The white sapote belongs to the genus Casimoroa and is one of the several plants from different families to bear the common name "sapote." Others include the mamey sapote (from the Pouteria) genus and the black sapote (from the Diospyros genus). What unites these plants, which can even be from different families, is the edible fruit, which is popular in tropical areas.
The white sapote bears a medium-sized, round fruit with a sweet and somewhat delicate white flesh. Aside from the white sapote (C. edulis), there are about five other species in this genus. Typical specimens from the genus grow into small trees or large shrubs and are evergreen in tropical regions. They can be grown in large containers indoors, although as with all tropical fruit, bringing a specimen to fruit will be a challenge. Nevertheless, if you happen to get a white sapote fruit, it can still be fun to dry and sprout the seed and grow it as an ornamental. They are beautiful little trees with contorted and rough trunks and glossy leaves on drooping branches. It can withstand colder temperatures (even down to freezing) and cold drafts and dislikes intense heat and humidity.
Growing Conditions for White Sapote
White Sapote is not particularly difficult to grow, if you following these parameters:
- Light: The white sapote grows in tropical regions, but it tends to grow at higher elevations. Thus, it likes bright sunlight but does not require strong direct sunlight to thrive.
- Water: Average water needs, but never let it sit in standing water. Err on the side of arid.
- Soil: Any good, fast-draining potting soil will likely do.
- Fertilizer: Feed with a weak liquid citrus fertilizer throughout the growing season.
The most likely way you'll run into a white sapote is a fruit, so you'll be propagating from seed. To sprout a sapote seed, first, let the fresh seed dry and plant in a container of moist soil. They can also be propagated by air layering, which is commonly done by commercial growers. The do not root well from cuttings, so it's best to avoid this technique if possible.
White sapote is not especially fast growing and should only need repotting every other year or so as juveniles. In general, they dislike repotting, so larger specimens should be left in their tubs and pruned to an appropriate size.
Varieties of White Sapote
The white sapote is the most common of the Casimiroa species. It grows as a wild plant in central Mexico and Central America, as well as a limited commercial plant in Florida and an ornamental plant in California. It is also used to provide shade on coffee plantations in Central America. Within the species, there are many cultivars that have been bred for desirable fruit qualities, including lack of seeds, flavor or hardiness of the fruit, which is notoriously fragile and easily destroyed. Because of extensive hybridization, many sapotes do not propagate well from seed.
As plants go, these are not particularly tough to grow, but if you are fortunate enough to get fruit, there are some precautions you should observe. Never tug the fruit off of the tree, as this will encourage rapid rot of the fruit. Instead, snip the fruit off the tree with a small piece of branch still attached. This nub will wither and drop off, signaling that the fruit is ready to eat. In general, the fruits are extremely fragile and should be harvested while still green.
White sapote is vulnerable to pests including aphids, mealy bugs, scale, and white fly. If possible, identify the infestation as early as possible and treat with the least toxic option.