Gardening

Pacific Wax Myrtle: Easy-To-Grow, Drought Tolerant, Medium-Sized Shrub

Pacific Wax Myrtle: Easy-To-Grow, Drought Tolerant, Medium-Sized Shrub

Pacific Wax Myrtle

Photo Compliments of David Hofmann

Morella californica (previously Myrica californica) is more commonly called California wax myrtle, California bayberry, or pacific wax myrtle. This broadleaf evergreen is an easy-to-grow medium-sized shrub (reaches a height of 30 feet and a width of 20 feet at maturity) that can be used in formal or naturalistic gardens. It can be sheared to produce a great hedge or it can be sheared in to other geometric shapes; it can also be left to grow into large, loose mounds, providing a background to other shrubs and perennials. The small, evergreen, leaves are aromatic when crushed. Clusters of black fruit are held on short spurs in late summer, persisting into midwinter and providing food for wild birds.

Leaves are alternate, simple, lanceolate, narrow (2 to 4 inches long and 1/2 to 3/4 inches wide); margins are sparsely toothed except near the base. Leaves typically point upward and are clustered at the terminal ends of the branches

Flowers appear in the late spring through early summer on both the male and female trees. They are small, yellow and inconspicuous.

The fruit is ¼ inch wide with purple to black colored berries that are covered with a white waxy bloom. Each berry only has one seed within. Berries start to appear in the September to October time frame. Birds love the tiny purplish fruits.

How To Make Your Pacific Wax Myrtle Thrive

Pacific wax myrtle thrives in full sun to deep shade. The more sun it receives the denser the growth. It prefers a location with moist to well-drained soil, but will tolerate sand and clay. Pacific wax myrtle can withstand damp locations and summer drought; it can survive on poor soil and seaside conditions. Once established this shrub is completely drought tolerant.

General Pacific Wax Myrtle Information

Pests & Diseases

It is relatively free of both pests and disease.

Pruning

Pacific Wax Myrtle responds well to pruning and tolerates shearing. Heavy pruning should be done in the late winter with shaping in early to mid summer.  It can be limbed to create a small tree if this is done over time.

Propagation

Seeds collected in fall should be abraded or soaked in warm water to remove the waxy coating; seeds require 3 months stratification at 40ºF (4ºC).  Heel cuttings of half-ripe wood in July or August have fair to good success.  Layering in the spring is the method of choice, it is also the quickest method.

Quick Facts

  • Plant Type: Spreading shrub
  • Foliage Type: Evergreen
  • Leaves: Leaves are alternate, simple
  • Fruit: Small, round, waxy drupes (1/16 inch in diameter), dark purple to light gray, borne in small, tight clusters.
  • Flower: Species is monoecious; with separate male and female catkins borne in the leaf axils; both reach 1/2 to 1 inch long.
  • Bark: Thin, gray to brown, and often covered with white patches.
  • Plant Height: 20 to 30 feet under ideal conditions
  • Plant Width: 20 feet under ideal conditions
  • Hardiness Zones: Zones 7 to 9
  • Light Exposure: Full sun to deep shade
  • Water Requirements: Drought tolerant once established

Photo Search

Google – Pacific Wax Myrtle Photos

Flicker – Pacific Wax Myrtle

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