Barbados cherry tree care

Barbados Cherry Information – What Are Barbados Cherries

What are Barbados cherries? The Barbados cherry (Malpighia punicifolia) is known by a number of names, including acerola tree, garden cherry, West Indies cherry, Spanish cherry, fresh cherry and several others. Barbados cherry is native to the West Indies, but has naturalized as far as southern Texas. It is suitable for growing in USDA plant hardiness zones 9b through 11. Read on for more Barbados cherry information, and learn how to grow Barbados cherry in your garden.

About the Acerola Tree

Barbados cherry, or acerola, is a large, bushy shrub or small tree that reaches mature heights of about 12 feet (3.5 m.). This attractive shrub produces thick, bright green leaves. Small, pinkish-lavender flowers bloom from spring to fall, and may pop up year round in warmer climates – usually after irrigation or a rainfall.

Acerola tree blooms are followed by shiny, bright red fruit shaped much like miniature apples or tiny cherries. Due to its high ascorbic acid content, the tart, delicious fruit is often used to manufacture vitamin C tablets.

Tips on Growing Barbados Cherries

Getting Barbados cherry seeds to germinate can be difficult. Purchase a small tree if possible, as germination, if it occurs at all, can take at least six to 12 months.

Once established, growing Barbados cherry is relatively easy. Locate the shrub/tree in partial shade and moist, well-drained soil.

Young Barbados cherry trees need regular water, but mature plants are quite drought tolerant.

Fertilize Barbados cherry trees twice a year for the first four years, then cut back on feeding as the they mature.

Harvest Barbados cherries when the fruit is fully ripe. Wear gloves, though, because the fuzz on the stems and leaves can irritate the skin, especially when the tree is young.

Barbados ‘Acerola’ Cherry Tree

Easy to Grow Anywhere, Patio or Outdoors

Why Barbados Cherry Trees?

Imagine high quantities of juicy cherries anywhere in your landscape. With the Barbados Cherry Tree, it’s possible since this variety can grow in a container on your patio or in your garden.

And this variety is known for being particularly healthy, so vitamin C is just another great benefit among many. Reaching a mature height of just 12 feet, the Barbados’ convenient size and hardiness place it among the most adaptable cherry trees available. It’s totally diverse, perfect for placing in a container or cropping into a decorative, productive shrub.

Why is Better

Whether it’s grown in the ground among other fruit trees in your garden or in a container on the patio, the Barbados Cherry Tree will provide tons of delicious cherries each growing season and in just one or two years. It’s fast, low-maintenance and versatile because we’ve planted, monitored and shipped it to your door with absolute care, so you get a high-quality tree that’s consistent year after year.

So, we’ve done the hard work, and you’ll reap the delectable rewards. Fresh, home-grown cherries that shine, whether they’re plucked and eaten straight from the tree or used in freshly squeezed juice, jellies, jams or home-baked pies. Order your Barbados Cherry Tree today!

Planting & Care

1. Planting: Start by selecting a spot that is at least ten feet away from other trees. Make sure the spot is in full sun (6 to 8 hours of sunlight per day) and the soil will not retain moisture for any extended period of time.

When you’re ready to plant, dig a hole that’s twice the width of the root ball and just as deep. Place your tree, back fill the soil, tamp down and water to settle the roots. Spread a layer of mulch around the surrounding soil to preserve moisture.

If you’re container planting, select a pot that’s about 18 to 24 inches (15 to 25 gallon pot) and around 20 inches in height. A thin layer of gravel on the bottom of the pot will guarantee good drainage. Plant your tree, then place near a South-facing window for best results.

2. Watering: Young trees will need to be watered regularly. More mature trees will not require as much attention but Barbados Cherries do require a constantly moistened soil. If you’re not sure when to water, however, simply check the soil about 2 or 3 inches down. If the soil here is dry, it’s time to water. Generally, we recommend watering once weekly, or watering based on your soil’s moisture level.

3. Pruning: Prune the tree in the late fall after harvesting to form it into a desired shape. Damaged, diseased or dead branches can be removed at any time. Be sure to sterilize your cutting tool(s) with rubbing alcohol to ensure a nice, clean cut.

4. Fertilizing: Feed the Barbados with a time-released 8-3-9 fertilizer formula when you begin to see growth starting on the tree in the spring. Follow the application instructions on the fertilizer package. The potted Barbados will benefit from a bi-yearly feeding with a mineral fertilizer with a gradual release of nutrients.

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How to Care for Barbados Cherry Trees

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Also known as Acerola or West Indian cherry, Barbados cherry (Malpighia glabra L) is a small tree or large shrub originating from different parts of Central and South America and the West Indies. The tree grows up to 20 feet tall and equally wide and features oblong evergreen leaves and tiny light pink to rose-colored flowers that bloom throughout the summer months. After planting it in your home garden or yard, care for the tree so it thrives and produces healthy fruit rich in Vitamin C.

Plant the tree in spring, just before the rainy season in well-drained, fertile soil. Check the soil pH prior to planting to ensure that it is at least 5.5. Add lime to acidic soils to a depth of 8 inches.

Spread a 3- to 4-inch-thick application of organic mulch around the base of the young tree. Keep the mulch 6 inches away from the trunk to prevent direct contact. Depending on personal preference, use leaves, grass clippings, wood chips, straw or sawdust as mulch.

Irrigate the plant with a garden hose when the top 3 inches of the soil feel dry. Reduce watering in summer and fall when supplemental rainfall provides necessary moisture.

Feed the newly planted tree every month or two months, using 1/4 of a pound of a 6-6-6-3 or well-balanced fertilizer specifically formulated for cherry trees. Increase fertilizer application as the tree grows.

Prune the tree to maintain shape and size. Depending on personal preference, trim upright branches to encourage side branches that give a fuller look to a leggy tree, or thin bushy trees to allow more sunlight and air to penetrate the canopy. Use sharp, sterilized pruning shears when trimming the tree and collect clippings in a garbage bag for disposal.

Inspect the tree for pests and diseases and treat these immediately to prevent the problem from growing. Barbados cherry is susceptible to root-knot nematode that weakens the plant and causes foliage to drop. Preventive measures include using sterilized soil when planting, fumigating the planting site and mulching heavily around the tree. Spray horticulture oil to prevent scale insects, caterpillars, whiteflies and aphids from infesting the tree.

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Learn how to grow Barbados cherry, barbados cherry care is easy. “Acerola” is its common name, it is a big, bushy shrub or small tree that can grow as tall and as wide as 20 feet.

Its fruits look like cherries with their bright red skin. You can use the fruits to make juices, jams and toppings for desserts.

Young acerola trees are not frost tolerant and can’t survive freezing temperature, although mature trees can survive brief drops in temperature to about 28 degrees Fahrenheit (-2 C).

USDA Zones — 9 – 11

Difficulty — Easy

Other Names — Acerola, west Indian cherry, acerola cherry, cerise des antilles, cerise de la barbade, Puerto Rican cherry, malpighia glabra, malpighia punicifolia and wild crepe myrtle


Barbados cherry can be propagated from seeds, cutting, air layering and grafting.

Barbados cherry seeds have low germination rate. If propagating from seeds, use seeds from fully developed and ripe fruit and before using clean and dry it completely.

Seedlings should be transferred from germination tray to their individual containers or in ground when they are about 2 to 3 in. tall.


Plant at same depth as it is grown previously and twice as wide. If planting more than one plant, space them at least 15 feet apart.

To plant, remove the plant from pot and gently knock out some soil around the roots. Place it in the planting hole and carefully spread the roots out.

Fill the planting hole with soil and hand-tamp it gently. Water deeply to settle the soil around roots.



The location should be sunny, weed free and less windy.


Exposure to full sun is essential for growing acerola cherry plant.


Clean the soil, dig out weeds and debris. Amend the soil with the addition of a compost and lots of organic matter. Barbados cherry tree prefers slightly acidic to neutral soil.


Young plant should be watered regularly, once matured it doesn’t require much watering except in drought periods and at the time when tree is setting fruit.

Barbados Cherry Care


Apply citrus fertilizer, once you start to see growth. Follow the manufacturer’s directions with regard to the amount and timing of applying the fertilizer.


Spread a layer of 2 inches of mulch in a diameter of 3 feet around the tree. Straw, grass clippings or bark can be used to help retain moisture and keep the roots cooler in the summer heat. Keep the mulch at least 3 inches away from the trunk of the tree so that it does not hold up against the soft wood and inflict rot.


Prune the tree in fall, after the harvest to give it a desired shape. You can cut dead, damaged or diseased branches off at any time.


Harvest Barbados cherries when they are ripe and turn red in color. Harvesting is best carried out early in the morning.

Pests and diseases

The most serious disease of Barbados cherry is root-knot nematode. It can also be attacked by leaf spot, brown rot and powdery mildew.

Pests that might attack it are aphids, scales, borers and whiteflies.

Barbados Cherry AKA Acerola Cherry AKA West Indian Cherry

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When I was growing up I remember eating the acerola vitamin C chewables. They reminded me of a sweet tart. Well, little did I know then, that one day I would be growing a tree/bush of the cherry they were made from. And what a wonderful fruit it is! The cherries are about the same size as the typical bing cherry we are used to, but slightly more acidic. It is the high quantity of vitamin C that makes it tart. They are also quite high in Vitamin A. And when fully ripe they are bright red. When it is mature, one tree can produce 30-60 lbs of fruit in a year. That’s a lot of Vitamin C!

How to use Barbados Cherry

I just love walking out to the back yard and picking them right off the bush. Most of them get popped directly into my mouth. Hey, if someone else wants some they can walk out to the bush can’t they? Barbados cherry is a delicate berry that will not ship because they bruise easily. They will burst their very thin skins and all that wonderful juice will escape. So they need to be eaten right away. Also they will start loosing their Vitamin C very quickly. Just another reason they need to be eaten or frozen soon after picking. They will only last about 3 days in the refrigerator. But the good news is they ripen a little at a time, not all at once, so a daily visit to the bush will get you your berry fix and your vitamin C all at once. And prevent fruit drop. If you want to make something from them you can put them in a bag in the freezer until you have enough to make jams, syrup, juice or wine. Or oh so many other things. Put a few into your morning smoothie or chop some and put over salmon. Yumm! I’ve also read that the bark is used to reduce fever. You’ll have to research that further as to how to use it, but I thought it was interesting.

How to grow Barbados Cherries

So now I’ve got your attention, and you want to grow your own Barbados Cherry. I don’t blame you one bit. These wonderful plants grow well in zone 8 and up. When mature they can withstand brief temperature down to 28°. But if your weather is colder than that, this bush will grow quite happily in a large container. I grew mine that way for 2 years until I decided where I wanted to plant it. It produced fruit right from the start.

Planting Your Tree

Your Barbados Cherry will do best with a ph of 5.5 to 6.5. You will also want to dig the hole at least twice as deep and twice as wide as the root ball. Then fill it with rich amended soil. Apply 3″-4″ of mulch but don’t let it touch the trunk as that can cause fungal diseases. You will want to irrigate your tree in dry weather. In Florida we feed in February, May, July & September. with a balanced fertilizer + trace minerals. You need to feed it 1/4 lb the first year and 1 lb for each year of growth there after. It is susceptible to root knot nematode. So good sterile soil in the hole and keeping it mulched will both help that.

Is This A Tree Or A Bush?

Well it depends on you. You can prune this tree into almost any shape you wish and in fact it will make a great hedge if plants are spaced 10′ – 12′ apart and kept pruned. If left to it’s own device it can get quite leggy.

When Does It Flower And Fruit?

Barbados Cherry will flower almost year round, in waves. When it gets dry it takes a break and when it gets a good rain it will flush out with it’s beautiful “crepe myrtle” type flowers. When it is finished it will stop until it has another dry spell and then wet spell and then it will flush out again. It takes about 22 days from flower to fruit maturity. This fruit is primarily pollinated by bees. So a healthy local bee population is essential for a good cherry crop. This tree will continue to bear fruit for approximately 15 years.

How to Propagate (get more cherry bushes)

The Barbados Cherry does not have a stone like the northern cherries. Each cherry has 3 tri-cornered seeds. They can be eaten but are usually spit out. These have a very low seed germination rate. The most popular method to raise new trees is from cuttings. Cut a fresh twig. Remove most of the leaves. Use root hormone and put it in a pot with potting soil. Then keep moist for 2 or 3 months. When it starts to put out new leaves you know it has taken root. Leave it a little longer to get a good start before transplanting it.

I hope you give The Barbados Cherry a try. I’m so glad I planted one. We enjoy ours so much. Both Thing One and Thing Two have asked me to start one for each of them. I’m sure you will enjoy yours too.

If you liked this, check out how to grow some other tropical fruit Carambola, Papaya, Pineapple or Mango.

Happy Gardening and Have a Ducky Day!

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How to Grow Acerola Cherries

Acerola or Acerola Cherry is a tropical fruit-bearing small tree or a shrub. Common names also include Barbados cherry, West Indian cherry and Wild crepe myrtle.

It is native to South America, southern Mexico, and Central America and it is often grown in warmer areas.

Acerola is extremely rich in vitamin C, but it also contains vitamins A, B1, B2, and B3, as well as carotenoids, bioflavonoids and other antioxidants.

Acerola grows 2-5m in height, but they can be kept rather small with strong pruning and still bear fruits. This is very important for people who plan to grow acerola bushes as hedge or in greenhouses.

It has shallow root system, making them susceptible to strong wind gusts, especially taller trees.

For proper growth, acerola requires warm climate – temperatures below freezing (0°C or 32°F) can kill acerola tree. Also, soil should be pH neutral, preferably between 6.5 and 7.5. Acerola prefers dry, well-drained, sandy soil and plenty of sun – it doesn’t like shades too much. Again, when soil is sandy, roots are shallow, strong wind gusts can easily knock down taller acerola trees – this goes for acerola and other plants that are grown in containers, too. Acerola will also grow in soils like clay, marl, limestone and other heavy soils as long as drainage is good. If you have heavy soil, add sand, compost, humus, but also some lime to keep pH between 6.5 and 7.5.

Acerola leaves are light to dark green, glossy when mature, with minute hairs which can be irritating to some people.

People living in colder climate still can grow acerola plants, but using greenhouses, that are heated during really cold days. Remember that temperatures must be above freezing during winter. During summer, be sure to have acerola trees regularly watered, but also, any excess water must be easily drained away. Acerola requires between 1000 and 2000 mm of water annually, but if water is scarce, it will ‘switch’ from being evergreen plant to being deciduous – lost leaves will prevent regular flowering and bearing fruits.

Acerola trees in good shape can flower 2-3 times per year, having long harvest season. Regular watering and moderately rich soil promote flowering and bearing healthy and rich crops.

Acerola can be propagated by seeds, cuttings and other methods. Be patient, since these plants require around three years to start producing any larger number of brightly red fruits. Fruits are slightly acidic having gently sour taste, but they can be even sweet, if plants are grown well, without shocks and stress (too cold, too wet, too dry etc.). Fruits taste best right from the tree, but acerola can be also processed in numerous ways. Personally, such great fruit, one of the fruits richest in vitamin C and many other antioxidants and vitamins, should be eaten fresh.

Growing Acerola Trees and Shrubs in Flower Pots and Containers

Like many other similar small trees and shrubs, acerola can be grown in larger containers and flower pots. Keep in mind that roots are relatively shallow, so there is no need for pots deeper than 60cm (24 inches). Width of such pots should also be around 60cm (24 inches) for single acerola tree. Acerola can be grown in much smaller pots and in fact, it is very popular bonsai tree because of its small leaves, regular flowers, bright red fruits and fine ramification in general. However, if you plan on growing acerola in containers for its fruits, 60x60cm (24×24 inches) pots are recommended.

One of the advantages of growing acerola trees (and other plants) in pots, is using growing soil other than that found locally in gardens. So, for acerola, be sure to have large enough flower pot, with plenty of drainage holes on the bottom. Also, thin layer of gravel and smaller stones on the bottom can help with water drainage even further. Fill the rest of the pot with good potting soil, add some good compost and mineral fertilizer (twice a year) with gradual release of nutrients (avoid any excess nitrogen) and check periodically pH of the soil. in the autumn, such plants can be easily placed in protected area (greenhouse, if needed) and when danger of frost is gone, plants can be positioned outside again – acerola prefers warm climate and in colder areas, it can be and should be kept in greenhouse yearlong.

If pH drops below 6.5, add a tablespoon (or just a teaspoon, just to be sure) of lime (or some similar compound) and mix it thoroughly with the soil.

Note: some acerola varieties may require cross-pollination, hence requiring more plants.

Acerola Pests and Diseases

People like acerola fruits and so do the birds – it is possible to pick a acerola cherries before they are fully ripe and let them ripen indoors. Personally, if you have few plants, light protective net is better option.

It should be also protected from common bugs and insects like whitefly, aphids, scale, weevil etc. Root-knot nematodes can be serious problem, too.

The Barbados cherry produces beautiful pink and yellow blossoms before maturing into tasty fruit. Glossy, red fruits are about 1/2 to 1 inch in diameter. They are juicy and sweet and occasionally tart. The main fruiting season is spring but extends off and on all year.

Barbados cherry is native to South America, southern Mexico, the Caribbean, Brazil, and Central America. It is also known as Wild Crapemyrtle, Manzanita, and Acerola. It’s a great source of natural vitamin C used in many vitamin tablets.

Don’t be surprised to see caterpillars flocking to your plant. Barbados cherry is a host plant for the caterpillars of several butterflies, including the White-Patched Skipper (Chiomara asychis), Florida Duskywing (Ephyriades brunneus), and Brown-Banded Skipper (Timochares ruptifasciatus).

Scientific name: Malpighia emarginata (formerly known as Malpighia glabra)


  • Average mature height: 20 to 30 feet in areas that do not freeze.
  • Planting: Plant in sandy to rich, well-drained soil in full to part sun.
  • Hardiness: Mature trees can survive temperatures down to 28 degrees Fahrenheit for brief periods. If the tree freezes, it will often return from the roots.
  • Zones: 9b-11

Shop for Barbados Cherry at Wellspring Gardens.

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