Natal Plum is a moderate to a fast-growing evergreen shrub of rather a loose habit that grows 5 to 15 feet with spines along its branches and at the end of each twig. The charm of the Natal Plum lies in rich green, closely set 1-inch long oval leaves. It is noted for its fragrant star-like flowers to 2 inches across(that may bloom any time of the year), followed by 2-inch edible scarlet fruits that look like plums. The oval fruit with tender, smooth skin turns from a bright magenta-red to dark crimson. It must be fully ripe and slightly soft to the touch to be eaten raw. Natal Plum is a subtropical plant, thriving throughout Florida and enduring temperatures as low as 25 F when well-established. Young plants need protection when the temperature drops below 29F. Natal Plum has moderate drought tolerance and is a very popular seaside hedge plant in South Florida because of its high resistance to soil salinity, wind, and salt spray.
The fruits of the Natal Plum are eaten fresh but are most often used for sauces, jellies, and even ice cream. Sauce made from Natal Plum is often said to taste almost like that made from cranberries.
Many landscapers use Natal Plum more for its ornamental value than for its fruits and allow birds and other animals to enjoy the fruits but some people have developed quite a liking for the fruits and purposely buy natal plum for that purpose. Natal Plum can also be grown well in containers and because of its attractive leaves, flowers and fruit make an excellent container specimen or even bonsai.
Natal Plum is native to South Africa and was first introduced into the United States in 1886 by the horticulturist Theodore L. Meade.
Other Names: Hedgethorne Zone: 9 to 11 Growth Rate: Moderate to Fast Plant Type: Evergreen Shrub Family: Apocynaceae Native Range: South Africa Height: 5 to 15 feet Bloom Color: White Sun: Full Sun Fall Color: Evergreen Drought Tolerance: Moderate Water: Low Maintenance: Moderate
Site Requirements /Soil Tolerances: Natal Plum does best in at least 4 hours of direct sunlight a day, night temperatures of 50 to 65° and day temperatures of 68° or higher. Due to the wide tolerance of soil types, it can be grown almost anywhere there is good drainage and sufficient light. A suitable compost for Natal plum consists of 2 parts loam to 1 part peat moss to 1 part sand.
Culture: Fertilize every 3 to 4 months. Trim Natal Plum any time of the year. Seedlings may begin to produce fruit in 2 years.
Uses: Thorns make Natal Plum an excellent plant for barriers and is a good container specimen or bonsai.