Manilkara zapota or Sapondilla is a slow growing, large evergreen tree native to Central America and Mexico. Trees in nature will reach 100 feet (30 m) tall or higher. Their size is easily controlled with container size and selective pruning. Glossy elliptic leaves are clustered at the ends of twigs. Leaves are up to 6 inches (15.25 cm) long and about 2.5 inches (6.35 cm) wide. The bark is grayish and furrowed. Trees have been grown for the fruit and for chicle which is used in chewing gum. They are fairly easy trees to grow in containers, but can get quite large for greenhouse settings. Trees are hardy in USDA zone 10-11.
Blooming: Sapondilla flowers are greenish-white, small, solitary and inconspicuous. Flowers are followed by a fruit of variable shape to 4 inches (10 cm) across with a tough rusty colored skin. The fruit is edible and sweet.
Culture: Manilkara zapota or Sapondilla need full sun to partial shade with a rich moist soil. In the greenhouse, we use a soil mix consisting of 2 parts peat moss to 2 parts loam to 1 part sand or perlite. The trees are well-watered and allowed to dry slightly before watering again. We fertilize them monthly with a balanced fertilizer through most of the year. In the spring months, we use 10-5-10 fertilizer until blooming and fruit set is over. During the winter months, we re-pot and prune the trees as necessary. Re-potting is done every couple of years to aid in controlling size.
Propagation: Manilkara zapota or Sapondilla is best propagated by seed. Fresh seed is best and will germinate in 14-30 days from sowing.
Manilkara zapota was featured as Plant of the Week November 5-18, 2010.
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Cal's Plant of the Week was provided as a service by the University of Oklahoma Department of Microbiology & Plant Biology and specifically Cal Lemke, who used to be OU's botany greenhouse grower and an avid gardener at home as well. If the above links don't work, then try the overview site. You may also like to look at the thumbnail index. ©1998-2012 All rights reserved.