How to Grow, Plant, and Care For Flowering Seagrapes
Looking to get started planting some seagrapes in your garden? Before you do, there's some important factors to consider. The Seagrape makes a fantastic plant for beginner gardens. Before you start planting, you'll need to learn how to grow and care for them them from cuttings, or as a mature plant. You'll learn about their hardiness zones, as well as some basic plant facts.
Seagrape is an interesting plant that decorates the shores of Florida and other Caribbean Islands as well. The seagrape is low maintenance, looks exotic, and the fruit is delicious. Aside from aesthetics, there are many practical reasons to plant, grow, and develop a seagrape.
If you’re wondering how to get started, we’ll tell you everything you need to know and expect to grow your tree, shrub, or collection successfully.
The seagrape is a good starter plant for those interested in gardening and landscaping. If you want to learn about different species and how you can purchase the plant or the seeds, keep reading for more information!
- 1 The Flowering Seagrape
- 2 Characteristics of Seagrape
- 3 Seagrape Varities
- 4 Planting Seagrapes
- 5 Fruit from the Seagrape Tree
- 6 Seagrape Care
- 7 Sea Grape Benefits
- 8 Final Thoughts
March – October
South Florida, Caribbean
Full Sun, Partial Shade
Aphids, Seagrape Borer
The Flowering Seagrape
The Coccoloba Uvifera, also known as a Seagrape plant, is known as an evergreen shrub. It’s a flowering tree that’s a member of the buckwheat family. The seagrape plant has large leaves with a leathery texture that are round in shape.
They have a distinctive red vein going down the leaf that causes the entire lead to turn red as the plant gets older. You can find the seagrape plant throughout the Caribbean Islands and in tropical areas of the United States, such as Florida.
The plant bark has a yellow tint and a smooth texture. During the late summer months, it starts producing green fruits that are a little less than an inch in diameter. They usually form in big clusters, similar to grapes.
The fruit is edible, and eventually, the fruit gets riper and turns into a reddish-purple color. Each one of the fruits has a pit inside that makes up the majority of the fruit.
People describe the taste as kind of salty and reminiscent of the ocean. They say the flavor becomes acidic and sweet the more you chew it. The fruit itself is great for making jam, jelly, or snacks on the beach.
It’s important to note that you cannot pick sea grapes from the trees on the Floridian coast; they get protection by the law. They also serve multiple purposes, such as protecting the land from dune erosion as well.
As mentioned, the range of Coccoloba uvifera plants naturally spans from the coastal regions of South and Central Florida. There have been reports that they are even further up north, but they likely wouldn’t last long because they are not tolerant to colder temperatures. When they aren’t flowering, or bearing their grapes, some people say that they look like a much larger version of Creeping Jenny.
Seagrape is a versatile plant that can grow as a tree or a shrub. It depends on where you plant it and how you prune it. Once it reaches its mature form, it sports a crown that’s dense and symmetrical. It gets between 35 and 50 feet tall, with a width of 20-30 feet.
If you’re patient, you can prune a Seagrape into a windbreak, screen, or hedge. You can also prune it to look more attractive and reveal a cool, twisted trunk.
The leaves of the seagrape are wide, evergreen, and round. When they’re younger, they have that red vein down the leaf, but as the leaves mature, they turn a bright green color.
The bloom usually happens between the spring months until the earlier months of the summer. However, it can bloom throughout the other months during the year as well.
The white flowers also resemble clusters like the fruits; they hang low and are small.
The seagrape is a great plant for landscape appeal. You can cultivate it in both partial shade or full sunlight. Once the plant has gotten established to a certain point, it is also drought-tolerant.
It can also handle saltier soils and salt spray, which allows it to withstand being near the ocean on Florida beaches. It also doesn’t require much maintenance aside from pruning it when necessary to get the shape you want.
Make sure you’re aware of the proper conditions that will allow the plant to thrive before adding it to your garden or yard. Remember that the seagrape is not able to endure freezing temperatures or frost. You must protect it when it gets colder and the temperatures drop below 55 degrees.
Despite having larger leaves, seagrape should get pruned using shears instead of mechanically. You might discover that the leaves can create debris that’s difficult to remove as they decompose slowly.
Seagrapes come in about five or so different variations that are well known. They all have similar structures with some slight differences regarding the colors of the leaves or the light and watering requirements. Here are three of the most well-known plants from the seagrape family:
This genus of seagrape needs soil that is sandy and has good drainage. The Coccoloba Pubescens needs full sunshine. This variation is also perfect for beachfront homes and other locations near the sea because it can handle droughts and high salt content in that land and air.
The tree trunk can get pretty large, growing to two feet or more in diameter. The branches also grow upright, another unique aspect of the tree.
Coccoloba Diversifolia: Pigeon Seagrape
What’s special about this particular plant genus is the leaves on the younger plant and the roots get bigger than the leaves of the more mature plants. Many modest flowers sprout on spikes that are between 1.5 and 18 centimeters kind during the spring months.
It bears achene fruits that come with fleshy dark purple skin that’s also edible. It gets ripe in autumn, and the younger trees resemble pyramids until the trunks start to spread.
The plant may start to round out and look like a vase on the older trees. The Coccoloba Diversifolia is the perfect small or medium-sized addition to landscapes in subtropical regions.
The multiple trunks seem to grow right next to one another, which is a neat sight to see. This seagrape variation will not survive areas with strong frost, but it can withstand droughts, salt, and high winds.
Coccoloba Rugosa: Red-Flowered Seagrape
The Red-Flowered seagrape is extremely rare and hard to collect. The leaves are very leathery and thick, and they’re huge. The tree looks beautiful, and you can find it in the eastern and northeastern regions of Puerto Rico.
It requires six to eight hours of full sunshine every day, and it has moderate watering needs. It’s a small tree with a skinny trunk, and it can get as tall as 10 meters. It has small crimson-colored flowers on an inflorescence from 30 to 45 centimeters long.
The fruits on this tree are oval-shaped with a red-orange color. They’re about seven millimeters long and five millimeters wide.
Image Credit: By Bjoertvedt – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=48896753
Seagrape trees will grow quickly from a seed that comes from the purplish-black fruit that the tree produces. Before planting them, seeds have to be cleansed of all fruit residue because it can cause the seeds to rot or mildew. After the seeds are dried, sow them in individual pots in a 50/50 mixture of compost and sand.
Be sure to water the seeds lightly and then cover with some plastic wrap. Keep them in a warm spot and in a place where southern exposure is possible. The seeds should begin to germinate in about three weeks. Once the seedlings are about six inches tall, you can plant them outside.
Buying Mature Plants
You may only pick sea grapes with the permission of the landowner. Picking sea grapes in coastal environments along the dunes and barriers is forbidden by law. On the other hand, if you’re picking from a landscape location, do so with caution because many landscapes get treated with pesticides which can negatively affect the fruit.
Propogating Through Cuttings
When propagating seagrapes through cuttings, it entails that you use part of another plant to grow a new plant. And when it comes to growing seagrape from cuttings, it is not as difficult as you might expect. Their roots may take a while to grow, but soon after they begin to pick up the pace growing an inch or more in a day.
When propagating this tree through cuttings, you will need to procure a small plastic cup and poke small holes into the bottom. Next, fill it halfway with some potting soil. Then, take a small branch from a sea grape tree and cut off a two to four-inch section. Afterward, take off all the leaves except the ones closest to the top.
The next step is to place the branch halfway down inside of the cup. Make sure that the cup is moist as you’re waiting patiently. It can take a month or more for the roots to begin growing.
If you don’t have the time or the patience to clone a tree, it is fairly easy to get a seagrape tree online, or you can even buy them from special tree nurseries. Moreover, you can even order some seagrape seeds and grow your tree if you wish.
Planting Seagrapes in the Spring, Summer, and Fall
You can grow a flowering plant that will work well indoors with a lot of light, and you can move it outdoors in spring and summer.
Once nighttime hits, you may want to consider putting the tree on a table or windowsill as the temperatures begin to drop.
Planting Seagrape Trees in Winter
As the nighttime approaches and the air temperature starts dipping below 40 degrees, you can bring your seagrape plant into your home. West or east exposure is a good option if you put it on the windowsill, but south-facing is best.
You need about four to six hours of sunlight each day, but if you can sneak in a little more, even better. Let the tree continue to grow, even though it will become dormant around the winter.
Yet and still, prune it down to only two of the buds, and keep it away from the cold air as much as possible. Even if the tree isn’t doing anything, this phase is still beneficial to its growth. Consider it a sort of rest period for the plant.
If you don’t engage in training to get the shape you want, your tree will continuously grow in an upward direction. It might get too tall and start to bend over. You will have to stake it if it gets taller than three feet.
On the female plants, pear-shaped fruits appear after the flowers. We discussed this earlier briefly, but this section provides a little more information on the fruits themselves.
If you’ve ever seen any pictures of a seagrape plant, you’ll see that the fruit is the size of a big marble. It’s tougher than a typical seagrape that has one seed instead of multiple.
The fruit will stay hard and green for quite a bit of time, but they will change individually to the darker purple color as they get ripe.
The colors are spectacular to see since the fruit doesn’t ripen at the same pace. Some are green, reddish, or purple. Remember, they taste kind of salty with the first bite. They gradually get more acidic and sweet as you chew them.
They drop from their racemes when they mature during the summer months. However, there are some years where the fruit takes until late autumn to mature because the bloom is late.
The male tree has to be there for pollination, but the fruit only comes from the females. Vegetative propagation assures that you get a strong and productive tree. You can get a few thousand fruits every season with the proper care.
So, you’ve started growing Seagrape in your garden, but aren’t sure what’s next? In this next section, you’ll learn all about their care, including water requirements, plant placement, pests & diseases, as well as the best places to grow these beautiful plants.
Freshly planted seagrape trees need to get watered for about one year after they get established. You will take two gallons of water and pour it over the roots during the morning. This allows the moisture to be available for the tree to absorb while it’s hot during the day.
You have to water your tree every morning for thirty days if your tree trunk is at least two to four inches in diameter. After this, alternate days should suffice for 90 days, and then only once a week for the rest of the year.
In the instance that the trunk is less than two inches in diameter, you can water it every morning for 14 days. After this, alternate days of watering for 60 days, and then once a week for the rest of the year.
For trunks with a diameter of more than four inches, you have to water your tree every day for five weeks. Once this phase gets completed, switch to alternate days for five and a half months. Lastly, you will transition to once a week for the rest of the year.
You can also water it even less if you can tell that the soil is getting muddy because the tree isn’t draining well.
Put your seagrape plant in an area that is grass and weed-free for at least four feet in either direction of the tree. The open space around it eliminates any competition to get nutrients and moisture. It also ensures that the bark doesn’t get injured mechanically.
You should get some organic mulch and place it two or three inches over the soil.
Make sure the mulch doesn’t get atop the roots. That could encourage the seagrape plant to grow roots on the surface, wrapping around the tree like a girdle. In the years to come, add more mulch as you need to keep it around three inches. Always fluff and rake the older mulch to avoid compaction.
When your plant is indoors because of the cold, place it inside of a shallow tray. Make a thin layer of gravel and add some water. This allows for an extra boost of moisture surrounding the tree. While the water is evaporating, it helps to replace the moisture that gets reduced since homes have heating systems in place.
If you want your seagrape to be stunning and healthy, fertilizer is essential to achieve this goal. Due to the small amount of soil, replenish the nutrient supply of the soil from time to time. A run of the meal general-purpose liquid fertilizer will get the job done, and it is available at most garden centers.
Instead of using the fertilizer at its recommended strength, we suggest that you cut its strength by half.
Furthermore, be sure to apply fertilizer to your seagrape at a minimum, once a month, except for the winter season. You’ll find that your seagrape will be very responsive to foliar feeding in conjunction with a water-soluble fertilizer which should get applied monthly in the form of a spray.
This article serves as a basic explanation for caring for a seagrape; however, the explanation does not cover training.
If you are incapable, you can hire a professional to help. On the other hand, most of the true seagrape trees that you see would have already been through their training period. Periodically, they’ll only need pinching and training to stay miniature.
You have to prune seagrape trees that are a few years old during the winter. Make sure you use sharp loppers, so you can cut off the branches that you don’t want.
Cut directly about the cost where the branch looks raised. That’s the point of growth from the trunk. You can also cut off multiple trunks from the tree base to assist the tree with growing as more of a shade tree with only one trunk instead of several.
Take off any weakened or dead branches, or if you see branches that are growing and developing across other branches at awkward angles.
You can punch off one to two inches of the branch tips for fuller growth the next go-round. You can control how big your tree gets if you prune it in the later spring months or earlier in the summer, around June and July. That will cause it to form as more of a hedge or a shrub instead of a tree.
Pests and Diseases
As with anything, you have to check for the warning signs that things are going awry.
Watch out for leaves that are red or yellowish; this can be an indication of sea grape borer. The reddish color can be difficult to see since the leaves naturally turn this color somewhat as they mature.
If it happens outside of the period that it’s supposed to be maturing, that will also help you know there’s a problem. Cut those leaves off to avoid them contaminating the other leaves.
Look for insects like aphids, which can harm the plants by eating away at the leaves. If you notice that the leaves look withered or have a reddish color, with honeydew on them, the aphids are probably nearby. Honeydew is a sticky substance that these bugs leave behind.
The aphids are soft and shaped like a pear. You can easily hose down the plant to get the bugs off and wipe off the leaves if necessary afterward. You can also cut off the leaves that are damaged if you prefer. Since there is no disease present, like with the example above, you can leave the discolored leaves there as well.
You might have to thin out the canopy area to facilitate more circulation if you see a white or gray kitchen growing on the tree branches. Cut those branches off immediately.
If there are red spots on the leaves, don’t be alarmed. That’s a problem that occurs because of colder temperatures during the winter. Just ensure that your plant doesn’t get frozen.
Sea Grape Benefits
Here are some great health benefits to the fruit from the seagrape tree:
Reduces inflammation: Calcium, polyunsaturated fatty acids, and protein are in the Caribbean Grape. These ingredients have been found to reduce symptoms of arthritis and inflammation.
Improved memory and eyesight: The unsaturated fatty acids such as DHA, LA, AA, ALA, and EPA all come together to strengthen your eyesight and your memory.
Better heart health: Additionally, the fatty acids reduce cholesterol and maintain the arteries’ collagen structure. They increase the elasticity of the blood vessels while preventing oxidation at the same time. They also have properties to help prevent cardiovascular diseases such as stroke.
Lowers blood pressure: If you have high blood pressure, seagrapes can be used to reduce it. This fruit contains vitamin D, calcium, and potassium which work together to maintain normal blood pressure.
Diabetes control: Eating this fruit may help manage the sugar levels of a person who has diabetes. It may also help to control free radicals to prevent the binding of glucose sugar dust, which can go a long way in reducing diabetic symptoms.
Hopefully, these instructions on how to properly care for a seagrape tree find and hit the mark. If you are determined and patient, growing your very own tree is doable.
Keep in mind that if you’re cloning a tree, the process takes significantly longer to get rolling than if you have seeds. Cloning requires a little more patience but you won’t be disappointed one process is finished and your tree is here.