How to Plant & Grow Acerola Plants

Overview

The acerola (Malpighia emarginata, formerly M. punicifolia), also commonly called the Barbados cherry or West Indian cherry, is a fruit-producing shrub or small tree that grows rapidly up to 15 feet tall. Acerolas are deciduous and grow best in dry, frost-free climates where temperatures rarely dip down to 30 degrees F. Acerola bushes produce small white or pink flowers, followed by round, cherrylike fruits that have thin skin and three lobes. Acerola fruits are juicy and acidic, maturing in less than 25 days.

Step 1

Choose a planting site for the acerola plants that's in full, direct sunlight and has well-draining soil. The optimal soil for acerolas is neutral to slightly alkaline with a pH of 6.5 to 7.5.

Step 2

Prepare the planting bed by removing all weeds and grasses from the site. Loosen the soil to a depth of at least 12 inches. Mix into the soil some lime if your soil pH is acidic, following the directions on the package or recommendations from a soil test.

Step 3

Plant your acerolas at the same depth as they were planted in the nursery container. Firm down the soil around the plants' roots with your hands to eliminate any air pockets, and then water the soil deeply and thoroughly.

Step 4

Water the acerolas deeply and thoroughly two to three times per week while the plants are actively growing to supplement rainfall. Regular, constant irrigation will encourage the acerola plants to bloom.

Step 5

Feed your acerola plants with a water-soluble balanced fertilizer, such as a 10-10-10 or 20-20-20 NPK formula that contains the micronutrients iron and boron. Fertilize the acerolas while they're actively growing, according to the application instructions on the label.

Step 6

Apply lime to the soil around the acerolas once each year in early spring to keep the soil from becoming too acidic. Follow the recommendations on the package or the results of a soil test.

Step 7

Prune your acerolas while they're actively growing, but not too soon before the dormant season so they have enough time to recover. Prune the acerolas to control their size and to remove any dead, damaged or crowded growth.

Tips and Warnings

  • If you live in a region that experiences some frosts during winter, protect your acerolas from injury by planting them beside the wall of a building. You may also erect a frame around the acerolas and cover them with heavy cloth when frosts threaten.

Things You'll Need

  • Acerola plants
  • Shovel
  • Pitchfork or tilling fork
  • Lime (optional)
  • Garden hose or irrigation system
  • Water-soluble balanced fertilizer with micronutrients
  • Pruning tools

References

  • California Rare Fruit Growers: Acerola, Malpighia punicifolia

Who Can Help

  • Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center: Malpighia glabra
Keywords: grow acerola fruits, Malpighia emarginata, plant acerolas, Barbados cherry, West Indian cherry, Malpighia punicifolia

About this Author

Sarah Terry brings 10 years of experience writing novels, business-to-business newsletters, and a plethora of how-to articles. Terry has written articles and publications for a wide range of markets and subject matters, including Medicine & Health, Eli Financial, Dartnell Publications and Eli Journals.