya tree with branches rubbing against each other. 
  3. Remove branches in the middle of the atemoya tree that will increase the airflow inside the Atemoya when removed.
  4. Finally, remove any diseased or damaged leaves from the previous growing season to ensure new green leaves grow with flower buds.

When pruning atemoya trees, it is important to consider where the fruit will grow and set. 

Atemoya fruits can easily weigh 2-3 lbs plus, so if it grows on a branch that is not strong, the fruit can easily snap the branch.

Is it good to prune atemoya trees?

Atemoya and other Annonaceas fruit trees benefit greatly from a hard prune. Atemoyas will send out new flower buds and new branches on wood that has been pruned. 

How tall can atemoya trees get?

Atemoya trees can grow up to 25 ft plus if left unpruned.

How do I make my atemoya flower?

If your atemoya tree has not produced any flowers and is only growing leaves, a hard pruning of the branches and removing old leaves will force it to send out flowers and new leaves. 

Cut at least 25-50% of the branches and remove leaves to make your atemoya flower.

Questions about growing Atemoya 

Is it safe for dogs to eat Atemoya?

Although it is safe for a dog to eat the meat flesh of atemoyas, it is doubtful that they will enjoy the fruit as it has a sweet and acidic taste.

If you are giving your dog atemoya, always remove the seeds or process the fruit by removing the skin and seeds completely before giving them a taste.

Is it safe for cats to eat Atemoya?

It is safe for cats to eat Atemoya, but it is highly unlikely that they will want to eat a piece of Atemoya willingly.

I have observed my cats licking the atemoya flesh as I believe they enjoy the texture of the atemoya meat against their tongues. I have watched only one out of three cats living with me enjoy licking atemoya fruits for a little taste.

Can children and kids eat atemoya fruits?

Yes, It is safe for children to eat atemoya fruits.

It is highly advised for parents to supervise kids eating atemoya fruits and to remove all the seeds and the skin before feeding them to a child, as the seeds may be a choking hazard if not removed properly.

Atemoyas also contain Annonacin, a chemical that can be toxic to humans if consumed improperly. Annonacin is found concentrated in the Atemoya’s skin and seeds, so the two must not be consumed.

Although if you accidentally were to swallow an atemoya seed by accident, nothing would happen as I have experienced this.

Will Atemoya grow true to seed?

No, Atemoya will not grow true to seed. Atemoya grown from seed will produce a fruit similar to the parents but different. 

Will Atemoya grow in sandy soils?

Yes, atemoyas will grow in sandy soils and a wide range of soil types like clay and loamy soil.


If you want to grow an atemoya tree, this is the perfect guide for learning about its growing, fruiting, and care methods.

Atemoya in Florida is a reasonably new fruit that is still making its way across many Floridians’ gardens as people realize how delicious atemoyas are and the health benefits of growing your own Atemoya fruit tree.

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