Eugenia uniflora, the Suriname cherry, is an evergreen shrub or small tree that's part of the myrtle family. This robust plant has naturalised wherever it's been planted and can now be found in many tropical parts of the globe. In the United States, it's a common hedge plant in Florida, Hawaii and Puerto Rico. Suriname cherry blooms and fruits year-round; the small fruits are edible but rarely found in markets. Eugenia is hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 9B through 11.
- Skill level:
- Moderately Easy
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Things you need
- Balanced fertiliser
- Hedge trimmer (optional)
- Fungicide (optional)
- Insecticide (optional)
Choose a site in full sun or partial shade. Eugenia grows well in many different soil types, including alkaline, acidic, clay, sand and loam, but it does not tolerate salt. Choose a spot with good drainage.
Dig a planting hole as deep as the root ball and twice as wide. Apply a balanced shrub fertiliser at the rate recommended on the product label for new plantings and mix it into the soil.
Remove the Suriname cherry from its pot and inspect the root system. Loosen the roots carefully with your fingers, then prune away all broken or diseased roots.
Place the plant in the prepared hole and backfill around the roots with soil, firming it well to remove air pockets. The soil line should be the same as it was in the pot. Water it well.
Spread 1 to 2 inches of mulch around the roots of the shrub, keeping the mulch 1 inch away from the stems at the base of the plant.
Water often enough during the first growing season to keep the soil moist but not wet, particularly if the plant receives hot afternoon sun.
Prune the shrub so the top is narrower than the bottom if you want to grow it as a sheared hedge. Pruning the bottom wider than the top allows sunlight to reach all parts of the plant, keeping the foliage dense all the way to the ground.
Feed every three months with a balanced fertiliser to encourage fruiting.
Pick fruit when it's completely ripe. You may need to pick the fruit daily for best flavour. The fruits ripen quickly, three weeks after the shrubs flower.
Examine the shrubs occasionally for signs of scale, leaf spot or caterpillar damage. Treat scale with a horticultural grade oil spray, available at garden centres and hardware stores. Use a fungicide to control leaf spot, but ensure that it is approved for use on food crops if you harvest the cherries. Caterpillars can be picked off by hand and destroyed; large infestations require insecticide use.
Water your Eugenia hedge during dry spells. The shrubs are only moderately drought-tolerant.
Tips and warnings
- Suriname cherry's natural form is upright and spreading, similar to crape myrtle. Consider using it as a tree instead of a hedge, so you can appreciate its interesting, peeling bark.
- The strong scent released when bushes are pruned bothers some people, so exercise caution if you're sensitive to strong smells.
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