For those into topiaries and formally pruned landscape features, a commonly available garden center plant may be of interest to you. The woody plant known as Eugenia, or more accurately, Syzygium paniculatum, is a small-leaved foliage plant often sculpted into fanciful shapes and designs. Once trimmed, this task must be kept up or the Eugenia will fill back into a solid bush-like plant. Have you seen this plant before?
Eugenia have small, less than two-inch, oval leaves that are ideal for clipping into spirals and pom-pom ball-like creations. New flushes of growth throughout the growing season start out reddish and then turn dark green as the leaves mature. Topiary-trained Eugenia are often planted in above-ground containers for display on decks or patios. Some Eugenia are also left natural and developed into hedges for a tight-knit screen — I have seen at least one locally. Eugenia can be pruned into many shapes and kept in-bounds to most any size required. Unpruned, this shrub can grow up to twelve feet tall and wide. Best kept in hardiness zone 10, some reports list it as being able to do fine in Zone 9B as well. As most Eugenia are kept in containers as accent plants, this better lends it to easy moving to a protected spot if a freeze is forecast. Highly drought-tolerant once established, Eugenia adapt well to either full sun or part shade conditions. Small white flowers and reddish fruit can develop on Eugenia, although regular pruning may inadvertently remove these. The fruit is often eaten by birds and can be consumed by humans.
There are a couple of disease issues to watch out for with your Eugenia. One is a branch dieback disease found in our area from time to time. This fungus infects the vascular tissue and causes unsightly branch dieback. Some evidence suggests that drought stress may trigger conditions favorable to this disease. Pruning the infected branch four inches below the diseased potion will help manage the dieback. Be careful however and keep in mind that dieback disease can be introduced by contaminated pruning shears. Sanitation with a 25 percent chlorine bleach solution, or a fifty percent rubbing alcohol solution will help reduce the chances of introducing this problem. A follow-up application of fungicide to the wounds may also be in order. Another disease problem that can occur is guava rust, a fungal disease that can infect Eugenia. The disease will manifest itself with powdery, yellow spore patches on leaves and buds during hot weather. Infected areas should be hand-pruned with follow-up fungicide application as per label directions.
A sculpted Eugenia topiary is a real eye-catcher. To keep this attractive pattern, discipline and commitment will be needed to maintain the shape. Pruning such a plant can be fun and allows you to get involved in how the plant looks. Get fancy in your landscape with Eugenia! For more information on pruning, topiary or hedges, please call our Master Gardener volunteers on the Plant Lifeline on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at 941-764-4340 for gardening help and insight into their role as an extension volunteer. Don’t forget to visit our other County Plant Clinics in the area. Please check this link for a complete list of site locations, dates and times — http://blogs.ifas.ufl.edu/charlotteco/files/2018/03/Plant-Clinics-Schedule.pdf.