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Cultivation of the exotic Cherimoya


(Annona cherimola)

Cherimoya preface:

Pre-Incan people cultivated the fruit as far back as 2,500 BC.  More recently, Mark Twain said that the Cherimoya was “deliciousness itself”.  Perhaps that’s why the fruit doesn’t last that long in the market even though it is very expensive.  Oh yea, the fruit also looks really cool.


Fruit Appearance:

  • The fruit itself ranges in size from 8 in to 12 in in length.  Better size and number of fruit is obtained with hand pollination or planting another cherimoya nearby.
  • The outer surface of the fruit may be bumpy or flat with large fingerprint like markings.
  • The thin skin is green and the flesh is white with hard black seeds.  The black seeds are inedible/toxic.

Cherimoya ready to pick

Fruit Taste:

The Cherimoya fruit texture is similar to custard, but it is also juicy.  Overall it is sweet with mild acid overtones.  Cherimoya fruit is a wonderful mix of flavors in one fruit; banana, passion fruit, pineapple and papaya.  When chilled, its flavor is somewhat similar to ice cream.

Fruit Season:

  • The main season is October to May.
  • Buy or pick the fruit when the skin is turning slightly lighter in color but the fruit is still hard.
  • Allow to ripen in a dark area at room temp for a few days until it feels lightly soft to touch.  Ripening and softness is similar to an avocado.
  • The tree starts to fruit when around 4 years old.


Landscaping use:

  • It is a fast-growing tree, and can reach 30+ feet in height.  However, it is easily trained with pruning in the dormant season.  The wood is brittle so pruning also helps the tree to support the heavy fruit.  Young plants need staking.
  • Green leaves with a prominent light green central vein.
  • Briefly deciduous; loosing leaves for a short time in late winter/early spring.
  • The flowers are green and easily missed on casual inspection.



The tree is said to be able to tolerate a wide range of soil types but prefers well draining fertile soil with neutral to slightly acidic pH.

Click here to see my 6/9/13 post on the best planting technique to avoid transplantation shock. 



Bi-weekly irrigation in the growing season (April to January)  The plant is prone to root rot with prolonged moist conditions.   The trees also dont seem to like the dry air of the desert where the leaves are easily damaged by dry Santa Ana winds.  Overall, the plant appreciates a slope for drainage and cooler marine air.  Most of the US crop is grown in coastal and coastal-foothill areas of Southern California.






Balanced fertilizer 1x in midwinter, and then again every three months throughout the growing season.  Mature trees are said to require 4 ounces of actual nitrogen per inch of trunk diameter per year.



  • It is a subtropical plant native to northwest parts of South America and traditionally grown in cool mountain altitudes at the equator.  The plant can withstand a light frost but not much more than that.  Like other deciduous trees they need a chilling period (40-100 hrs at 45 F).
  • For more information about the lowest temperatures that you can expect in your area, check out my article “Climate Zones: What can I grow in my yard?”



  • The main pests in California are mealybugs and snails.  However, I did get a rather bad scale infection this last dormant season.  It seems that ants were an accessory to this infestation.  Tanglefoot on masking tape around the trunk helps keep the ants away that bring in the mealybugs and scale.
  • I have also read that you shouldn’t plant this tree in old vegetable gardens, near tomatoes, eggplant or asters because Cherimoya are susceptible to the same soil diseases.  Cherimoyas are also susceptible to Armillaria (Oak Root Fungus) and Verticillium.
  • Squirrels have also discovered the fruit.  Therefore, I keep a close eye on the fruit and pick them a little early because I dont like to share with my rodent neighbors.


Food Use:

  • Cherimoya fruit tastes great any way you serve it, but it is best when chilled.
  • It is often added to desserts.
  • Some make ice cream out of it.
  • Note: the Cherimoya fruit seeds are toxic, so don’t go putting this in a blender before taking the seeds out.


About Thomas Osborne, MD

Dr. Osborne is a Harvard trained Radiologist and Neuroradiologist who loves to share his insight about medicine and gardening.


  1. You rock, dude!

  2. Reviews on Herpes Miracle

    Could I ask if you may be all right with paid for posts?

    All I would require is for you to re-write content material for me and simply a hyperlink or reference to my site.
    I can compensate you.

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Hi there and thanks for the request.

      As a doctor I am happy to help out.
      However, this particular website may not provide you with the target audience that you are looking for.
      This site is mainly designed to provide helpful tips on growing fruit/produce at your home garden/orchard.
      This site does not address the treatment of human disease such as Herpes.
      If you would like to discuss further, please provide your email.

      Dr. Tom

  3. What is your average humidity in Sept-Nov and July. These are the major changes in AZ Humidity. If your climate has other humidity fluctuation, please tell me. Also, what is your elevation? Cherimoyas are highly dependent on elevation and humidity.

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Hi Nate.
      I would agree. Cherimoyas are particular about their elevation, humidity, temp, soil drainage, and soil moisture.
      I live in the coastal foothills of Southern California. This is a great place for growing Cherimoyas and Atemoyas.
      The elevation for my area is about 200 f to 400 f above sea level.
      The humidity and temp is basically a Mediterranean climate (cool wet winters -dry warm summers).
      This website has climate stats if you would like specific numbers; http://www.currentresults.com/Weather/California/humidity-november.php

      Arizona might be too dry and too cold during the nights-winter.

  4. Do cherimoyas require less water than atemoya?

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Thanks for the question Nate.
      I water them about the same. I have 2 of each which are all planted on a slope.
      (In general, a lot of atemoyas are grown on cherimoya root stock)
      All 4 plants are on my citrus watering schedule.

  5. They say that the tastiest varieties are ‘El Bumpo’, ‘Pierce’ and ‘Big Sister’.

  6. Hello,
    Do you have informations about polinating them? Some say that they shuld be hand-polinated (supposed lack of the original insect from their country). They obviously give fruit without, but fruit little or irregularly. Any idea about what is influencing, like rain or wind… We all count our fruits on the trees when we see them! The prospect of eating them is producing a lot of saliva haha!

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Hey Xisca

      Thanks for the question.

      My pollination method:
      I dont bother pollinating my cherimoya or atemoya and the branches are full of fruit.
      For me the key seems to be that I planted two trees right next to each other and they apparently pollinate each other by the wind.

      Hand pollination:
      The flowers are basically the same for both the cherimoya and atemoya.
      Check out my atemoya article for hand pollinating instructions/discussion.


  7. Hey cool post. I have a question here in MD summers are humid winters are freezing, I have no chance of growing Chirimoyas over here do I?

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Hey Kevin
      Your right… no chance of growing cherimoya outdoors in Maryland.

      However, there is a closely related plant to look into.
      The Pawpaw (Asimina triloba) is a North American native that should do excellent in MD.
      If I could grow it in Southern California I would, however, the pawpaw does not do well in hot/dry areas with minimal winters.

      Anyhow, check out this link for more info on the pawpaw.


  8. Dr. Osborne,

    Any idea of when is the best time to prune cherimoyas? I live in Poway and the two trees have grown so fast that they need pruning badly. I just don’t know when to do it.

    Thanks for all the great information.


    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Hey Eleazer
      Great question and congratulations on your growing success.

      I tend to prune them in the fall and winter.
      This is my method mostly because this seems to be a good idea for most fruit trees… and has been validated to be best practice for deciduous trees.

      However, I really dont have any evidence to say that you can prune cherimoya anytime you want/need.


      • Cherimoyas can be safely trimmed for size control at any time, though the main pruning is ideally during it’s deciduous time, which for cherimoyas and other Annonas is spring, not winter or autumn.

      • Dr. Osborne,

        Do you have any experience growing pomegranates? About a month ago a friend gave us two pomegranates and after extracting the juice, I was immediately hooked to the taste of the juice. Did some researched and seems like it’s a pretty easy plant to grow.

        I did not see in your website any information about pomegranates. Appreciate any information you can share.

        Thank you for such a wonderful website.


        • Thomas Osborne, MD

          Hey Eleaser

          I agree, pomegranates are great. However, to me home grown pomegranates taste even better. Perhaps because at home you can allow them to ripen to their peak flavor w/o having to worry about shipping issues.

          Pomegranates do great in Southern California and I happen to have 3 growing in the yard.
          I have pomegranates on my list of plants to profile on this site… However, I just haven’t gotten to it yet.

          Basically, yes, in a Mediterranean type of environment, pomegranates are rather easy to grow.
          They are also quite though and drought tolerant.
          However, they do require a few things such as well draining soil.
          Full sun and regular deep watering are major ingredients for fruiting success.

          There is some debate about how much of a problem gophers can be to them; some say they are gopher resistant, others tell stories how gophers killed plants and others suggest that the variety of pomegranate makes the difference for gophers. Best to err on the side of caution and cage the roots.

          Happy to answer any other questions.


  9. Dear Dr.

    My Cherimoya fruit becomes partly black inside and has small maggots. What could be the cause and how best can i treat it.

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Hi Flavia

      What a bummer.
      So… you have some kind of fruit maggots in the fruit.

      This can happen to a lot of fruits… esp thin skinned ones.
      However, this type of invasion seems to happen more often in more hot/humid environments such as Florida.
      Although no place is safe from the menace.
      What part of the world are you growing in?

      Peruvian Fruit Fly:
      One possible culprit is the Peruvian Fruit Fly.
      The Peruvian Fruit Fly can infect a lot of different fruits but seems to be more active in February according to p345 of this book google made available.

      Mediterranean fruit fly:
      However, the Mediterranean fruit fly seems to be a more widespread pest and can do the same type of damage.
      The Mediterranean fruit fly attacks more than 260 different fruits, flowers, vegetables, and nuts.
      More info about the Mediterranean fruit fly via this University of Florida link.

      Management options:
      An important component to your strategy is to make sure all of the old/rotting fruit is cleaned up around the yard. This is a prime breeding ground for the fruit flys.

      Spinosad spray is an organic insecticide being used by government agencies to kill all stages of the bug. I use this as my primary/only treatment for citrus leafminer and it works awesome. Check out my article about Citrus Leafminer: Diagnosis and Treatment for more info.

      Before the adults mate and deposit their eggs, they can be captured-killed with baited traps.
      There are a lot of Fruit fly trap options on Amazon.com. Not sure which one would be the best though.

  10. I live in South Carolina and was wondering if the Cherimoya tree would grow here along the coast?

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Hey Nowlin
      Good question.

      I have no experience growing cherimoya in South Carolina.
      However, if I was looking into it, I would be most focused on the expected temperatures in the area.
      When it comes to temps, this tree is a bit of a “Goldilocks”

      This tree doesn’t like frost but older trees will tolerate a light frost.
      For example, young branches are said to be killed at 29° F and mature trees can be killed when temps go below 25° F.
      Ironically, this tree also needs a chilling time in the winter (like a deciduous trees). That winter chilling time is usually defined as around 50-100 hours of temps below 45° F.

      For more info about the expected lowest temperatures in your specific area, check out the climate zone article below which can give you the exact temps for you.
      climate zone article


  11. I live in Oregon in zone 8b, and was wondering if it would be possible to grow the Cherimoya tree here?

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Hey Nat.
      Great question.
      I think it might be pushing it a bit but still possible.
      Although I havent tried it myself.
      Best bet would be to see if there is a local grower/nursery… they would know and might have a specific variety that is more adapt to cooler climate.
      Perhaps another reader might have some personal insight.

      • Hi Thomas, Thanks for all of this information. We inherited a huge cherimoya tree when we bought our house. It is the best thing we have ever eaten. Awesome. One windy day, in one exceptional year, 40 pounds landed on the ground. I climb the tree to hand pollinate so i hope the one I planted next to it does what you have experienced. You said to water bi-weekly so I looked up bi-weekly and found out is is officially ambiguous, either twice a week or once every two weeks. I’m guessing you mean every two weeks but could you pleas confirm. And could say more about how you fertilize. Thanks, Keith

        • Thomas Osborne, MD

          Hi Keith
          Thanks for your note.
          Agree, Cherimoya are awesome fruit.

          Thanks for the watering timing clarification question.
          As you know, watering needs vary based on a lot of factors (region, time of year, slope, soil, etc).
          However, for me in Southern California (in the summer), growing on a well draining slope…. a deep watering two times a week has been great.
          I turn the water off in the winter when the rains come.


  12. Dr. Osborne,
    Do you know how the cherimoya fruit taste compares with sugar apple? (trying to decide between getting one or the other fruit tree)

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