How to grow chayote
Chayote plants (Sechium edule) belong to Cucurbitaceae, the family that includes squashes and cucumbers. Learn how to grow chayote so you can enjoy this fruit anytime you want.
Also known as vegetable-pear or chocho, these plants can be found in Latin America. They are native to Guatemala, Mexico, and southern Mexico. Read more about Black Chayote here.
The chayote fruit is a light green, smooth-skinned, pear-shaped, low-calorie, high in potassium, and tastes like a squash with a nut-like flavour.
This vigorous vegetable thrives best in warm, subtropical and tropical areas. From a tuberous root, vine-like stems can grow 50 feet (15.2m). The leaves look similar to maple leaves.
Female and male flowers can be borne together on the same vine. Every part of the plant, including the young shoots, mature tubers, and leaves, are all edible.
A single plant can produce 60 to 80 palm-sized fruits. Wrap them in plastic and keep in a cool place. They will last for several months.
When is chayote in season?
Chayote is an easy-care, tender perennial that can be grown in warm seasons. The entire fruit can be planted three to four weeks after it has reached its average frost date. This is when the weather has warmed.
Chayote does best in warm, tropical areas with high summer temperatures. It is able to harvest within 120 to 150 days. Chayote requires a minimum 65°F (18°C) soil temperature, and can be grown in US zones 7-10.
Plants can be grown indoors or covered to extend their growing season. Plant in full sun, because while chayote will still grow a vigorous vine even under shaded conditions, the fruits will be much smaller.
Is chayote a fruit or a vegetable?
Chayote technically can be described as a fruit, but many people enjoy it like a veggie. Its seeds and flowers, as well as its skin, are all also edible.
It has a mild, crisp flavor when raw. When cooked, it becomes mild and tender. It tastes like a cucumber if it is eaten raw, or a sort of root vegetable when cooked.
- Wild chayote
- Common chayote
The wild types are found in ravines and near streams, rivers, and other damp areas. The wild fruits’ texture, color, taste, and flavor are also different.
Although they are similar to cultivated fruits, the wild ones are more vigorous and produce larger leaves, flowers, and fruit.
Perulero is a common variety of chayote mainly cultivated and belongs to Guatemala. The fruit colours range from light yellow and white.
This variety is similar to the chayote-de-Caballo. Its fruit is sometimes prickly, ridged, or both. This variety has a long shelf life.
How to propagate chayote
You can grow a chayote plant from the fruit you buy. They are available in the fall. Choose unblemished, mature fruit. Don’t pick any that have gone brown and rot.
There are two major types of chayote on the market:
- Spiny chayote
- Smooth chayote
Don’t let the spiny apple pierce you! Use gloves, or opt for a non-spiny one.
Keep your chayote out of direct sunlight and away from other elements that can cause moldiness. A small green shoot should grow from the end opposite the attached stem within a few days.
How to grow chayote in water
- You can continue to grow it in water by placing the sprouted chayote inside a jar large enough for the fruit.
- Fill the jar almost to its top with water.
- It is best to place the pot in a sunny spot with temperatures between 80-85℉ (27-29℃) and occasional watering. This will help the seeds sprout better.
- Regular water changes are necessary to stop water from contaminating the environment and causing rot.
- When three to four leaf sets have formed, pinch the tip to form a branch.
- Plant the compost-rich soil. You must ensure that the actual “fruit” is submerged in the soil.
- Water the vine of the chayote about three times per week.
- You must place the plant so that it can climb on a trellis. Chayote plants are vigorous climbers and will cover trellises.
How to grow chayote in soil
- You can plant chayote by digging a hole at the bottom of a container to allow the fruit. Then, bury it about 4-6 inches deep. It would be best if you did this in spring, before the average frost date in the area.
- If the fruit is buried too deeply, it could become rotten.
- It would be best to use an evenly moistened soil mix with equal amounts of perlite and peat moss. It works best when it is in the Ph range between 6.0 and 6.8.
- The pot should be in full sun. If you want to place the pot indoors, ensure it is about 1-2ft away from a west-facing south-facing window.
- The plants will need to be watered regularly, but it is important not to overwater them and make the soil too dry.
- The ideal size pot to grow chayote in is a minimum of 24 inches high and a maximum of 5 gallons.
- This is a good option. Keep an eye on soil moisture and fertilize your plants with liquid fertilizer once a month.
- The chayote vine is very big. Chayote can eventually take over an entire region.
- One chayote should be enough to provide for four families with some extras. But if you have more than one, spread them 10 feet apart. Be prepared for big growth.
Chayote bloom season
After about 90 days of planting, Chayote squash plants begin flowering and fruiting. This is typically in summer. Fruit is usually ready by fall.
The chayote petal flower can produce both feminine and male flowers. They are pollinated by natural pollinators, just like their squash, pumpkin, and marrow cousins.
However, unlike these bright, large flowers, the Chayote plants tiny yellow flowers with five to six petals. The flowers are borne along leaf axils. Females are single, and males are in groups.
Hand pollination can be useful, especially when there is not much activity. With a soft, smooth paintbrush, you can transfer pollen between male and female flowers.
Soil for chayote
Chayote squash loves sandy, well-drained loamy soil. Chayote can be found in Central America and other tropical areas. This is where the soil can be claylike or volcanic.
Chayote can be amended with organic compost and agricultural sand in your home garden. You can use sand or pelite in areas where soil drainage is more important. Peat moss can be a wonderful addition to soils prone to moisture retention.
The chayote can still be grown in poor soils. However, it may not grow as prolifically. The ideal pH for growing chayote is between 6.0 and 6.8.
How to care for chayote
When planting is complete, place a stake or trellis. For happiness, Chayote needs food, water, mulch, and shelter. Here are the details
Before planting, make certain you are digging in well-rotted dung. Chayote can be emulated with fish emulation once every two or three weeks. An all-purpose liquid fertilizer should be used every six weeks. If you live in a rainy region, top-dress the hill by adding compost or manure. Halfway through the growing season, you can add some good quality compost.
Do not let the soil around chayotes get too dry. Even water can be used, but it is important not to let the water evaporate from the base. Each 10 to 14-day period, water deeply. Chayote’s susceptibility to rotting is apparent. To prevent this, it is best to dampen the potting media only once before trying to sprout the fruit.
Cool climates: Mulch your Chayote Tree with 10-12 Inches of mulch. This mulch can be used as a perennial to mulch the Chayote after being harvested and before temperatures freeze.
How to harvest chayote
Chayote can produce many fruits during their lives. One vine will provide enough harvest for a family. Harvesting is possible once the fruits reach about 4-6 inches in height and have a light, greenish colour.
The chayote should be removed from the vine by a sharp knife. This should be done before the fruit begins to harden.
Gently pull the fruit from the vine. Or, you can use a knife or hand pruners to cut the fruit. Use gloves to harvest the fruit as it can cause skin irritation.
Avoid white and multicolored fruits. The fruit should not be too soft or too hard.
Chayote pruning season
Chayote’s growth rate is constant, and it is important to maintain its health by giving it a hand.
You can trim the vine in mild climates and leave five shoots measuring six inches. If you live where frosts can occur, trim the shoots until they barely emerge from the ground. For protection, cover the area with mulch. Do not worry, and the chayote will return.
- While most commonly used for edible fruits, the stems may also be used for baskets and hats..
- You can stuff chayote and fry them for a side meal.
- Chayote can be cooked with broth, onion, and butter and made into a delicious soup.
- Tea is made with the leaves.
- It can also be cut like an apple and fried in butter, cinnamon and sugar.
Spider mites, white flies, and plant bugs are all pests of the chayote plant.
Leaffooted stink bugs eat flowers and squash, causing swelling. You can control garden insects with chickens.
You might try neem oil below 84-86 degrees if all else fails. Pyrethrins offer a more effective control, working in the same conditions.
Squash vine borers can be either larvae or adults. Lice hatch from the vine when they are fully grown. SVB affects most garden squashes at some time.
Insecticides such as pyrethrin or permethrin can be applied to vines. However, it is only effective for the adult moth and not the larvae if they have penetrated the vine. Can also use BT spray.
The root-knot nematode feeds on the roots and causes nutrient or moisture deficiencies over time. It can take some time to kill the chayote plant, so it is hard to recognize them.
Rotate the chayote three times a year, or plant it in an area that has been sufficiently solarized to prevent any deficiencies. These nematodes can be difficult to control in hot soils.
Alternative solutions for pest control
- Sprinkler irrigation should be used to water the plants.
- You can also manage it by removing any damaged fruit.
- To reduce whiteflies, be sure to remove infected leaves.
- Maintaining good sanitation and weeding can help to control the pests.
- Most diseases that affect the chayote tree are viral.
The fungal rot that causes crown rot happens when soil drains poorly and seasons are extremely wet. To prevent rot, mix agricultural sand into the soil at your plant’s bottom.
Also, be aware of signs like browning or spongy plant matter. This fungal infection is not curable. You can remove affected plants from your garden and toss them in the garbage.
Powdery mildew occurs in chayote because of the number of leaves one plant has at a time. The powdery appearance of affected leaves should be removed immediately.
Apply potassium bicarbonate sprays once a week until the infection is gone. The liquid and copper fungicides also work.
How to control plant diseases
- Planting material that is free of disease can reduce the chances of illness.
- It is possible to reduce the severity of the disease by getting rid of infected areas and plants.
- Hygiene and sanitation are also very important.
Chayote plant profile
Common name: Chayote, chocho, vegetable pear
Soil pH level 6.0 to 6.8 sandy, loamy etc.
Days of Harvest 30 days from bloom
Watering 1-1.5 inches per week
Sunlight Direct sunlight
Plant Support Bamboo, trellis
Pest and diseases Leaf-footed bugs, powdery mildew
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