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Growing Prunus ilicifolia: Hollyleaf Cherry

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A member of the Rose family, related to plums, peaches, apricots and cherries. This plant, native to the Californias, is an ornamental.

Form: Shrub-like tree.
Lifespan: Perennial.
Leaf retention: Evergreen.
Growth rate: Slow to establish, then rapid.
Mature Size: 3-30' high and 2-20' wide. Often 15' x 10'.
Flowers: Small, short white petals, longer white stamens, in long clusters, fragrant.
Bloom: Late winter to spring.
Self-fruitful: Yes.
Years before fruiting: 1.
Fruit: Red to purple, skin is leathery and bitter when not watered, thin tart flesh, edible, one large seed.
Months for fruit to ripen: 4.
Storage after harvest:
Leaves: Glossy, green, serrated edges with sharp points, almond-like aroma when crushed.
Stems: Reddish to grayish brown bark on young stems, with odor of bitter almonds (hydrogen cyanide) when scratched, grayish old bark, fairly smooth, no thorns.
Roots: Widespread root system provides erosion control. Can re-sprout from root crown after a fire.
Varieties of Note:
'Prunus ilicifolia v. ilicifolia' Hollyleaf Cherry
'Prunus ilicifolia v. lyonii' Catalina Cherry
Wildlife: Attracts bees, butterflies, birds, deer, small mammals. Butterfly caterpillar host plant. Protect from browsing animals.
Toxic / Danger: All parts of plant are poisonous except ripe fruit. Fruit can cause digestive upset in large quantities. Seeds are toxic.
Origin: Coastal California and Baja California.

Cultivation and Uses
USDA hardiness zones: 8b-9 (15°F) when five years old, 9 (20°F) when young.
Chill hours: None.
Heat tolerant: Below 90°F.
Sun: Grows on north-facing slopes in the wild. Part shade all day when temperatures exceed 90°F.
Drought tolerant: Yes.
Water after becoming established: Monthly to weekly. More frequent watering improves the quality of the fruit.
Soil: Well drained, dry, low to high organic content, pH 6.1-7.8 (slightly acidic to slightly alkaline).
Fertilize: Not required. Compost once in mid-winter if desired.
Mulch: Compost to protect roots from temperature extremes.
Spacing: 8-10'
Planting: Not suitable for a container.
First Year Care: Protect from freezing temperatures.
Prune: Can be shaped into a hedge or tree.
Litter: Low.
Propagation: Seed are viable for about 9 months, sprout in 20-40 days. Cuttings.
Uses: Ornamental, hedge, bird and butterfly garden, erosion control on slopes.

Young plants are frost-tender and need protection from browsing mammals. This plant is grown as an ornamental and not for its fruit. Native American tribes, however, did make use of the fruit to create a fermented beverage.
See also Hollyleaf Redberry

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Growing Prunus ilicifolia: Hollyleaf Cherry - flowers

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