Growing Ilama Fruit in Florida: A Comprehensive Guide

Ilama, a tropical fruit native to Central America, is gaining popularity among fruit enthusiasts in Florida. 

Red ilama fruit growing in Florida Annona diversifolia
Red ilama fruit growing in Florida.

Known scientifically as Annona diversifolia and Annona macroprophyllata, this fruit is a member of the Annonaceae family, which also includes sugar apples (Annona squamosa), atemoyas (Annona atemoya) and cherimoyas (Annona cherimola).

Ilama Quick Care Guide

Common Name(s) Ilama
Scientific Name Annona diversifolia
How long till fruit 3-4 years from seed, 1-2 years with grafted tree.
Light Full sun to partial shade, with best fruit production in full sun.
Water Water regularly, maintaining consistently moist but not waterlogged soil.
Soil Ilama prefers well-draining, fertile soil.
Fertilizer Apply a balanced slow-release fertilizer, such as a Osmocote plus or Florikan, during the growing season.
Pests Potato Leaf Hoppers, Ahpids, mealybugs, and scale
Diseases Fungal diseases such as root rot

What is Ilama?

Ilama is a fruit that originates from Central America, particularly in regions of El Salvador and Mexico. 

It comes in various colors on the inside, including red, white, and even purple. Each color variant has its unique taste and texture, making it a unique and sought-after fruit for its culinary and visual applications. 

Red ilama fruiting in Florida
Red ilama fruit (Annona diversifolia)

The red Ilama is known for its sweet and slightly tart flavor, while the white and purple varieties are praised for their creamy, custard-like texture and sweet flavor.

It is said among the Annonaceae fruit community that ilama (Annona diversifolia) is one of the best-tasting Annonas out there for its complex flavors compared to the common sugar apple, atemoya, or even soursop that are easily grown and purchasable in Florida.

Growing Conditions for Ilama

Ilama can be grown anywhere sugar apples or atemoyas can be grown. This makes Florida an ideal location due to its tropical and subtropical climate. 

The growing conditions for Ilama are similar to those for sugar apples and atemoyas, as they all thrive in well-drained soil and require full sun exposure.

Red ilama flower
Red ilama flowering.

For the best results, it’s recommended to plant Ilama during the best time to plant fruit trees in Florida

The best types of soils to plant with are those that are rich in organic matter and have good drainage.

Planting Ilama

Planting Ilama requires careful preparation and attention to detail to ensure the tree’s successful growth. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to plant your Ilama tree:

  1. Choose the Right Spot: Ilama trees need full sun exposure and well-drained soil to thrive. Choose a location in your garden that meets these requirements.
  2. Prepare the Planting Hole: Dig a hole twice as wide and just as deep as the root ball of your Ilama tree. This will give the roots plenty of room to spread and establish themselves.
  3. Plant on a Mound or Slope: Planting on a mound or slope ensures that the tree is above soil level, which helps prevent waterlogging and promotes better drainage. This is especially important in Florida, where heavy rains are common.
  4. Add Soil and Mulch: After placing the tree in the hole, backfill with soil, ensuring that the tree is planted slightly above soil level. Then, add a thick layer of mulch around the tree’s base.
  5. Create a Water Catchment Berm: Construct a berm around the tree to help catch and direct water towards the root zone. This will ensure the tree gets the water it needs, especially during the dry season.

The use of mulch is essential in Florida due to the state’s sandy soil. Mulch provides several benefits:

  • Moisture Retention: Mulch helps retain moisture in the soil, reducing the need for frequent watering.
  • Temperature Regulation: It helps regulate soil temperature, keeping the roots cool during the hot summer months.
  • Weed Control: Mulch can help suppress weeds, reducing competition for nutrients.
  • Soil Improvement: As the mulch breaks down over time, it enriches the soil with organic matter, improving its structure and fertility.

Remember, a well-planted and well-cared-for Ilama tree is a step towards a bountiful harvest.

Planting Ilama seeds and Grafting Ilama

Planting Ilama seeds involves sowing the seeds in a well-drained soil mix. However, germinating Ilama seeds can be a challenge. 

It’s reported by some growers that it takes one year for the ilama seed to develop before sprouting. Some growers have succeeded in speeding up the germination process using Gibberellic Acid, aka GA 3, a growth hormone.

Ilama fruit hanging and ripening
Ilama fruit growing in Florida about 2 months of age from pollination.

Grafting is another method used to propagate Ilama. This involves joining a piece of a mature Ilama tree (the scion) to a young tree (the rootstock). The grafted ilama tree will produce fruit identical to the mature ilama tree.

A popular rootstock to graft ilama in Florida is Annona glabra, aka Pond apple – an Annonaceae native to Florida.

Pests and Diseases

Ilama is susceptible to pests like potato leaf hoppers, scale, mealy bugs, and ants like other Annona trees.

These pests can cause significant damage to the tree and its fruit if not correctly managed.

How to pollinate annona diversifolia flowers
Pollinating red ilama (Annona diversifolia) flowers.

Potato leaf hoppers, for instance, can cause leaf curling problems in Ilama trees. Scale, mealy bugs, and ants can also cause damage to the tree and fruit, leading to decreased yield and quality.

Care and Maintenance

Proper care and maintenance are crucial for a healthy Ilama tree. This includes regular pruning, which helps to maintain the tree’s shape and promote better fruit production. 

For more information on how to prune your Ilama tree, check out our guide on how to prune sugar apple and atemoya trees. The same pruning method can be applied to ilamas and other Annonaceae fruit trees.

red ilama flower
Annona diversifolia
Red ilama flower in female stage.

I have successfully used Osmocote plus 15-9-12 slow-release for my ilama to help it adjust to the sandy Florida soils, with a heavy layer of mulch and plenty of water.

Once my ilama tree is well adjusted, I plan to switch to laying off the fertilizer and rely on my organic mulching, composting, and organic foliar sprays.

Sale
Osmocote Fertilizer 15-9-12, Slow Release 3-4 Months, 50lbs. Bag
  • Composed of water soluble nutrients - Granular formula is coated with a film of plastic resin

Fertilization is another essential aspect of Ilama tree care. Using the best tropical fruit tree fertilizers can help ensure your Ilama tree gets the nutrients it needs to thrive and produce abundant fruit.

Conclusion

Growing Ilama in Florida can be a rewarding endeavor. With the right care and maintenance, you can enjoy this delicious and unique fruit right from your backyard. 

Whether you’re a seasoned gardener or a beginner, our beginner’s guide to tropical fruit gardening can help you start your fruit-growing journey.

Remember, the Sunshine State’s bounty is vast and varied. Explore our guide to what fruits grow in Florida to discover more exciting fruits you can cultivate in your garden.

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