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

Growing Jaboticaba:
Plinia cauliflora

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Botanical Overview

A member of the Myrtle family (Myrtaceae), the Plinia genus contains 69 tropical species worldwide. Plinia cauliflora, Jaboticaba, is one of the most well known due to the striking appearance of dark, grape-like fruit growing directly from its trunks and older branches.


Form: A multi-branched large shrub or small tree.
Lifespan: 150 years.
Leaf retention: Evergreen.
Growth rate: Slow.
Mature Size: 10-30' high and as wide, but it usually does not exceed 15' in temperate regions.
Flowers: Small, white, in clusters of three or four, with many long, yellow-tipped stamens, growing directly on trunks and older branches.
Bloom: One to five times a year depending on climate and irrigation. In temperate regions, blooming usually occurs no more than three times a year. Consistently moist soil produces the most blooms.
Self-fruitful: Yes, but cross pollination with another plant greatly enhances yield.
Years before fruiting: 3 grafted, 4 layered, 6-10 from seed.
Fruit: Grape-like, with a thick, tough, purple-black, astringent skin covering a sweet, white to pink, gelatinous pulp containing one to four seeds.
Months for fruit to ripen: 20-25 days. The fruit are ripe when they are fully colored and slightly soft to the touch. They should be harvested within one or two days of becoming ripe. A mature tree can produce 100 pounds of fruit in one year.
Storage after harvest: The fruit begin to ferment 2-4 days after harvest and should be consumed or processed immediately. The skin is usually discarded.
Leaves: Lance-shaped to oval, pinkish-yellow when new, changing to green and leathery.
Stems: Densely branched, without thorns. The thin, reddish to brown bark flakes off easily and lends the tree an attractive appearance.
Roots: Fibrous, not invasive.
Wildlife: The flowers attract pollinating insects. The fruit attracts birds and mammals.
Toxic / Danger: The fruit skin is high in tannin and should not be consumed in large amounts.
Origin: Brazil.

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Cultivation and Uses

USDA hardiness zones: 10-12. Mature trees can withstand 26°F. Seedlings and young trees must be protected from freezing.
Chill hours: None.
Heat tolerant: This plant may need part shade most of the day above 100°F.
Drought tolerant: Mature trees have moderate drought tolerance.
Sun: Full sun to part shade, especially afternoon shade.
Planting: In regions with summers over 100°F, locate this tree where it will receive part to full shade most of the day, and full afternoon shade. It is easily grown in a container and is often used in bonsai.
Soil: Well drained, moderate to high organic content. While pH 5.6-6.5 (acidic to slightly acidic) produces the best results, this plant tolerates neutral to slightly alkaline soil with extra nutrient application.
Fertilize: Apply organic fertilizer every month from mid-February to late September on soils that are pH 6.6 (neutral) or higher. This plant needs an iron supplement three times a year.
Water after becoming established: basin or flood irrigate every week or two during the growing season. Reduce irrigation to every three or four weeks outside the growing season.
Mulch: Spread organic mulch under the canopy and 8" away from the trunk to reduce moisture evaporation and protect the roots from temperature extremes.
First Three Years' Care: Young plants are tropical understory trees and need all day part to full shade, especially in hot months; they must be protected from freezes; and the soil should be watered frequently and mulched to stay moist.
Prune: This plant can be easily pruned as a hedge without reducing the fruit crop. To grow as a tree, remove the lowest branches. Flowers and fruit appear on old wood. Thinning the fruit when they are small and green by half results in the remaining fruit growing larger.
Litter: Fruit if not harvested. Leaf drop at certain times of the year after heavy rains.
Propagation: Cuttings grafted onto seedling rootstock, cuttings planted in starter soil in a warm mist chamber. Fresh seed may germinate in 20-40 days in slightly moist soil sealed in a plastic bag, one or two seeds per bag. The soil should be high in organic material with mycorrhizal fungi. The bag should be placed in an area that receives indirect sunlight. Dried seed is not viable.
Uses: Edible fruit, ornamental, bonsai. The fruit is used to make jams, jellies, juice and wine, or is eaten raw.


This tree is also known as Jabuticaba and the Brazilian Grape Tree.

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By Mateus Hidalgo - photo taken by Mateus Hidalgo, CC BY-SA 2.5 br, httpscommons.wikimedia.orgwindex.phpcurid-1926641

Plinia cauliflora: Jaboticaba fruit growing on trunk

By Mateus Hidalgo - photo taken by Mateus Hidalgo, CC BY-SA 2.5 br, httpscommons.wikimedia.orgwindex.phpcurid-1926544

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Latest update: February, 2021