General information: Eugenia is a large group of plants, some native and some non-
native, including evergreen trees and shrubs, some of which have been reclassified to the
genus Syzygium. The evergreen leaves are firm and glossy, and the flowers white. It is the
dried buds of Eugenia aromatica (Syzygium aromaticum) which become the fragrant
"herb" cloves. The flowers are followed by the production of berries, some types of which
are edible. All these traits - the attractive foliage, flowers, and berries - help make Eugenia
a popular landscape choice in warm climate areas, such as California, Florida, and
Hawaii. Eugenia confusa (Ironwood, Red Stopper) is native to Florida and grows to about
35 feet and is well suited for street tree and parking lot planting. Eugenia foetida (Spanish
Stopper) is also native and grows to about 15 feet tall.
A sub-tropical evergreen, with dark green ovate leaves formed in pairs. In spring, may
bear small white flowers followed by red, edible fruit. With the exception of jaboticaba,
Eugenia species have red, flaking bark. Surinam cherry is used extensively as a hedge
plant in the Southern US.
Lighting: Full sun to part shade. Appreciates a bright position, about 1500 Lux, but can
tolerate low light. If placed outdoors in summer, can usually tolerate full sun, although
partial shade is recommended in the hottest areas.
Temperature: Never below 30F. Generally hardy in zones 10B and 11, otherwise can
sucessfully be grown indoors. In summer, Eugenia likes the heat, while it prefers winter
temperatures between 46-68F. Eugenia does not like draughts or a lot of variation in
Watering: Generously in summer, less in winter. Surinam cherry does not like variations in
watering, preferring a consistantly slight moisture to being soaked and allowed to dry out.
Lesniewicz recommends that Australian Brush cherry dry a little between waterings, but
some posts testify that it will drop leaves if the soil dries. Eugenia needs humidity, so
misting can be beneficial. Use distilled/rain water if your water is hard, as Eugenia does
not tolerate salt.
Feeding: Every 2 weeks during heavy growth, and every 4-5 in winter. Eugenia likes a
slightly acid soil, so the occasional use of Miracid is recommended.
Pruning and wiring: Can be pruned back hard, as it is a vigorous grower. Shorten new
shoots with 6-8 pairs of leaves to 1-2 pairs. Can be wired while in active growth, but better
shaping results are achieved with pruning. Protect the branches, as they scar easily. Leaf
pruning can be done in summer on strong plants, but is not generally advised, as better
leaf reduction results from timely pruning, and this plant has relatively small leaves in the
first place. It is suitable for all styles, and for all but the largest sizes.
Repotting: Every two years in early to mid-spring. Bottom heat helps to encourage root
growth. Use basic bonsai soil, or an acid mix like azalea soil. Will withstand vigorous
root pruning: jaboticaba can take up to 2/3 root loss, and while I would not recommend
the following as a normal practice, up to 90% root removal has been performed
sucessfully on Surinam cherry!
Pests and diseases: Pests: Scale, mealy bug, Caribbean fruit fly, aphids, red spider.
Psyllids limit the tree's usefulness in parts of California.
Diseases: No diseases are of major concern. May drop leaves if watering is
inconsistant. Not salt tolerant.
Some species suitable for bonsai:
Eugenia brasiliensis: Brazil cherry - likes slightly higher winter temperatures (64-68F)
than other Eugenia species. Needs good light for its red, edible fruit to develop.
Eugenia cauliflora: Jaboticaba - Native from southern Brazil to southern California,
southern Florida and Hawaii, the jaboticaba has creamy tan bark with pinkish and
greish highlights that peels in long strips like crepe myrtle. It will bear purple edible
ovoid fruit when the plant is about 15 years old. Expect the jaboticaba to lose about
half its leaves in early spring, before the new growth sets in.
Eugenia myrtifolia (also called Syzygium paniculatum): Australian brush cherry -
Grows to 20 feet. Red, egg-shaped edible fruits. If it receives enough light, the leaves
will develop red highlights. Prefers winter temperatures of 59-64F.
Eugenia myrtifolia var. Globulus (also called Syzygium paniculatum): 'Teenie Genie'
cherry - a popular, widely available choice, much loved for bonsai due to its extremely
Eugenia uniflora: Surinam cherry, Brazil cherry, pitanga - hardy to zone 10, this tropical
"cherry" has round red and yellow fruits, which can be used in preserves and
USDA Fact Sheet ST-241
Compiled by Sabrina Caine