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Ugni molinae - Growing Guide

Growing Ugni molinae

This compact, low growing, evergreen shrub is known as the Chilean guava or Chilean cranberry for its delicious dark red edible berries. It was introduced to the UK by William Lobb in 1844 and is perfectly hardy in coastal or western areas of the country.

Ugni molinae can grow to 5ft tall. But, at Burncoose, it has yet to achieve this sort of height when growing in full sun alongside our propagating houses or in the garden at Caerhays.

The leaves are glossy and dark green with an ovate or slightly curled appearance. The flowers appear in May and are bowl shaped and about half an inch across. They are white and fragrant with a pink tinge and have numerous stamens with yellow anthers.

The fruits or berries, which taste of strawberries, become ripe with us in September or early October (sometimes earlier in a dry summer) and, as autumn progresses, some of the older leaves turn as striking a red as the berries themselves.

More recently two forms of this myrtle like plant have been developed with extremely attractive foliage. Ugni molinae ‘Butterball’ has buttery yellow new growth with pinky-orange tips and pink flowers. The contrast with the older darker green leaves is superb. Similarly Ugni molinae ‘Flambeau’ has variegated leaves which are tinged with pink. This shows off the berries to best effect.

Ugni varieties prefer moist but well drained soil and shelter from cold winds. Only the most minimal pruning is required. Semi ripe cuttings root easily on bottom heat if taken in late summer. The fruits are too good to eat to bother saving them to grow the seeds!

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