Mountain apples were one of the first crops brought by the Polynesians when they first arrived in Hawaii. It grows very well in many parts of the islands and produces prolifically. If it was good enough for them to bring over on the canoes, then these fruit-bearing trees should have a place for planting in a fruit forest on your homestead.
It is easy to grow a mountain apple tree in Hawaii or other tropical areas. It grows readily from fresh seed in areas that receive higher rainfall, from the coast up to 5000ʻ. It wants to become a large tree but can be kept pruned to be kept small. In the summer it produces tons of fruit.
Mountain apple trees have several names, including a Hawai’ian name, Ohia’ai. Some other names you might find include: Malay apple, rose apple, pomerac, and pink satin apples. Their scientific name is Syzygium malaccense.
If you were interested in how to grow, care and store the abundant harvest of a Mountain Apple Tree, then youʻve come to the right place.
Related: Are you looking to grow tropical fruit trees, like Mountain Apple? 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!
How To Grow Mountain Apple
Mountain apples thrive in the humid tropics, in areas with higher rainfall. In Hawaii, Mountain Apple grows well on the windward side of the islands as well as at higher rain belt elevations on the west side of Maui and Hawaii Island.
There are two types of Mountain Apples, the red mountain apple and the white mountain apple. In my opinion, the red has more flavor.
Mountain apples fruit in the early to mid-summer, meaning thatʻs going to be the perfect time to propagate new plants as well.
You can grow Mountain Apple trees from cuttings or by air layering, but it’s not necessary. The fruit is pretty true to the parent plant and will produce fruit pretty quickly from germination, 5-7 years in the right conditions, pretty similar to if you were going to take an air layer or cutting.
Steps To Grow A Mountain Apple From Seed:
- Obtain a fresh seed, from a ripe mountain apple. Seeds can stay viable for up to 7 days if kept moist. Each mountain apple should have one round seed in its middle.
If you donʻt have access to your own seed, check out the Homesteadinʻ Hawaii Country Store, if itʻs in season then weʻll have fresh Mountain Apple seed at your door in a couple of days.
- Plant the (cleaned or uncleaned, it doesnʻt matter) seed in 1 ½ inches of soil in a small pot and water it.
- Wait 4-6 weeks for germination. Keep the soil around the seed moist (but not too wet – don’t allow water to pool). When it germinates, the sprout will have a vibrant reddish-purple color.
- Transfer to a larger pot or into the ground, when the plant has grown larger. Mountain Apples grow very quickly, so if you originally planted it in a small pot, you may need to transfer it as soon as 4 weeks after it germinates.
- Wait 5-10 years for the tree to reach maturity and begin producing fruits. Once your mountain apple tree begins producing fruits, they will ripen almost at the same time, so you will have plenty to eat, share with neighbors or turn into pickled mountain apples.
In addition to growing Mountain Apples from seed, many other tropical fruit trees grow well from seed also. One of my favorites is the Ice Cream Bean. Learn more about this amazing plant and how to grow it in this post.
How To Care For Mountain Apple Trees As They Grow
Mountain Apple trees grow fairly well in the wet tropics, so caring for them wonʻt be too hard. In fact, in Hawaii, Mountain Apples are known to be one of the first trees to grow out of recent lava flows.
Basic Needs Of A Mountain Apple
Trees prefer full sun as they age and plenty of warmth. When they are young they do really well with partial shade during the peak time of the sun.
Mountain Apple trees don’t need much regarding soil, as long as it is kept damp. Be sure to keep your mountain apple trees well mulched to ensure the soil remains moist.
As a tropical plant, the Malay Apple requires lots of moisture, so keep the soil moist as much as you can. During rainy periods, make sure it has sufficient drainage so the tree’s roots don’t get too wet and feel overly saturated.
Mountain apples thrive in Puna for this reason, It rains a lot but with the volcanic rock being so porous, the roots never really get too wet or waterlogged.
Because Mountain Apple trees can grow up to 60 feet in height, I recommend regularly pruning mature trees, just to keep them within a reasonable height for harvesting fruits.
I like to top my trees every few years or so to keep them a manageable size, but you may have different goals. Check out this post on pruning tropical fruit trees to learn more about different strategies for pruning tropical fruit trees.
A Deeper Look At Caring For Mountain Apples
Mulch & Shade For Transplanted Trees
When you first transplant a mountain apple from the pot to the ground, I like to make sure that it is surrounded by a lot of much and has a little bit of shade.
To Mulch a tree, make sure the mulch does not touch the trunk of the tree, so give the tree a 3”-4” mulchless moat then mulch away to your hearts content. I like to spread mulch 2ʻ-3ʻ in diameter around a young tree about 4”-6” thick.
Typically I plant young Mountain Apples in the shade of a nitrogen fixer that was already planted, but if thatʻs not a luxury you have, try to give the young mountain apple some shade of your own.
Creating a shade cloth roof about 10ʻ tall could help, or you can lay up some coconut fronds in a make shift way to provide some shade. Whatever resources you have, just make sure it has some shade for the peak sun part of the day for the first 1-2 years after transplanting.
Managing Mountain Apple As They Grow Older
In the early spring when new growth begins to appear I like to spread aged compost and mulch around the trees. I do this every other month until August. By feeding your trees in this way, youʻll watch the trees explode in growth!
In fact, when fall rolls around youʻll probably have to do a little pruning of your mountain apple to keep itʻs growth in check. It tends to grow pretty vertically. You can top the central leader, but expect to have a few more pop up in its place.
With a yearly pruning though, you can keep Mountain Apples to a more manageable size for easier harvesting of fruit.
What To Do With All Of The Harvest
Where I live in Hawaii, Mountain Apples are ready to harvest from June thru August, which is early to mid-summer. When your tree is ready to harvest, itʻs ready to harvest! Almost all of the fruit will be ready to harvest at once.
Of course, you can attempt to eat all of them fresh. They do have a nice apple crispness with a slight hint of rose. But there are usually so many Mountain apples available that it can be hard to eat all of them fresh in time.
The Hawaiian people would traditionally dry the mountain apple by placing slices in the sun. This gave the mountain apple a much longer shelf life.
You could also try pickling mountain apple:
Or making it into a Mountain Apple Pie:
Regardless of what you do with it, get the kids, grab the fruit picker and get those mountain apples harvested. Youʻve got some work to do!
Are Mountain Apples True Apples?
Mountain apples are not related to apples but are part of the myrtle genus. They are more closely related to eucalyptus and guavas than apples.
You can observe the difference in the way the fruit grows, and how fragile the ripe fruits are. Mountain apples grow in clusters not as individual fruits the way that true apples grow. Also, the skin of the fruit is very fragile and doesn’t provide protection for the sweet, inner flesh at all. If you drop or bump the fruit it will easily bruise, more like a ripe pear than a hearty apple.
While they may not be true apples, mountain apples are delicious and well-worth growing on your homestead.
Homesteadinhawaii.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. This site also participates in other affiliate programs and is compensated for referring traffic and business to these companies.