Starfruit is one of my favorite fruit trees to grow because it is one of the fastest growing tropical fruit trees. In approximately 30 months (or less, if you’re lucky!) you can be harvesting starfruit from a tree you grew from a seed.
It’s easy to grow starfruit from seed, as long as you create a warm, humid environment for the seed to germinate – and you cut a fresh starfruit properly to obtain the seeds in the first place.
Did you know, that unlike some other tropical plants that can only be grown in USDA growing zones 11 and 12, starfruit will grow in zones 9-11? Thus, making this a great choice for homesteaders in not what you would call the traditional tropics. But be warned, they like lots of water.
Related: Are you looking to grow tropical fruit trees, like Starfruit? Youʻre in luck. Homesteadinʻ Hawaii has just opened a seed store, where we ship super fresh tropical tree seeds straight to your door. We have fruits like abiu, surname cherry, ice cream bean, rollinia and more! Check out the store today!
Traditional Ways Of Propagating Starfruit
Starfruit can be propagated in a number of ways. You can propagate starfruit by seed, cutting, graft, or air layer.
Unless you are going for a specific trait in your fruit, growing starfruit by seed is a pretty reliable bet that youʻll get a tree that produces nice edible fruit in return.
Commercial growers like to use grafts for their starfruit trees because thereʻs no room for subpar fruit in a commercial growing operation.
Airlayering is a great option, but you need access to a tree in order to make airlayers from.
But the seed of a fruit, thatʻs pretty easy to come by, especially if you visit our online seed store. If itʻs in season, weʻll have it out to you in a couple of days.
Another plant that I love to propagate by seed is the Abiu. In fact, itʻs my favorite plant in the whole garden. Learn about growing this amazing fruit by checking out this post.
How To Plant Starfruit From Seed
First, you need to extract and clean the seeds of a fresh starfruit. However, it is important you take care when cutting the starfruit in order to not damage the seeds.
How To Extract The Seeds Of A Starfruit
It is vital that you do NOT cut a starfruit down the middle with vertical slices. Yes, this is the way chefs will slice up a starfruit and gives it the perfect star shape for which the fruit gets its name. Cutting this way will likely cut through the seeds and render them useless for planting.
The seeds of starfruit are found within the core, so avoid slicing through the core by making horizontal cuts that produce little fruit wedges. Once you remove a wedge, you can slide your finger along the soft membrane and ‘pop’ out the small brown seeds.
How To Plant Starfruit From Seed: Step By Step
- Clean the extracted seeds and dry them with a paper towel or cloth
- Plant seeds approximately 2 inches deep in a small pot.
- Plant one seed per pot and add water to make the soil moist, but not saturated.
- Place the seed in a warm, humid environment. You can do this by putting it in a greenhouse, covering it lightly with a plastic bag or large plastic bottle, and placing it in the sun. This humid environment mimics the Asian rainforests where starfruit trees originated.
- Wait 1-3 weeks for seed germination. Starfruit is a fast-growing tree, so once you see germination, you should regularly check your seedling to see if it is time to move to a larger pot. In warm, sunny locations like Hawai’i, the seedling starfruit may need to be moved to a larger pot in as little as 1-2 months.
- Give the seedlings full sun and regular, light water to keep the soil moist.
- Move your starfruit seedling to the ground within 4 – 5 months, spacing each tree 30 feet apart.
- You can expect starfruit to produce fruits in as little as two years! (24-36 months after seeds have germinated)
Tips For Planting Starfruit:
- Use fresh, unrefrigerated fruits (if you cannot get fresh fruits, don’t risk using imported ones that may have been refrigerated – purchase starfruit seeds here).
- Plant seeds the same day you extract them from the fruit. If they dry out, they will no longer be viable
- Don’t plant in the shade of other, taller trees. They like lots of sunlight.
- Don’t plant near the beach or where their roots will come in contact with salt
- Plant away from the wind, they are fast growing and prone to wind damage
- Most varieties of starfruit require cross-pollination, so unless you’re sure your variety does not, plant 2-4 trees, just to be safe.
Care for Starfruit Trees
These trees prefer full sunlight but beware of the tree getting too hot. If the sun seems too strong, give your trees a bit of shade. Their leaves will respond to too much sun.
Starfruit needs well-draining soil, especially for young plants.
Do not plant close to the beach or where the tree’s roots will come in contact with salt, as this will likely kill your starfruit tree.
Starfruits also cannot tolerate high ph levels in the soil. But on the flip side, leaves will turn yellow if planted in alkaline soil, so it’s best to choose a moderate, balanced soil that is slightly alkaline for planting your starfruit tree.
Starfruit isn’t too picky about water – just don’t overwater it. Keep the soil moist (especially for trees in full sun) and you should be okay.
It is recommended to prune a starfruit tree during its first and second years, to trim the longest branches and encourage more horizontal growth.
After those first years, you shouldn’t need to prune your tree, unless you want it shorter for more manageable harvests.
The trees can grow up to 30 feet in height, but it’s pretty easy to harvest the fruit with a ladder if you don’t want to prune it at all.
Starfruit blossoms are a beautiful white and purple color. They are typically pollinated by bees, so don’t worry if you see some buzzing about.
Starfruit trees grow incredibly fast. You can expect fruits within about two years of planting your seeds. That’s fast!
And, after that first small harvest, the next years you can expect the harvest to increase by double or triple every year. Whereas in year 3, you might get 20 lbs of fruit, in year 4 or 5 you can expect close to 80, and in years 7 and 8 you should expect 200 or more lbs of fruit from your starfruit tree.
The main season for starfruit is in the warm, summer months. But generally, you can see a few fresh fruits year round on a tree in Hawaii.
What To Do With All Of That Harvest
A starfruit tree can be pretty prolific during harvest season, so you have to come up with some creative ways to preserve the harvest. Below are a few of my favorites.
Pickling Starfruit is definitely something you must do:
Starfruit Upside Down Cake:
Facts about Starfruit
- Other names of starfruit include: carambola or averrhoa carambola
- Starfruit is native to Southeast Asia, particularly Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines.
- The leaves of a starfruit tree are sensitive to touch – they will respond, and even close up when touched lightly by your finger.
- The leaves of a starfruit are also light sensitive and therefore a good indication of if your tree is getting too much sun – if the leaves start to point downward, or close up (without you touching them) it can be a sign that they need a bit of shade and less direct sunlight. The leaves will also fold up at night when it is dark.
- Starfruit has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for centuries to treat headaches.
- Starfruit does contain amounts of oxalate, which is toxic to those with kidney issues – so don’t go on a starfruit binge, if you have kidney concerns, okay?
Starfruit is one of the fastest growing tropical fruit trees, putting them in the company of these amazing plants, making them a great addition to any homesteader’s garden. But, they are prone to wind damage, so protect them from direct, heavy winds. You can expect tens of pounds of fruit from a single starfruit tree once it begins producing.
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