Natal Plum (Carissa Macrocarpa ) Complete Guide To Grow And Care

Grown primarily as a floral specimen for landscapes, the Natal plum is a gorgeous tropical shrub that is also prized for its small fruits, which resemble cranberries and are used to make jams and jellies. Similar to Indian hawthorn, Natal plumb is widely employed in commercial landscapes in warmer areas because of its highly valued aroma and lovely white, star-shaped flowers.

The 1- to 2-inch fruits of the natal plum are named after their shape and color; they are unrelated to the actual plum (Prunus × domestica). This broadleaf evergreen boasts glossy, dark green, leathery leaves that are oval in shape. Several kinds even feature thorny branches.

It is preferable to plant (or transplant) this shrub in the fall or winter because it grows at a moderate to quick pace. Planting Natal plum in sandy soil that drains well can help naturally prevent root rot and yield the greatest benefits. To guarantee that every plant has the same traits, propagate plants from cuttings if you have cultivated a certain type and would like to have more. For the shrub to reach a mature enough state to yield edible fruits, it will require approximately two years.

Except for its fruit, the Natal plum can be somewhat hazardous to humans.

Natal Plum Plant Overview

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Common Name Natal plum
Botanical Name Carissa macrocarpa 
Family Apocynaceae
Plant Type Shrub
Mature Size 2–7 ft, but some varieties can grow to 30 feet
Sun Exposure Full, partial
Soil Type Sandy, well-drained
Soil pH Acidic, neutral, alkaline
Bloom Time Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter
Flower Color White
Hardiness Zones 9–11 (USDA)
Native Area Africa
Toxicity Mildly toxic to people

Natal Plum Care

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The primary maintenance needs for cultivating Natal plum are as follows:

  • Plant in sandy, slightly acidic to neutral soil that drains well.

     

  • Plant in partial shade or full sun.

     

  • Let the soil dry up in between waterings.

     

  • Feed a plant food that is balanced in terms of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.

Light Requirements

For optimal results, grow Natal plum in a full-sun area. It will thrive in mild shade as well, however it probably won’t produce as many fruits and blooms.

Soil & Potting

When it comes to soil, natal plums don’t care as long as it drains properly. These plants may withstand slightly alkaline soil, but they often prefer slightly acidic or neutral pH. These plants thrive close to coastlines because they can withstand salt.

Watering

Depending on the variety, water once a month to once a week. Take care not to overwater, though, as natal plum is prone to root rot. Ensure that the soil dries up entirely in between irrigations. Proper drainage is essential. The natal plum can withstand some drought.

Temperature and Environment

Temperatures over 68 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and between 50 and 65 degrees at night are ideal for the Natal plum. They are quite susceptible to cold; temperatures below 25 degrees will kill existing plants, and immature seedlings cannot withstand temperatures below 30 degrees. When given adequate soil moisture, these plants can withstand both dry and humid air conditions.

Fertilization

Make use of fertilizer with equal amounts of potassium, phosphorus, and nitrogen. This will encourage fruiting and preserve the general health of the bush. Refer to the product label for directions on how much to use.

Types of Natal Plum

‘Emerald Blanket’: A dwarf cultivar that spreads low and is frequently used as a shrub for ground cover

‘Nana’: White flowers occur on a thornless dwarf variety, which is only 12 to 18 inches tall and wide.

‘Boxwood Beauty’: Another thornless cultivar with a mounded growth habit that is frequently used as ground cover or foundation planting; it matures to a height and width of around 24 inches and bears white blooms.

Fancy‘: A typical upright shape featuring huge, upright fruit

Tomlinson‘: A standard-sized thornless variety

Variegata‘: Cream to yellow variegation

Harvesting Natal Plum

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The Natal plum fruits ripen one by one, not all at once. As soon as they turn a deep red or purple, pluck them from the plant. On the tree, they will remain ripe for several days without going bad. The fruit can be used for pies, preserves, jams, and jellies, and it keeps for up to a week in the fridge.

Pruning

Through pruning, Natal plum can be shaped into a hedge or tree form. Removing dead branches from the shrub can encourage it to bear more fruit and flowers. Since many types have sharp spines, you might need to trim plants near sidewalks to prevent injuries to pedestrians. After the peak blooming and fruiting season ends in late summer, prune dead wood and frost damage in late winter or early spring.

Propagating Natal Plum

Stem cuttings, which are readily propagated from natal plums at any time of year, are a simple method. How to do it is as follows:

  1. Pruners, rooting hormone, loam, sand, peat moss, and a glass or tiny pot are required.

     

  2. Choose 4- to 6-inch cuttings, give them a rooting hormone treatment, and put them in a glass of water or moist sand.

     

  3. Plant the stems in a mixture of one part sand, one part peat moss, and two parts loam as soon as the roots start to show.

     

  4. Until new growth appears, keep the fresh cuttings damp—not wet—and use a heating pad to provide bottom heat.

     

  5. The cuttings can now be moved into the garden or potted into bigger containers.

Potting and Repotting

Smaller types of natal plums thrive as houseplants and in containers on patios and balconies. Use a pot large enough for the roots to spread out and equipped with drainage holes, along with well-draining, sandy potting soil. The plant is probably root bound and has to be repotted if its development slows down and its roots are visible through the container’s bottom holes.

Overwintering

Natal Plums require four to six hours of sunlight and enough humidity, which can be provided by a humidifier or a pebble tray, in order to overwinter them indoors.

Common Pests and Diseases

With this shrub, you shouldn’t have many insect issues. Aphids, or Florida red scale (Chrysomphalus aonidum), may be observed. Horticultural soap is a useful tool for getting rid of them. Overwatering a Natal plum might lead to fungus infestation.

How to Get Natal Plum to Bloom?

Bloom Months

Although they can bloom all year long, natal plums bear fruit and blossom from May to September.

What Does Natal Plum’s Flowers Look and Smell Like?

Five waxy petals are arranged in the shape of a star on each Natal plum flower. They form in an opposing orientation along the branch and are typically 1 to 3 inches long. Orange blossoms are comparable in scent to natal plum flowers.

How to Encourage More Blooms?

Pruning stimulates the shrub to bear more fruit and blossoms.

Also Read: Xylosma Complete Guide To Grow And Care

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