Totumo (Crescentia cujete)

Does this photo you see above look like a product of Photoshop? Without a doubt, reasons would not be lacking to believe it. But no. It is real. It is a tropical tree called totumo, and although it produces fruits with appetizing appearance, the truth is that they are used for other things that do not have much to do with eating.

The plant is relatively small, being able to grow without problems in gardens where the available space is scarce, or even in -large- pots.

Origin and characteristics of the totumo

Our protagonist is a tree originating in the intertropical zone of America whose scientific name is Crescentia cujete. It is popularly known as totumo or tecomate, and it is a perennial plant that develops few branches, but thick and tortuous that end up forming a wide crown. The trunk has gray bark, from smooth to somewhat scaly if young, or somewhat fissured if adult.

The leaves are simple, oblanceolate, with a size of 4 to 15 by 1 to 4 centimeters, of green color. Its flowers are large, yellow in color, and sprout from the trunk or the largest branches. The fruit is globose, also large, about 15-17 centimeters wide, with a hard shell, and contains numerous seeds. It grows up to 5 meters in height.

What are the care it requires?

If you want to have a specimen of totumo, we recommend providing the following care:


When we are going to acquire a plant it is important to know if it will be able to survive in our area, since otherwise we could be spending money in vain. Therefore, if what we want is a totumo, we must bear in mind that it is a tropical plant, which can only live well in areas without frost.


  • Pot: fill with quality substrate, rich in organic matter and with good drainage. A good mix is: 60% mulch + 40% perlite or similar.
  • Garden: grows in fertile, well-drained soils. It also adapts to stony soils.


Image – Flickr/ Wendy Cutler

Irrigation must be moderate. The totumo is a plant that does not resist drought, but does not like waterlogging either. Taking this into account, we recommend watering it about three times a week during the summer, and 1-2 a week the rest of the year.

Every time you water, add water until you see it coming out of the drainage holes if it is potted, or until the soil is very moist.

Use rainwater whenever you can, but if you can’t get it, use one that is as pure as possible. If it has a lot of lime, fill a bowl with it and let it sit overnight. The next day, you can use the one that is more in the upper half.


Throughout the growing season (from spring to summer in an area where the seasons are different) it is advisable to fertilize the totumo once a week or every fortnight with organic products. For example, guano, mulch, worm compost or manure from herbivorous animals are good ecological fertilizers for the plant.

Of course, if you have it in a pot, use liquid fertilizers following the instructions specified on the container. In this way, the drainage will remain good and there will be no risk of damage to the roots.


It multiplies by seeds in spring, following this step by step:

  1. First, they are immersed in a glass of water, where they will have 24 hours. After that time, those that have remained floating are discarded as they will not be viable.
  2. Then, a seedbed (pots, forest seedling trays, milk containers,…) is filled with seedbed substrate and watered thoroughly.
  3. In order to protect the seeds from fungi, a little copper or sulfur is now sprinkled on the substrate.
  4. Next, the seeds are placed on the surface of the substrate, and they are buried a little.
  5. Finally, the seedbed is placed outside, in semi-shade.

Keeping the substrate moist (not flooded) they will germinate in about 7-15 days at a temperature of about 20ºC.


You can prune the totumo in spring, removing dry, diseased, weak branches and those that are broken. You can also take advantage of to cut those that are growing too much, especially if you are growing it in a pot.

Planting or transplanting time

In spring, when the minimum temperature is 15ºC or more.

If it is in a pot, it must be changed to a larger one every 2 or 3 years, when you see that roots grow out of the drainage holes.


Totumo does not resist cold or frost. The minimum temperature should be 10ºC, although it is better if it is 15ºC.

What uses is given to totumo?

It has several:

  • Ornamental: it is a very beautiful plant that is widely used in tropical climates in gardens, patios and terraces.
  • Medicinal: the pulp in decoction is used to try to relieve the symptoms of bronchitis, cough, asthma, and urethritis.
  • Objects: in many places where it comes from, for example in Mexico or Ecuador, the rind of the fruit is used to drink or serve drinks.

What did you think of this tree? Did you know him?

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