Garden Oracle / Drought and Heat Tolerant Gardening / Tucson - Phoenix - Arizona - California

Growing Cherry of the Rio Grande:
Eugenia involucrata

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Botanical Overview

A member of the Myrtle family (Myrtaceae), the Eugenia genus contains over 1000 species worldwide including several with edible fruit. Eugenia involucrata fruit is considered the best tasting of the Eugenia fruits.


Form: Tree.
Lifespan: Perennial.
Leaf retention: Evergreen.
Growth rate: Slow to establish, then slow to moderate.
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 with another plant greatly improves fruit yield.
Years before fruiting: 5.
Fruit: 1" diameter, oblong, dark red to almost black. This fruit is best tasting, and fully ripe, when very dark in color, having a cherry-like flavor with hints of banana. The apical sepals remain attached to the ripe fruit.
Months for fruit to ripen: 3 weeks.
Storage after harvest: The fruit 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 and birds.
Toxic / Danger: No.
Origin: South America.

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By I likE plants! (Flickr: RFVC 024) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Cultivation and Uses

USDA hardiness zones: 9-11. Young plants are hardy to 25°F, older plants are reportedly hardy to 15°F.
Chill hours: None.
Heat tolerant: No.
Drought tolerant: Yes, but with loss of fruit.
Sun: Full open shade all day, no direct sun in temperatures over 90°F.
Planting: Locate this plant where it receives open shade all day, in well draining, slightly acidic soil. Space plants 12-15' apart. It can be grown in a large container.
Soil: Well drained, high organic content, pH 5.6-7.0 (acidic to neutral). This plant is intolerant of salt and alkaline soil.
Fertilize: Use organic fertilizer once a month during the growing season. Apply plant micronutrients containing magnesium in irrigation water mid-winter.
Water after becoming established: While fruiting, water deeply using basin irrigation weekly in the hottest part of the year, every two to four weeks in winter.
Mulch: Spread organic mulch inside the drip line and 8" away from the trunk to reduce moisture evaporation and heat stress.
First Year Care: Use basin irrigation. Water every two or three days as needed, tapering off to once a week.
Prune: Perform minor trimming, in winter as needed, to maintain shape.
Litter: Low.
Propagation: Air layering is successful and will retain the characteristics of the parent. Seed must be planted immediately after removal from its ripe fruit and is not viable when dried.
Uses: Edible fruit, ornamental. Fruit are eaten raw or cooked into jellies.


The former scientific name of this plant is Eugenia aggregata.
It is related to Grumichama, Star Cherry, and Surinam Cherry.

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Latest update: August, 2021