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Carissa macrocarpa (photo courtesy of Kathleen N. Brenzel)
Carissa macrocarpa (photo courtesy of Kathleen N. Brenzel)

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Zone
Zones 22-25, 27, H2
Full SunPartial Sun
Full, Partial
Regular WaterMinimal Water
Moderate, Minimal

Carissa macrocarpa

Natal Plum
Apocynaceae
Evergreen, Shrubs

Natal plum’s best climates are Zones 22–24 and H2, but so many gardeners find this South African native appealing that it is also grown in Zones 12, 13, 16–21—far beyond safe limits. This is a fast-growing, strong, upright, rounded shrub of rather loose habit to 5–7 ft. tall and wide (occasionally much larger). Oval, leathery, 3-in. leaves are lustrous rich green. Spines along branches and at the end of each twig discourage trespassers.

Blooms throughout the year, bearing white flowers almost as fragrant as those of star jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides) and with the same five-petaled star shape, but larger (to 2 in. across). Blossoms are followed by oval, 1–1 1/2-in., fleshy red or purple fruits. Flowers, green fruit, and ripe fruit often appear together. The fruit has a cranberrylike flavor and can be eaten fresh or used in jelly, sauce, and pie.

Natal plum is easy to grow and accepts a variety of soils. Excellent in ocean wind and salt spray. Prune to control erratic growth (milky sap oozes from cut stems). Tolerates clipping as a formal hedge. In less favorable zones, treat it like bougainvillea: on a warm wall facing south or west, preferably with an overhang to keep off frost. It is too spiny to border walkways.

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