Sapodilla (Manikara zapota), a tropical fruit tree native to Mexico and Central America, grows well throughout frost-free regions of the United States. The evergreen tree grows slowly, reaching 100 feet tall at maturity. Plants have an upright habit with glossy, green foliage growing to 5 inches long. Depending on the cultivar, sapodilla fruits are round or egg-like, range from 2 to 4 inches in diameter and resemble the flavours of pear and brown sugar, according to the California Rare Fruit Growers.
- Skill level:
- Moderately Easy
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Things you need
- Pruning shears
Plant the sapodilla in an area of the landscape in full sun, with well-draining soil and at least 25 feet from buildings or other trees. Unpruned trees can grow quite large, and shading or crowding reduces fruit production.
Remove grass and weeds from an area 3 to 10 feet in diameter. Kill the vegetation with an herbicide or pull weeds out by hand. Keep the area vegetation-free to cut down on possible lawn equipment damage, moisture and nutrient loss.
Dig a hole three times wider and deeper than the sapodilla's root ball. Loosening the soil allows the roots to spread easily.
Backfill the hole with enough soil to plant the sapodilla at the same depth it is presently growing. Remove the tree from its container and place into the hole. Backfill with soil and firm it around the trunk with your foot.
Water the sapodilla after planting and every other day for two weeks. Continue watering two times each week for the first four months. Thereafter, water the tree once a week.
Apply a 4-inch layer of mulch around the planting site, not allowing it to butt against the trunk. Mulch helps retain soil moisture and retards unwanted vegetation.
Fertilise the first year every two months with a 6-6-6-2 blend, applied according to package instructions. Fertilise older trees every four to six months with a 6-6-6 blend. Spread under the tree's canopy, not allowing it to butt against the trunk.
Prune the top of leggy, young trees with loppers or pruning shears to encourage lower branches to grow and form a stronger structure. Prune older trees to control shape and size or to remove dead or damaged branches. Allow bottom branches to remain on the tree, and only prune those touching the ground.
Tips and warnings
- Sapodilla trees are relatively hardy and rarely bothered by pests or diseases.
- Harvest fruits when they start dropping to the ground or by scratching their outer surface. If the colour is tan, the fruit is ready for harvesting. If it is still green or seeps latex, the fruit is unripe.
- Broken or cut portions of the tree ooze a milky latex called chicle, once used in making chewing gum.
- Sapodilla trees have a high tolerance to windy and salty conditions, making them suitable for coastal landscapes.
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