Apr. 4, 2020

How It Grows


If seeds are used for planting, they should be selected from desirable clones not exposed to cross-pollination by inferior types. They should be cleaned, dried, and dusted with a fungicide. It should also be realized that the seeds in an individual fruit develop unevenly and only those that are fully developed when the fruit is ripe will germinate satisfactorily. Germination rates may be only 50% or as low as 5%. Seedlings should be transferred from flats to containers when 2 to 3 in (5-7.5 cm) high.

Air-layering (in summer) and side-veneer, cleft, or modified crown grafting are feasible but not popular because it is so much easier to raise the tree from cuttings. Cuttings of branches 1/4 to 1/2 in (6-12.5 mm) thick and 8 to 10 in (20-25 cm) long, with 2 or 3 leaves attached, hormone-treated and set in sand or other suitable media under constant or intermittent mist, will root in 60 days. They are then transplanted to nursery rows or containers and held in shade for 6 months or a year before being set out in the field. Some fruits will be borne a year after planting but a good crop cannot be expected until the 3rd or 4th year. The tree will continue bearing well for about 15 years. There is a lapse of only 22 days between flowering and complete fruit maturity.

Grafting is generally practiced only when cuttings of a desired clone are scarce or if a nematode-resistant rootstock is available on which to graft a preferred cultivar; or when top-working a tree that bears fruits of low quality.


The Barbados cherry tree will grow and fruit fairly well with little care. For best performance, Puerto Rican agronomists have recommended a fertilizer formula of 8-8-13 twice annually for the first 4 years at the rate of 1/2 to 1 lb (0.22-0.45 kg). Older trees should have 3 to 5 lbs (1.35-2.25 kg) per tree. In addition, organic material should be worked into the planting hole and also supplied in amounts of 10 to 20 lbs (4.5-9 kg) per tree. Under Florida conditions, a 10-10-10 formula is given in February, 1 lb (0.22 kg) for each year of growth. In May, July and September, a 4-7-5-3 formula is recommended, 1 lb (0.22 kg) for each year of age up to the 10th year. Thereafter, a 6-4-6-3 mixture is given-5 lbs (2.25 kg) per tree in late winter and 10 lbs (4.5 kg) per tree for each of the summer feedings. On limestone soils, sprays of minor elements-copper, zinc, and sometimes manganese-will enhance growth and productivity. Young trees need regular irrigation until well established; older trees require watering only during droughts. Mature plants will bear better if thinned out by judicious pruning after the late crop and then fertilized once more.


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