Flowerdale Nursery  & Landscaping
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Flowerdale Nursery & Landscaping

Cherimoyas


Cherimoya
s
are tropical forest trees known as Annona cherimola. This wonderful fruit comes from forests on the Andes of Ecuador, Colombia, & Peru. Cherimoya trees are evergreen though they can be briefly deciduous during cold weather. Cherimoya fruit is prized for its fruity, sweet, almost custard-like flavor.  Custard Apple is an appropriate nickname for the Cherimoya which describes its creamy texture. The fruit is best eaten fresh but can be made into delicious fruit drinks or smoothies.  This is one of the most exotic fruits that can be grown well in Orange County.  In fact Cherimoyas have been grown in Coastal Southern California since the late 1800’s. The fruits appearance is unusual looking somewhat like an artichoke. Cherimoya trees grow to about 25 feet wide & high. Cherimoyas can be grown to fruit
successfully only in large containers with adequate nutrients. Cherimoyas are often grafted to improve their tolerance to cold & disease.
 

What Cherimoyas Like

Exposure:  Cherimoyas demand full sun in order to produce good quality fruit. Cherimoyas do not tolerate windy exposed conditions well.  Areas where Cherimoyas thrive do not experience temperatures that fall much below 25 degrees. Cherimoyas grow best in warm frost free climates away from the immediate coast. Cherimoyas thrive when days are warm (70 to 90 degrees) & the nights cool & moist (48 to 60).  These trees grow well in Southern California in USDA zones 9 & 10 as well as Sunset zones 18 through 24. Indigenous inhabitants of the Andes say that “although the cherimoya cannot stand snow, it does like to see it in the distance”.

Soil:  Cherimoyas grow best in loamy rich well drained shallow soils, however they are tolerant of both sandy & clay soils. Cherimoyas are shallow rooted & can absorb nutrients quickly. These trees resent being planted in saline, heavy, or poorly drained soils.  Adding organic compost once or twice a year as mulch 4 to 8 inches thick on the soil under the canopy makes a big difference on improving the quantity & quality of fruit.

Irrigation:  Cherimoyas need regular deep soakings (about three times a month) spring through fall.  During the winter, if rains fail irrigate once a month. Do not water trees in cold or wet weather.
  

Diet:  Feeding Cherimoya trees once a season (or once every three months) provides evenly spaced feedings that will sustain growth year round. Fertilize with organic granular fertilizers.  We recommend Dr. Earth Organic Fruit Tree Fertilizer.  Adding a layer of organic compost, once or twice a year as mulch will also increase the soils fertility.  Cherimoyas are prone to iron & nitrogen deficiency in our native soils (causes yellowing of the foliage). Iron deficiency manifests itself in that the mature foliage stays green while the young new growth turns yellow. To remedy this add Iron Plus granular iron or a Chelated Liquid Iron. Nitrogen deficiency manifests itself in that the older foliage turns yellow while the young new growth remains green. Fertilizing regularly & adding compost to the soil are the best ways to combat nitrogen deficiency.

Pruning: Cherimoyas benefit from pruning.  A tree with an open structure with a dense canopy of foliage but an uncluttered crown of branches is ideal. Remove all dead & crossing branches whenever noticed. Keep your trees short & compact this makes harvesting & pruning easier (mature trees can be kept easily to 15 to 25 feet for years). Dwarf & container grown trees benefit from being staked.  It is beneficial to keep the branches off the ground & away from fences or buildings. This helps prevent fruit rats from easily gaining access to the trees canopy. Care must be taken to quickly remove any foliage & branches that sprout below the graft union (the place where the fruiting upper portion of the plant is grafted onto the lower rootstock portion).

Harvesting:  Spring & early summer are the peak season for Cherimoya fruit harvest. Harvest the fruit when they turn pale yellow green, & are slightly soft to the touch.  Flavor can be improved if fruit is harvested slightly unripe, then left to ripen at room temperature indoors (in bright indirect light). Cut the fruit from the tree instead of pulling it off to avoid damaging the easily bruised fruit. Never put Cherimoya fruit in the refrigerator because it damages them. The fruit bruise easily & have a short shelf life. The seeds are poisonous so don’t eat them!

Pollination:  Since natural pollinators are not present in California, the flowers must be pollinated by hand. This is best done in mid-season of bloom, over a period of two to three months. In the early evening, collect in a small bottle the anthers & pollen from the interior of fully open male flowers with a #2 or #3 artists brush. Anthers will be tan colored & the white pollen falling from them. The pollen has its highest viability at the time it is shed & declines significantly with time. Immediately apply freshly collected pollen with a small brush to the flowers in partially open female stage flower. If no female stage flowers are available, pollen may be saved in the sealed container under refrigeration overnight. Pollen may then be applied to female stage flowers in the morning. Pollinate every two or three days, & only flowers easily reached inside the tree. Too much fruit may result in small size & adversely affect future yields.

Frost Protection: When the temperature drops below 32 degrees but stays above 28 to 25 degrees we experience a “light” or “white” frost.  This type of frost causes damage to young growth & the damage is usually superficial.  When the temperature drops below 28 to 25 degrees we then experience a “black” or “killing” frost.  This type of frost causes greater damage to the plant tissues.  The duration of any frost is also important to consider.  The longer the temperatures are below freezing the greater the damage.  There are several ways to protect tropical fruit trees from frost damage: 

Covering your plant with a sheet or tarp-like material will provide protection down to 20 degrees.  Note, any foliage that touches the frost barrier may be damaged.
Circulating the air using fans is also helpful for frost protection down to 20 degrees.
Believe it or not, spraying your plants with water can actually insulate the plants.  Liquid water itself will provide heat, & as water freezes into ice it gives off heat.

Provide some sort of external heat source.  Active sources include heaters, while passive sources absorb heat during the day & radiate it out at night. Examples of passive heat include barrels of water, stacks of boulders, & the earth itself.

Varieties

Chaffey- is a variety from West Los Angeles developed in 1945. Chaffey produces a vigorous tree that can bear large harvests of fruit (even though the fruit itself is somewhat small). Chaffey boasts a bright sweet lemony flavor perfect for eating out of hand.

El Bumpo- in 1986 Rudy Haluza of Villa Park California developed one of the best Cherimoyas available. El Bumpo was named because the medium sized fruit had extra large “bumps”.  The skin is very thin & is almost edible; the flesh has an exquisite flavor & soft creamy texture.

Honeyhart- was developed in Orange County California in the 1930’s.  This variety has medium to large sized fruits with a yellowish green skin. This variety is best for making drinks as it has extremely juicy almost gelatinous flesh with a sweet syrupy flavor.

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