Growing Star Apple: A Fruit You’ve Never Heard Of

Ed Wike
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Quick Care Guide

Star Apples grow well in hot, humid climates like Florida and Southern California. They must have a soil pH between 5.5 and 6. Deep, rich soil is best. Soil that is organic, providing nutrients for quick growth is good. Regular fertilization with a quality, high nitrogen fertilizer will produce the best results. Star Apples love manure, but fresh manure is heavy and rich. When applying fresh manure, be generous with your application, but consider the weight of the manure compared to the weight of the soil. In other words, a small tree may have difficulty with a heavy application of fresh manure. Use compost instead.

In early spring, prune dead and crossing branches. In warmer climates, you can prune back up to 15% of the growth to allow the tree to grow strong, but keep a mounding shape. Tropical trees grown in climates where they are not used to the cold tend to grow too much. Keeping a mounding shape can mean less cold exposure for the tree and allow it to grow more fruit.

Water deeply once or twice a week depending on soil and how many branches and leaves the tree has. Star Apples require more water than other fruit trees.

Move the tree outdoors when night time temperatures stay above 65 degrees.

Spray the tree with dormant oil in the early spring before new growth begins to stop the spread of a number of fungal diseases that can cause significant damage to the tree.

All About Star Apples

The star apple grows all over the jungle area of the Philippines and can also be found in some parts of India. They are also grown in Papua New Guinea, Indonesia and certain parts of China.

The Fruit:

The star apple is a fruit with yellow skin and flesh that's very juicy and contains a sweet flavor. It gives off a distinctly citrusy aroma. Some people will refer to it as having an apple taste. They're called star apples because of the wavy star shapes that appear in the veins of the fruit.

How to Harvest the Fruit:

You'll notice that in order to get the star apple you have to reach up and snap the very top of the tree off. The fruit is typically found higher up on the tree, and the real challenge in the harvesting process is climbing high enough up the tree to be able to get them.

Health Benefits:

Numerous health benefits are attributed to the star apple. The fruit can be identified as a diet fruit that's a good source of fiber and calcium.

The star apple is a great antioxidant that can help soothe aches and pains, can help with inflammation and can help with digestion. The star apple is considered a calming fruit so it's great for people who suffer from anxiety or panic attacks.

It's also considered to be an immune booster that can help the body fight off colds, stay healthier and avoid prenatal allergies.

Are you interested in adding Star Apple to your fruit trees? If so, here are some recommended varieties of Star Apple to consider planting. Keep in mind that the fruits should be similar to those of the Siam apple, which is a type of Star Apple:

Planting Cainito

The star apple tree or the cainito is a native tree to the Antilles, the Caribbean, and the Central American area. It is also referred to as the caymanite, caymantie, banana apple, and soropepo. The star apple is considered to be a fruit tree even though it will not fruit without the assistance of man. It is a beautiful tropical tree which comes in height at a maximum of 30 feet and it is shiny green color. The species also has reddish-brown, brown and greenish-purple foliage and sometimes the leaves can grow to a staggering size of 12 inches. The star apple’s leaves have a pointed end and also have a scent similar to vinegar.

Planted from a cutting, graft, or seed, the star apple tree can grow under almost any condition. It is susceptible to some pests, and may attract Mealybugs, scales, aphids, thrips, mites, whiteflies, and nematodes. These pests can be controlled by using commonly used pesticides or by planting the star apple tree in a well-drained soil.

When to Plant

When a person thinks about purchase a star apple plantation, the first question that comes into the mind is can I grow this fruit in my area?

This is a tree that needs warm and humid conditions and they are usually grown in the tropics. It is understood that only those people living at the climate zone ranging from 9b, 10a to 11a can grow this variety of fruit on a commercial level.

Another thing that comes to notice is this variety of fruit is an example of cross pollination. The Star Apple is not a self-pollinating fruit, which makes it a bit harder to grow it commercially. However protection of the plant is not required.

This fruit is also a good choice for those who want to start growing fruits as a hobby. It has a nice fruit flavor, and the growing procedure is pretty easy.

Where to Plant

If you’re looking to grow a star apple tree, the best growing conditions for them include a location where you get full sun. Star apple trees, which are also known as sapodilla trees, are tropical trees that are most likely going to thrive when they’re given a lot of sunlight. As you look at star apple trees, you’ll see that some of them are spiky and others are smooth. It’s the spiky ones that have thorns and if you want to grow a star apple tree from seed, you must germinate the seeds shortly after you get them. This tree may not be the best choice for a homesteading lifestyle with only a few trees, but if you’re part of a small group that owns an orchard, you might want to consider this tree as an option.

How to Plant

Growing star apple is not hard. It is a semi-tropical plant. So it will grow well in warmer climates and in shade. It is only one of the most beautiful, delicious and versatile fruits you have never heard of. Start off with growing star apple in a large container for a year to get acclimated to the soil requirements. Then transplant it into a permanent location, growing star apple in the ground.

When you plant it in the ground, you may need to provide some type of support to the branches as they are growing. It grows to around 25 feet, but can be pruned to 14 feet for maximum production.

If you are transplanting into permanent ground, make sure you dig a large enough hole for the root ball. It is better to make the hole a bit larger than necessary than too small.

Plant it at the same depth it was at its previous location. Then surround the root ball with rich soil. Make sure you have an irrigation system in place. Star apple is a significant water consumer.

Care

Star apples are something you have probably never heard of. It is a fruit which belongs in the apple family known as the mulberry family. Native to India, star apples are a great little fruit to grow in Hawaii as they are tropical and they grow in our climate. The fruit are very small and fuzzy and it’s a rare treat when you find them in the grocery store.

Star apples need a lot of hot, humid weather to grow. They are a light green before maturing, but as they grow in size, they turn to a dark green which turns to a bronze/gold color when they are fully ripe. The star part of the fruit begins to reveal itself in the shape. They grow in clusters and you will find they fruit all together at one point. These little fruits can range from one and a half to three inches in diameter, and they have a point at the tip which is almost heart-shaped. The tip part of this fruit is very soft to the touch and they are very easy to cut through.

Star apples have a sweet taste and they have a juicy texture. You can get yellow sap out of the star apple, but it’s very sweet. The fruit is more of an accessory than anything because of their size, but it is a fun fruit to grow. It’s almost like a little novelty fruit.

Light & Temperature

Star fruit trees need lots of light to grow properly and require a little bit of extra care.

They won’t tolerate full shade, so if you have a shady yard, you might want to consider another kind of fruit tree.

Keep your tree away from walls and close to others for a good, even distribution of sunlight.

When you’re looking for a spot for your star fruit tree, you might want to consider a place where the branches can hang down, because the fruits grow on the ends of the branches and will need to be harvested before they can reach the tree trunk.

Be careful not to plant your tree too deeply. Plant it a little bit higher than the ground.

You don’t want your tree to be planted too deeply, because that can make the fruit less sweet. You want the star fruit tree to be as close to the surface as possible.

Water & Humidity

Most varieties of star apple prefer moist soil and high humidity and can tolerate brief periods of flooding. In the wild, fruit is produced when heavy rains fall. An occasional misting is sufficient to increase fruit set under cultivation.

There are many different methods of propagating star apples, many of which are used in tropical regions. The most common method, which produces high-quality plants, is to plant the seed within the fruit of a mature star apple. The seed is placed in the center of the fruit, which is then buried in moist fertile soil and covered with a plastic bag. If possible, plant the seed in its fruit after harvesting.

This method produces plants ready for transplanting in about a year. Another method of propagation is to inoculate the stem of a cutting with a batter made of the mushroom Fomitopsis officinalis. It is placed in a secure container of washed sand packed around its stem. The stem is placed in an axillary stem cut made in the root from a mother tree.

Soil

Star apple trees need a slightly acidic soil of at least 6.0 pH. This is generally accomplished by spreading pine needles or peat moss over the planting area. Star apples grow best in soil conditions that are moist, rich, and well draining.

If you want to build your soil for the future, purchase a soil test kit and follow the instructions for soil testing, which can help determine what amendments your soil needs. Different amendments add beneficial organic material to the soil. Over time, this improves soil structure, adds nutrients, and increases moisture retention. A sandy soil will require more organic material, like peat moss, whereas a clay soil will require a more substantial amendment, such as sand or loam.

When you add organic materials to your soil, its texture changes from a heavy, clay texture to a loam, which is easier for roots to penetrate and oxygen to reach the roots. It is best to add organic materials before planting, but if that's not possible, add small amounts every year. Peat moss can be a valuable amendment for many types of trees, but be careful with established trees, as these soil additions take some time to be broken down and added to the soil.

Fertilizing

Star Apples are less likely to need fertilizing. It’s best to fertilize them about once a month from when they are 2 months old until 6 or so. After that, they don’t need as much fertilizing.

Fertilizer for star apples should continue to be given once or twice a month, but at a much lower level. It’s best to use an all-purpose fertilizer, one that’s high in nitrogen.

For mature star apples, the fertilizer needs to be high in phosphorous. It’s the high phosphorous level that allows star apples to have such good resistance to disease. Phosphorous is important for spreading out the energy flow, thereby allowing star apples to thrive in a variety of climates.

Pruning / Training

As with most green, growing things, the success of your star apple begins with good pruning. You can prune it just like a fruit tree or you can prune it like a bonsai tree. As with most things, you will get significantly better results if you use a balanced approach.

As your young plant grows, train it with a structure like a teepee or a pyramid on a stake. Just like the pruning of a fruit tree or a bonsai, training provides the structure for the tree. Training should be done early on and continued as the tree gets taller.

At first, the branches will grow at random here and there. You need to cut any side limbs that grow more than 12 inches above the last lateral branch in the growing direction of the lateral branch. This forces the tree to branch horizontally, producing a flat layer of branches with lots of shaded leaf area. These branches produce fruit, but only in the shade, so you are providing a warm, protective environment for your plant to fruit.

Again, here are a few tips on training your star apple tree.

As your tree gets taller you will need to spread it out more. If the branches are too close together, they get in each other’s space, often resulting in a lack of fruit.

Propagation

The star apple is a tropical fruit that is native to the South Pacific. Under ideal conditions it will grow anywhere that the temperature remains above freezing and the humidity is 50 to 70%. It’s very difficult to grow in the United States because of our colder temperatures, but that makes it a treat for those who live in warmer climates.

To grow your own star apple you’ll need plenty of room. The tree grows very rapidly and can reach 30 feet in height and width, growing with an irregular form. If you are lucky enough to have a yard, it’s best to have a large open space on which to grow your star apple tree.

Keep in mind that you should always plan on more than one tree because star apple trees are male and female. So you’ll need at least two if you want to grow fruit.

It’s also recommended to plant the trees 15 to 20 feet apart to give them room to grow to their full potential.

Harvesting and Storing

Star apple trees are one of the hardiest plants that can produce only one large fruit. It is an interesting thing to grow because while it is a tropical plant, it can be grown in tropical regions or in the temperate zones. If grown in the temperate zones, however, do not plant it in the ground because it needs a lot of warmth. It can be grown in pots, a greenhouse, or a cold frame. If it is too cold, it will stop germinating and flower. If it is too warm, it will stop fruiting.

The Star apple tree is propagated through seeds. When it is mature, you will find that it is quite small and is shaped like a star. It is used as a food source in the Philippines and other parts of Asia. When raw, it has a flesh that is crisp and flavor that is sweet and not too tart. It is popular all over the continent. When it is ripe, you will find that the aroma it gives off is very strong. You can eat it if you are a big fan of the flavor of star apple or you can use it as a source of income.

When ripe and its skin is dark brown, it is ready for picking. This fruit has seeds, but they are quite small and very easy to remove. Some are even sold to people who want to make Star Apple wine.

Harvesting

The star apple (Chrysophyllum cainito) is a tropical tree whose fruit resembles a pentagonal star. The fruit has a hard, woody shell with a black, shiny exterior, and it’s held together by a thick, juicy pulp.

The fruit is usually sliced open to reveal its yellow sections, resembling the solar disk of the sun. When sliced in half it reveals five sections and an inner star-shaped white epidermis.

A close relative of the sapodilla, which is commonly known as the “chiku,” the star apple is a unique fruit with a long lineage of cultivated trees believed to have originated in the countries of the Caribbean basin. As far back as the Inca civilization, star apple trees were grown and cultivated for their delicious, tropical fruits.

These primeval fruits have a fantastical appearance and a taste to match. Star apples can be stored at room temperature in their original packaging for up to two or three days. Once sliced, they can be covered or kept in the refrigerator, and should last for about three days. If stored in the refrigerator, they should be used within two days. You can also freeze the unpeeled star apple in its basic state and use it in a smoothie or puree, or you can use it whole as a garnish or ingredient in cooked foods.

Storing

Storing star apples is not a problem, making them available for immediate consumption is. You will have to refrigerate them after getting them. And yes, they are available in the market, especially during the rainy season.

When it comes to ripening them, you will need to store them for about three weeks at room temperature. During this process make sure that they are in an area where they receive direct sunlight. After the star apples have ripened, refrigerate them.

Before storing the star apples again they will have to undergo the ripening process once again so it’s a good idea to eat them within a few days of picking them. This prevents them from going bad and gaining some of the negative qualities of star apples.

Another way to ripen them at home is to keep them enclosed in a brown paper bag with an apple and an orange.

As you have noticed, star apples are not as difficult to grow as they are different to store, none the less, it’s a really good idea to grow them because they do taste amazing.

Troubleshooting Star Apple Tree

There is no denying the fact that star apple trees are astonishingly beautiful. This fruit’s main star attractions include its eye-catching flowers and fruit that look like celebrities wearing stars on their heads. But what makes them so special? Here is a list of characteristics that makes it stand out among other fruits.

Its long, elaborate clusters of showy blossoms can hold up to 20 flowers. These flowers are typically 5 to 7 inches in length. If you’re wondering why it’s called a star apple fruit, take a look at the center of the fruit where you will see a star-shaped flesh.

One tree can produce fruits that weigh from one to four pounds. These fruits’ inedible peel has a texture similar to that of an apple. The inside of the fruit’s peel is a brilliant pink color. Plus, it’s not sour and it does not have any poisonous effects. The fruit’s flesh is sweet, anyway. Eating just one piece, you will understand why it’s a favorite treat for kids, especially during Christmas.

Growing Problems

& Pests: Apple maggots

Apple maggots (Rhagoletis pomonella) can attack both apples and pears. Each female maggot can lay up to 200 eggs, which hatch into caterpillars that burrow down into fruits and mine them for juice. Fruit damage is most evident in late spring, early summer, during the time of year when fruit is immature. At this point, the fruits are most succulent and break down easily. Note: when the fruit is ripe, the toxins in the apple and pear render the larva unviable.

The first sign of an infestation is the appearance of translucent larvae within the apples or pears. If the infestation is heavy, the fruit becomes soft and mushy. If the infestation is severe, the fruit may split or shrivel up and drop off the tree prematurely.

One of the tell-tale signs of an infestation is the presence of black droppings, shed by the larva, as the fruit becomes infested. The larvae are small and soft, and are not easily seen, burrowing down into the fruit and feeding on its juices.

Pests

Star apple can be affected by pests and problems just like any other fruit tree. Below are some of the most common challenges you could face as well as how best to prevent and correct them.

As one of the tropical fruits, star apple can be affected by the dreaded mealybug. Adults are small, white, oval insects. They have a red head and two long, hair like antennae.

These armored grayish to white insects may also have an orange tint to them and will cause the leaves to become dull and crinkly.

Lace bugs are another common problem, but are not a problem for the fruit.

The adults are small, grayish-black bugs and are only around half the size of mealybugs. They suck the sap from the leaves and can leave were spots on the leaves.

Aphids are another small insect that sucks the sap from the leaves causing them to wither and become wrinkled.

To control these pests, use natural biological controls since pesticides can also be problematic. Beneficial insects, such as different kinds of ladybugs and minute pirate bugs, work well.

Diseases

Star apples are susceptible to the usual fruit tree diseases, such as powdery mildew. Spores can be spread by air currents or splashing water. The disease causes a white, powdery coating on the leaves and fruit. Leaves may turn yellow or brown as the infection causes leaves to die. The fruit may rot or dry up.

A healthy plant is your best defense! Start with healthy transplants. They have spent time in a greenhouse, raised in a sterile environment and should be disease free. Make sure the nursery you buy from religiously tracks down and eradicates any stubborn diseases. Remove any weeds from around your plant. Weeds are breeding grounds for many diseases, so dig around those roots. Hose off your plant regularly. Increase the frequency of your hose-down if you are dealing with a drought-stricken tree. Distribute beneficial nematodes, compost, and manure in your plant’s soil. These items will all help keep your soil clean and disease free.

Insects can spread disease as well. Aphids and tent caterpillars can overwinter in tree sap and leaf litter. They may proliferate in the spring. In the case of aphids, their sticky honeydew can cause sooty mold and attract other insects, which can bring other diseases.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Exactly is a Star Apple?

Why is it Called a Star Apple?

Where do They Grow?

How to Grow Star Apples?

How Long does it Take to Grow?

Okay, I have my Star Apple Tree, Now What?

How Do I Keep my Star Apple Tree Healthy?

Can I Grow Star Apples in a Container?

What About the Fruit?

What is the Best Way to Preserve my Star Apple?

How Long will they keep?

What About Eating Star Apples?

Are Star Apples Good for You?