Growth Habit: The acerola cherry is an attractive, fast-growing, small tree/shrub that grows to 2-5m in height.
Foliage/Flowers: The Acerola Cherry is evergreen, with small glossy leaves that are dark to light green. It’s pretty flowers are small with five petals, and ranging from pink to white in colour. Flowering occurs primarily on old growth, and can take place at any time throughout the year. Flowering is encouraged by good rain, and irrigation can be used to encourage flowering. Cross-pollination may be required for some varieties.
Fruit: The bright red fruits are cherry-sized with a thin skin, and best eaten raw fresh off the tree. The fruit changes from green to red as it ripens. The flesh is juicy and somewhat sweet, with a subtle apple-like flavour. Inside the fruit are a few small wing shaped inedible seeds. The most notable feature of this fruit is its exceptionally high vitamin C content, containing between twenty to fifty times as much vitamin C by weight as an orange.
Adaptation : The acerola thrives and produces well in tropical and frost-free sub-tropical climates. Trees are very sensitive to wind due to their shallow root systems. A sunny, sheltered position is ideal.
Soils : Deep, loamy, well-drained soil is best for the acerola cherry. Soil pH should be 6.5-7.5 as acerola cannot tolerate acid soils. Fertilise in spring and again in summer with compost.
Irrigation : The Acerola does best with 1000-2000 mm of water annually. However, the acerola is drought-tolerant and will adopt a deciduous habit if stressed. Irrigation can be used to encourage flowering and can regulate flower cycles. With good irrigation the acerola can flower up to three times a year.
Pruning : Trees will tolerate heavy pruning, but require time for recovery. They can be kept as a small bush or hedge and will still produce well. Pruning in early autumn after fruiting is ideal. Thinning dense growth at top of the bush will promote side branching.
Propagation : The Acerola can be propagated by seed, cutting or grafting.
Pests and diseases : The Acerola is susceptible to root-knot nematode which causes serious problems with young trees affects productivity in older trees. It is also attacked by a variety of common insects, such as aphids, whitefly and scale. Pick before the birds.
Harvest: The tree can produce a number or crops each year, making for quite a long harvest season. Fruits are best eaten raw and fresh, though they can be picked when green to beat the birds, and ripened indoors. Harvest Oct-May in southern hemisphere.