San Diego cherimoya from perky to drooping

First, thanks to all who share their questions and ideas here — I have learned a ton already!

I’m in San Diego in Sunset climate zone 23 / USDA zone 10b. I have clay soil. I’ve been in my home for 3 years and have been trying to improve the looks of a cherimoya tree that has been there for some time. Its fruit varies in size and bumpiness. It’s very tasty when I can get to it before squirrels. It looks like it was previously left on its own with many overlapping branches and dead wood.

The leaves have been looking good since starting to come in around May. I had been watering every 10 days or so. About 3 weeks ago, the leaves started drooping with some turning yellow or brown and dropping.

It has been very hot. I increased watering but am not seeing any improvements. Would you recommend trying even more water? Less? Looking at nutrient issues?

As a bonus, if anyone has any pruning tips I’m all ears. You can see some pretty wild growth since spring and given that I’d like to maintain or reduce the tree size I wonder whether some pruning now or during winter could be beneficial.


The CRFG briefly discusses a pruning strategy.

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Thank you, @Vohd! I recently came across this video from Papaya Tree Nursery and I’ll try that kind of aggressive pruning in April. That approach feels consistent with the resource you point to. Maybe if I’m not seeing anything specific about pruning other times of year that’s a sign that I should just wait until spring.

I would imagine that the recent high heat and low humidity has somewhat affected your tree. It should bounce back when we get some nicer weather. A chance of rain this weekend! Not sure whether to believe it or not!

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It seems to be adjusting to the unusually hot and zero humidity southwest as @JCT has mentioned
Btw, has this tree produced fruits for you? It seems to be well-seasoned and hefty, am jealous!

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Nice to hear from someone local, @JCT! It really has been an intense hot season. Would be such a relief to get some rain. Fingers crossed!

My neighbor says the tree has been “neglected for a thousand years” and we continued the trend the first couple of years we were here. @jujubemulberry it has given us nice fruit, though! Unfortunately the squirrels generally get to them first. This is the biggest fruit on the tree right now and it just got a big bite taken out of it. :sob:


How does your tree look now? Cherimoya is not a fan of hot and dry, but once the Santa Ana type conditions pass, mine usually perks right back up. Though sometimes there is residual damage: burned leaves and fruit (if exposed to sun) occasionally.

Give it a serious pruning in spring, as suggested. They tolerate really heaving pruning well.

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your tree is gold. Wish i can grow one in las vegas!

if i were to trim it, will probably get rid of the branches that don’t get much light.

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hi @Lognaturel!

Fellow SD’er here as well. I love cherimoya!

It seems to me every year around this time my plants get absolutely obliterated. I believe it has something to do with the sun angle change going into fall. It is also the end of a VERY hot and dry summer.

I think your tree will be fine though. Keep your watering consistent and you should be good. On that note, how are you water? Include frequency, duration and what type of delivery - ie; emitters, drip line, soaker hose, sprinklers…etc.


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@venturabananas It’s looking the same with a few more burnt leaves. Good to know yours perks up!

@Sean Interesting about the sun angle! I do find the light very tiring this time of year. I’m glad you’re asking about watering — I’ve been winging it and should be more rigorous about it. I don’t have a soaker hose and do a shower nozzle on the ground at low rate (not measured) for 10 minutes on two sides of the tree. So I’m saturating two different maybe a 3-4ft lengths each time. I change the position each time to try to encourage roots all around. I have a mix of cut grass and bark as mulch. Soil has a lot of clay. I did it ever 10 days for most of the summer but now I’m at once a week for the past 3 weeks or so. I read cherimoyas are vulnerable to root rot so I suddenly worried I might be overdoing it.

I’ll throw in that I have heavy clay soil, too, and it holds on to water so well that I basically don’t water my cherimoya or really any of my in-ground trees. The winter rains seem to be enough for the older, established trees.

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Some of our cherimoya leaves have gotten a little crispy too, hot fall. For what its worth i usually prune when it’s dormant in the spring. They grow aggressively but easier to see structure when the leaves are dropped. The wood is brittle so good attachment angles are important. Hope you get to enjoy some fruit this year!

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Great to know! I didn’t water the first two years and maybe I should just go back to trusting that it will figure things out. But it does make me happier when it’s green and perky!

That’s a very good point. I understand what that means conceptually and look forward to getting more of a “feel” for it as I gain experience.

I’ll update on fruit when some are ready! I’m hoping the squirrels will leave us a few.

I agree that attachment angles are important, for any tree really, but I have to note that I’ve never had a cherimoya branch break.

I ended up getting the tree professionally pruned and I’m so glad I did. I’ll be continuing until it is less chaotic. I did it early May when it was losing lots of leaves and starting to flower. It then flowered a lot more and got beautiful fruit with no hand pollination. The pruning has made the fruit more accessible to humans and less to squirrels.

Outer leaves got droopy with some burning during the summer again and never bounced back. I think that’s just what it’s going to look like with the water I’m willing to give it. There were two hummingbird nests in it this season.