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Growing Cherry of the Rio Grande: Eugenia involucrata

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Overview
A member of the Myrtle family, the Eugenia genus contains over 1000 species worldwide. Eugenia involucrata is one of those with a true cherry-like taste.

Description
Form: Tree.
Lifespan: Perennial.
Leaf retention: Evergreen.
Growth rate: Slow to establish, then moderate, 2-3' per year.
Mature Size: 10-20' high and 7-15' wide.
Flowers: Four white petals with many long white stamens.
Bloom: Late winter into summer.
Self-fruitful: Yes but cross-pollination greatly improves yield.
Years before fruiting: 5.
Fruit: 1" diameter, oblong, dark red to almost black, cherry-like flavor, apical sepals remain attached to ripe fruit.
Months for fruit to ripen: 3 weeks.
Storage after harvest: Can be successfully frozen.
Leaves: Dark green, glossy, partly folded in the center.
Stems: Peeling bark on trunk. No thorns.
Roots: Not invasive.
Wildlife: Attracts bees, birds.
Toxic / Danger: No.
Origin: South America.

Cultivation and Uses
USDA hardiness zones: 9-11. Young plants hardy to 25°F, older plants reportedly hardy to 15°F.
Chill hours: None.
Heat tolerant: No.
Sun: Afternoon shade and possibly 50% all day shade over 90°F.
Drought tolerant: Yes, but with loss of fruit.
Water after becoming established: In a container, while fruiting, every two days in the hottest part of the year; every one or two weeks in winter.
Soil: Well drained, high organic matter, pH 5.6-6.8 (acidic to slightly acidic). This plant is intolerant of alkaline soil and only slightly salt tolerant.
Fertilize: Compost once a month during the growing season. Avoid chemical fertilizers. Needs magnesium mid-winter as a minor nutrient.
Mulch: Use compost.
Spacing: 12-15' apart.
Planting: Can be grown in a container. The container should be buried within 2-4" of the rim to protect roots from freezing temperatures.
Prune: Not needed except minor trimming to maintain shape.
Litter: Low.
Propagation: Seed which must be planted immediately without being dried; cuttings.
Uses: Edible fruit, ornamental, shade. Fruit are eaten raw or cooked into jellies.

Comments
Former botanical name: Eugenia aggregata.
This plant must be grown in a container when soil pH is higher than 6.8. Not heat tolerant, it requires afternoon shade and possibly 50% all day shade in hot, dry climates.



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By I likE plants! (Flickr: RFVC 024) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons



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