Origins are in the West Indies, Central and South America. They are now widely distributed throughout other tropical and subtropical regions.
They do well in a wide range of climatic conditions. They are frost-tender when young.
It forms a large branched shrub or a small tree, if pruned to a single trunk.
A member of the Malpighiaceae Family. There are some wild relatives with smaller fruit.
Almost any kind of soil, provided it is well-drained. Tolerates alkaline soil. If nematodes are a problem, this should be addressed before the tree is planted.
Plants are best propagated from hardwood cuttings or air layering. Side veneer or cleft grafts are also used. Grafting is generally practiced only when cuttings of a desired clone are scarce or if a nematode-resistant rootstock is available on which to graft a preferred cultivar; or when top-working a tree that bears fruits of low quality. Seeds do not germinate well and the quality of seedling plants is variable, and may be poor.
Among the best known are Florida Sweet and B17.
Young trees can commence flowering at two years. Pink flowers appear in spring and may continue through summer. Bees are the principal pollinators. If fruit-set is poor, try hand pollinating with a small brush.
It prefers full sun. Young plants are tender to cold and may need some protection in winter. Mature trees can tolerate temperatures down to -2°C for short periods. They can grow on a variety of well-drained soils provided it is not infested with nematodes. Adequate watering is necessary during blooming and fruit development. On limestone soils, sprays of minor elements: copper, zinc, and sometimes manganese and boron will enhance growth and productivity. Acid soils should have lime worked into the soil down to 20 cm or more. The use of mulch is recommended.
Light pruning to shape to desired form.
Time span from flowering to fruit is 4 weeks. The soft, juicy, 3-lobed fruits have an attractive, bright red, thin skin. They can be quite tart, and contain very high Vitamin C content plus Vitamin A. There can be several crops per season.
The fruits can be eaten fresh, made into juice, jam, jellies, wine, sherbet, and many desserts.
The fruit should be picked frequently, as it does not keep well on the tree or after picking. Fruits bruise easily, so must be handled carefully. Fruit do not store very long.
Nematodes are serious pests. Birds, possums, scale, aphids, weevils and mealy bugs can also cause problems. Keep an eye out for fungal infections.
It is a most attractive plant, easily grown, can crop heavily and is a great feature for any garden.