What is Natal plum? This evergreen plant is a beautiful shrub that is native to tropical regions. It is mostly grown for its flowers that add to the landscape design. If you wish to find out more information about the Natal plum plant, read on.
The Natal plum fruits are small size fruits, that resemble cranberries in taste, and can be used to make jellies and jams. Because of its beautiful star-shaped, white, and lovely fragrance, the Natal plum flower is commonly used in landscape compositions in warmer climates.
Although its name suggests a relation to the fruits we know as plums, these plants are not actually related, the reason why it received this name is that their small fruits resemble plums in terms of shape and color. The leaves of the Natal plum are glossy, leathery, ovate, and dark green. And their fragrance smells a lot like that of orange blossoms. Their flowers are made up of five petals arranged in a way that makes them look like stars.
How long does it take for a Natal plum to grow? Their growth rate is moderate to fast, and the best time to plant them or transplant them is in the fall or winter. It takes about two years for the shrub to reach maturity which is when they will start to bear good enough fruits for harvest.
Planting Natal Plum
The best soil to plant Natal plum in is well-draining sandy soil, this will help you lower the chances of roots rotting. If you are choosing to grow a certain variety and want to maintain that, you can do that by propagating the plant from its cuttings, this way you can be sure that you will propagate the same variety of plant.
In the case of most of the Natal plums varieties, the plants have spines that are quite sharp, so if you want to create a hedge or barrier these plants can be a good option. You can use pruning to shape your Natal plum in the way that you wish. If the plant will be in a place where there are usually people passing by, you might want to prune it so that the spines don’t injure anyone.
There are dwarf natal plum varieties, and natal plum bonsai, like the carissa natal plum bonsai, that can be grown indoors in containers, when choosing the spot to place them in making sure that they are positioned in a way that the thorns won’t be scratching anyone who passes by.
Caring for Natal Plum Plants
- Light requirements. In order for the Natal plum plant to thrive, it should be grown in a location where it gets exposed to full sun. It can also grow in light shade but there is a good chance that it won’t have as many fruits and flowers.
- Soil requirements. The only real must when it comes to the soil for Natal plum is that it is well-draining. In most cases, these plants do prefer soil with a pH that is neutral or slightly acid, but slightly alkaline soil can be tolerated by it as well. They are not sensitive to salt so they can be grown in coastal areas.
- Water requirements. Depending on the variety you are growing you will need to water it monthly or weekly, it is important that you don’t overwater these plants because in the case of these plants this can easily cause root rot. Allow the soil to completely dry out between waterings. This is why well-draining soil is important. They are quite drought-resistant plants.
- Humidity and temperature. The range of temperature in which the Natal plum does well is above 20 celsius during the day and between 10 to 18 during the night. They are not very fond of cold weather, when young the plants won’t be able to tolerate temperatures below 0 celsius, and even plants that are more mature will likely be killed by temperatures below 4 degrees celsius. When the soil has enough of the moisture they need this plant can tolerate dry or humid air conditions.
- Fertilizer. Use a fertilizer that is composed of equal parts of phosphorus, potassium, and nitrogen. This will make the plant healthier and help it in producing fruit.
Is Natal Plum Poisonous?
It is considered mildly toxic, some of the symptoms that can be caused by the ingestion of the leaves or stems are nausea, stomach cramps, and diarrhea.
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