Is there anything more satisfying than walking out to your yard picking something to eat? Growing starfruit may very well be one of the easiest fruits you can grow in Florida. When friends ask for a fruit tree suggestion, this is always in my top three. Now, there may be limited uses for the overwhelming harvests of fruit, but that is when you become the most popular coworker, friend and neighbor!
We planted our small tree in the spring of 2012 and after a little more than two years we are regular picking fruit and certainly have more than we could ever eat. You can see in this comparison how quickly starfruit (also called Carambola) trees will grow. Today our tree is about ten feet tall, so almost all of the fruit is still within reach when we really get on our tippy toes. Over the next few months I will trim the leader branches to help keep the size more manageable for our space.
Tips for growing starfruit
With a little bit of luck and some searching, you may be able to find a small tree that is already 3-4 feet tall. If you are able to find one this size it is very likely that it will produce fruit the first year that you have it. If your small tree starts to set a bumper crop of fruit, it is time to be ruthless and remove some of those developing fruit while they are small. This will help the tree to continue to focus on developing a strong root system rather than putting all of it’s energy into growing fruit.
Some experts will suggest removing ALL fruit the first year, but let’s be honest, that’s just not going to happen for most of us. The anticipation of picking your first starfruit is just too overwhelming!
Fertilize your tree regularly as starfruit are heavy feeders. I prefer to use a palm fertilizer because it has all of the micronutrients that fruit trees need. In this photo you can see an early sign of nutrient deficiency starting to show on the leaves. Fertilizing every 3-4 months at a low rate will keep your tree growing well. You can learn more in the University of Florida’s publication here.
Flowers on Starfruit Trees
Starfruit trees will flower almost continuously which means there will be several harvests each year. While the flowers aren’t the most showy, you will certainly notice a lot of bee activity around your tree when its flowering. Those bees are crucial in pollinating the small pink flowers- go bees go! Not every flower will set fruit, so don’t worry if there is a strong storm that knocks some of them off. The continuous supply of flowers means that you don’t have to worry about losing an entire crop due to bad weather.
I was surprised to read that you can induce fruit set by selective pruning. Our tree flowers and sets fruit almost continuously, so I am not sure this is necessary, but always good to know! Pruning the willow-like long shoots (“whips”) or selecting a small diameter limb and removing all the lateral shoots from this limb to their bases will induce flowering in about 21 days and fruit approximately 70-80 days later. Also, fruiting may be induced on whips by bending them from an upright position to a lateral position, clipping off the last 12 to 18 inches of growth, and clipping the leaves off but leaving a small (1/3 inch) piece of the petiole (leaf stem).
Cold Damage on Starfruit Trees
The mild winter weather the past two years has helped our little starfruit tree to grow continuously. A small cold snap last year caused a few leaves to drop, but overall the tree has been in good health. According to UF, “Air temperatures of 30° to 32°F may kill young leaves; young trees, twigs, and mature leaves may be killed at 27° to 29°F. Small branches may be damaged at 25° to 29°F, and large branches and mature trees may be killed at temperatures of 20° to 24°F.” If we get to 24° there are bigger concerns than our little tree!
Growing starfruit is a great way to have a fruit tree that will really perform well in a warm winter. By balancing a cold-loving fruit tree with this more tropical fruit tree, you have your bases covered for fruit production.
Fruit are ready to be picked when they have a rich yellow color They should pluck easily from the branch and won’t require very much pull to release. If you have to tug on the fruit it probably means they need a few more days to ripen. Branches with a heavy load of fruit may start to pull toward the ground, so if a single branches has more fruit than it can hold, simply remove a few and let them ripen on the kitchen counter to take some of the weight off your tree.
What do you do with all those starfruit?
This is a really good question! While we eat a lot of them fresh, just like an apple, there is really no better way to show off than to use them as a beautiful garnish. Sliced crosswise, the characteristic star shape really stands out and looks great against a dark plate or spread on a salad.
I’ve recently found a few other recipes that sound interesting- let me know if you’ve tried them and how they turned out!
- Starfruit Chips from Epicurious.com. I haven’t had anything bad yet from Epicurious so I look forward to testing this recipe.
- Carambola Pickles from the Food Network. Huh. I don’t know what to say about this… I guess it is worth at try.
- Star Tea. Yep! This is the first one I will be testing. Sounds delicious and looks beautiful.
I am extremely impressed with your writing skills as well as with the
layout on your blog. Is this a paid theme or did you
modify it yourself? Anyway keep up the excellent quality writing, it’s rare to see a great blog like this one today.
My star fruit always drop their fruits while its still small. How do I prevent that?
Is it dropping all of the fruit or just some? Most fruit trees will begin to set more fruit than they are actually able to produce and will drop some as it matures. Starfruit are also prone to wind damage, so if you are in a very exposed location that might be part of the issue as well.
I have a carambola tree in the ground, maybe ten feet tall. Planted likely in November. The tree started growing leaves a week or two ago, and noticed that some of the new leaves are yellow and fell off when I touched them. And as usual, wonder, am I watering too much or too little?
how can I tell?
Well, have you been watering it a lot? If water is the cause of this, it has to be extreme (either you’ve never watered or you are watering four times a day). I would suggest that if the leaves are yellow you apply some citrus fertilizer around the base of the plant and water well. I suggest citrus fertilizer because it has many of the micronutrients to help your new tree thrive.
My starfruit tree branches are growing in a lateral to downward direction, is this normal?
Lateral branches aren’t unusual. Is your tree starting to bear fruit? It’s not unusual for branches to get heavy with fruit and start to bend downward. The good news is that starfruit trees are very fast growing, so I wouldn’t hesitate to just trim off any branches growing in an unusual (or unappealing) manner.
Hi Keri, my starfruit tree is about 2 years old and is currently blooming. None of the blooms are setting fruit though and just keep falling off. Is that normal since it’s a young tree or could they just not be getting pollinated? Thanks!
It is possible, but unlikely. I find that bees just love these so pollination isn’t usually an issue. Have you seen any bees nearby or near your tree? Starfruit trees are also sensitive to strong winds and fruit can be blown off so this may be a possibility too.
Sometimes my fruits have no seeds in them and/or are hollow in the center? Is this unusual? Is there a specific cause? I’m in South Florida. Thank you
That’s very interesting and something I have not encountered before. I wouldn’t be overly concerned about the lack of seeds, however my best guess is that your tree may not be receiving enough water during fruit maturation.
We planted our tree in 2017 and it is quite tall at the moment. However the tree has never had blossoms on it at any time. The tree is skinny and tall. Not bushy. Need your advice on how to get our tree to produce fruit. Do we need to prune it? We do fertilize but have never pruned the branches.
If it is tall and skinny it makes me wonder how much sun your tree is getting? If it isn’t getting close to full sun it may not flower and set fruit for you. If, however, it is in a full sun location then I wouldn’t be afraid to prune it back aggressively.
Some of my star fruit are hollow on the inside when I harvest them, I don’t know why?
I also live in Florida
That is odd indeed! Are they discolored in any way? I have found that older fruit may start to pull apart a bit from the center, but I haven’t seen hollow before.