A member of the Custard Apple family (Annonaceae), and the Annona genus,
Cherimoya is closely related to Custard Apple, Sugar Apple, and Soursop, and distantly
related to the North American Pawpaw. Dozens of Cherimoya cultivars have been developed.
The name Cherimoya is derived from a Quechua word meaning "cold seed" due to the plant's
liking for cold, but not much below freezing.
20 to 50 years.
Evergreen, but briefly deciduous. This tree loses its leaves for one month late spring
or early summer for flowering and leaf changeover.
Moderate to Rapid.
15-30' high and as wide.
Three long, thin, petals, greenish-white to brown on the outside and white on the inside,
strongly fragrant. The flower opens in two stages. First stage, partially open,
the stigma (female) is receptive to pollen. Second stage, hours later, fully open, the
anthers (male) disperse pollen.
Late spring or early summer just after leaf drop.
Yes. In the southern hemisphere, the Cherimoya has beetles which pollinate it. In North
America, the flowers are best pollinated by hand. Anthers are clipped off flowers fully
opened as males, and the pollen is refrigerated until the next day. A small brush is used
to pollinate the partially open, female receptive flowers. Careful observation will
reveal which hours of the morning, day, evening, or night are most effective for pollination.
Years before fruiting:
2-3 years if grafted, 2-4 years from seed.
Conical to heart-shaped, green skin with indentations, overlapping thin scales, or large
bumps, weighing from one-half to six pounds. It is a compound fruit, with each
indentation/scale/bump being one fruitlet, containing one seed. Sometimes a fruitlet does
not get pollinated and is missing the seed. The white flesh has a fruity, sweet, aromatic,
custard-like flavor. The large, dark, glossy, bean-like seed within each fruitlet is
easily removed. Mature trees may produce 30-250 fruits per year, depending on age, growing
conditions, and cultivar.
Months for fruit to ripen:
5-7. The fruit are ready to harvest when still firm but having changed in color from dark
green to yellow-green. They are picked by clipping the stem and leaving a bit of stem on
the fruit. Cherimoya continues to ripen after harvest when picked after the color change.
The best flavor occurs when the fruit is picked just after becoming soft, but it must be
consumed or frozen immediately. The fruit are bad-tasting when overripe.
Storage after harvest:
The fruit are highly perishable and easily damaged by handling. They can be refrigerated
for 3-4 days when still firm. When soft, they must be immediately processed, frozen, or
eaten. Commercial growers avoid cultivars with bumpy skin because the bumps bruise fruit
next to them when packed together.
Elliptic with a pointed end and rounded at the base, green and smooth on top, fine
rust-colored hairs underneath when young.
Young stems are covered in rust-colored hairs. Older stems are woody and sappy.
A taproot initially forms, then gives way to fibrous roots that will stay shallow unless
deep watered. This plant is often grafted or budded onto seedling rootstock. The roots are
slow growing and weak when the tree is young.
This tree seldom attracts natural pollinators. Mammals are attracted to the fruit.
Toxic / Danger:
Leaves, stems and seed are toxic if ingested. Juice from crushed seeds can cause blindness
if it gets into the eyes.
Cultivation and Uses
USDA hardiness zones:
10-11. These trees are tip damaged at 29°F and suffer severe damage or are killed at
25°F. The Quechua saying is "Cherimoya like to see snow but not be touched by it." For
regions with the possibility of freezes, wrapping the trunk and major branches in insulation,
when a freeze is predicted, may help.
No. This tree needs extra shade and water above 90°F. It is especially intolerant of
windy, dry heat.
Not in temperatures over 90°F.
Full sun to part shade.
These instructions are for regions with summer temperatures over 105°F and the possibility
of freezing temperatures in winter:
Locate this tree so it receives full morning sun and deciduous afternoon shade, in front of
a south-facing wall or building, but away from any low-lying spot where cold air collects.
In summer, it must receive afternoon shade, in winter, full sun. It will need wind protection
to avoid branch breakage and excessive drying. Newly planted trees must be staked until three
years in the ground to prevent the tree from being toppled by the wind. This plant can be
grown in a large container.
Well drained, moderate to high organic content, pH 5.6-8.0 (acidic to slightly alkaline).
Use an organic fertilizer in February, May, and August. Yellow leaves indicate a reaction
to cold, or to the soil being too wet or too dry, and not a nutritional deficiency.
Water after becoming established:
every two weeks spring through fall. Change
the watering frequency to monthly from mid-fall to mid-winter to encourage dormancy. These
trees are intolerant of standing water and develop root rot in soggy soil.
Spread organic mulch under the canopy and 8" away from the trunk and its root flare to reduce
moisture evaporation and shield the roots from temperature extremes. Mulch that touches the
trunk may cause crown rot.
First Three Years' Care:
These trees need special care the first three years. Remove the tree from its pot with extreme
care when transplanting to avoid root damage which can result in root rot. Provide part shade
from morning until mid afternoon when it must receive full shade and wind protection.
Protect it from freezing the first three years. Stake the tree to prevent wind movement because
the slow growing, weak roots allow the young tree to topple in strong winds.
Leaf drop in late spring or early summer.
Cuttings can be grafted or budded onto seedling rootstock of any Annona species. Rooted cuttings
have a low success rate, with young shoots performing better than older ones. Seeds can be used
to breed Cherimoya but are highly variable and have less desirable fruiting characteristics.
Edible fruit, ornamental, shade. The fruit are often used to flavor ice cream, sorbet, or
to make juice mixed with other fruit juices.
This plant is sometimes called Custard Apple, a name normally used for Annona reticulata.
The names Sugar Apple and Sweetsop refer to Annona squamosa, which is the most widely-grown
of the Annonas. The fruit known as Atemoya is a hybrid of Cherimola and Sugar Apple
(A. cherimola x A. squamosa).
Do you have additional information or a different experience for these plants that you would
like to share? Email info@GardenOracle.com. All contributions are welcome and appreciated.