Growing Chayote Plants In Your Garden
Growing chayote plants is a great option if you live in a warm or tropical climate. The fruit of chayote plants is cold sensitive but can be grown as far north as USDA growing zone 7 and will overwinter in zones 8 and warmer by cutting the vine back to ground level and heavily mulching. In its native climate, chayote bears fruit for several months, but here it doesn’t flower until the first week of September. A 30-day period of frost free weather is then needed to achieve fruit. Chayote plants can be sprouted from fruit purchased at the supermarket. Just choose unblemished fruit that are mature, and then lay it on its side in a 1-gallon pot of soil with the stem up at a 45-degree angle. The pot should be placed in a sunny area with temps from 80-85 F. (27-29 C.) with occasional watering. Once three to four leaf sets develop, pinch the tip of the runner to create a branch. Prepare a hill with a mix of 20 pounds of manure and soil in a 4×4 foot area of full sun. If your soil tends towards heavy clay, mix in compost.
In zones 9-10, choose a site that will protect the chayote from drying winds and that will provide afternoon shade. Transplant after the danger of frost has passed. Space plants 8-10 feet apart and provide a trellis or fence to support the vines. Old perennial vines have been known to grow 30 feet in a season. Water the plants deeply every 10 to 14 days and and dose with fish emulsion every two to three weeks. Chayote is very susceptible to rotting; in fact, when attempting to sprout the fruit it’s best to moisten the potting media once and then not again until the sprout emerges.