Custard apple trees (Annona reticulata) are not widely grown in home gardens, but they should be.
These beautiful trees produce an abundance of sweet fruit that can be eaten fresh or made into delicious desserts.
Best of all, custard apple trees are relatively easy to grow and tolerant of a wide range of growing conditions.
If you’re interested in adding one of these lovely trees to your garden, here’s what you need to know.
Growing a custard apple tree is quite simple but you need a warm climate with lots of sun and a well draining soil. Custard apple is a tropical tree and will not tolerate frost.
Is a custard apple hard to grow?
The custard apple is not hard to grow. The tree is actually quite tolerant of a wide range of growing conditions. If you can provide a warm, sheltered environment and protect the plant from becoming cold or chilled then you’ll find that it is easy to grow your own custard apple.
How do you grow a custard apple from seed?
Custard apple seeds need to be fresh to have any chance of germination. You can either remove the seeds from a ripe fruit or buy them from a nursery.
Soak the seeds in water for 24 hours before planting.
Plant the seeds in well draining soil, in pots for best results.
Water the seeds regularly and keep them in a warm, sunny spot.
It can take anywhere from 3 months to a year for the seeds to germinate.
Once they’ve sprouted, thin out the weaker seedlings so that only the strongest remain and grow them on, in the pots until they become large enough to transplant into the ground.
When is the best time to plant custard apple?
You may be able to find young custard apple trees that are ready for planting at home.
The best time to plant your custard apple tree is in the spring or summer when the weather is warm and there is no danger of frost.
Choose a sunny spot in your garden with well draining soil.
If your soil is heavy, you can improve drainage by mixing in some sand or organic matter.
Keep your tree well watered, especially when it’s young.
How often should you water a custard apple tree?
Custard apple trees need to be kept moist but not soggy. Water your tree once a week, or more often if the weather is hot and dry.
Be sure to check the soil before watering to make sure it is dry at least 2-3 inches below the surface.
How do you fertilize a custard apple tree?
Fertilize your custard apple tree every 6-8 weeks with a balanced fertilizer such as 10-10-10.
Apply the fertilizer around the base of the tree, out to the dripline, and water it in well.
Can I grow a custard apple tree in a pot?
Yes, you can grow a custard apple tree in a pot.
Just make sure the pot is large enough to accommodate the tree’s roots and that it has good drainage.
Your plant can go outside in the summer months, place it in a sunny spot and keep well watered.
When the weather begins to turn cooler bring the plant indoors and keep it in a well lit spot where it won’t become cold.
Can custard apple be grown inside the house?
Custard apple needs a deep soil that is well drained so inside the house is not ideal, unless you have lots of space and can accommodate a deep pot, which the plant will need.
Where can I buy a custard apple tree?
Custard apple trees are not widely available at nurseries, but you may be able to find one at a specialty fruit tree nursery or online.
How much fruit will a custard apple tree produce?
A custard apple tree will produce a large number of fruits, typically around 50-100 per season.
How to care for custard apple trees
Once your custard tree is planted, it’s important to give it regular water, especially during the hot summer months.
Custard apple trees are relatively drought tolerant but will produce more fruit if they’re given a consistent supply of water.
Fertilize your tree twice a year, in the spring and fall, with a balanced fertilizer.
Custard apple trees are self pollinating
You won’t need more than one custard apple tree to enjoy the fruits as the plant is self pollinating.
The fruiting yield can be improved, however, by hand pollination and the simplest way of doing this is to take a clean paintbrush and brush each flower in turn when the plant is in bloom.
The brush will hold pollen from the flowers and pass it onto the others, supporting the pollination and subsequent development of the fruit.
What pests and diseases affect custard apple trees?
Custard apple trees are relatively pest and disease free. However, they can be susceptible to scale, mealybugs and aphids.
One of the biggest risks to the health of a custard apple tree is adverse weather, most particularly cold nights and cold winds.
If you expect a cold spell then protect your tree with netting or similar, or, if grown in a pot, move your tree indoors.
When will my custard apple tree fruit?
It takes around 3-5 years for a custard apple tree to reach maturity and begin bearing fruit.
Once your tree begins fruiting, you can expect it to produce an abundance of sweet, delicious fruit.
How to harvest custard apples
Custard apples are typically ready to harvest in the fall, although the exact timing will depend on your particular tree and climate.
To tell if a custard apple is ripe, gently squeeze the fruit. If it yields to pressure, it’s ready to be picked.
Use a sharp knife or shears to cut the fruit from the tree, being careful not to damage the stem.
Enjoy your fresh custard apples immediately or store them in the fridge for later.
Custard apples are a delicious and relatively easy to grow fruit tree that will provide you with an abundance of sweet, juicy fruit.
With a little care and attention, your custard apple tree will thrive and bear fruit for many years to come.