Friday, April 2, 2010

Greetings Myrtle

As a gardener there are many plants that I really like. There are also many plants, though not as many as the like column, that I dislike. Then there are the plants that I can either live with or without. The Waxmyrtle (Myrica cerifera) is one of those plants. I truly have nothing against this plant, but yet, they aren't all that glamorous either.

Just looks like a common shrub, huh?

Also known as Southern Bayberry, Waxmyrtles are a native plant to the United States, that will make my brethren in the Native Plant Society cheer. It is a large shrub to small tree, able to reach a height of 25 feet and the same in width, but it is usually seen in the 10 to 20 foot range. It has olive to gray green leaves, that have a bayberry scent when crushed. Colonists made bayberry candles by boiling the berries and collecting the floating wax, then pouring it into candle molds or hand-dipping wicks. It took about five pounds of berries to make one or two candles.
Waxmyrtles are fast growing shrubs, as much as 5 feet in height and width in a single year, with evergreen foliage. They are tolerant of salt spray and wind. Their hardiness zones are 7-11, which covers the eastern coast of the United States from New Jersey to southern Florida, and through the southern part of the nation on up into Washington state.
They can grow on a wide range of soils, though they prefer good drainage and slightly acidic soils. They are moderately drought tolerant, and can grow in everything from part shade to full sun.
Waxmyrtles are usually very easy to find in their hardiness range. Propagation is by seeds, which germinate easily and rapidly, tip cuttings,or transplanting wild plants.
There are not too many problems associated with Waxmyrtles, though cankers may form on old branches and trunks and kill them. Also, a lethal wilt disease caused by the fungus Fusarium oxysporum has recently been noted attacking Waxmyrtle plants in central and south Florida.
The biggest problem I have seen with Waxmyrtles is their inability to handle heavy snowfalls. But then again, how often does Charleston, SC get anywhere from 3-7 inches of snow?!
This is a picture of my neighbors Waxmyrtles. They are the ones bending way down. They are/were as tall as the house before the snow came.

They were damaged so badly, they had to have most of them cut way back.
The ones I have in my yard were relatively unaffected, why, I don't know. I am using them as a screen for the West side of my house. It does keep it about 10 degrees cooler, than without.
So, overall, they are an okay plant. Again, nothing to write home about, but can be good to fill in space in your yard or act as a heat shield.
Happy Growing!

1 comment:

  1. just looking for more info on wax myrtles and found your post. We, in Dallas, had the opposite problem: a long drought. Four of my myrtles are really doing poorly, and today I just cut all of the dead leaves and branches off. One plant may be gone, two are half there and the other five are doing fairly well. What I don't like is that I wanted them for privacy and quiet (near a highway), and they are very sparce below. They look like they would rather be a tree. Our soil is more alkaline and now I wonder if I need to mend with an acid. Just glad to see your mentioning this plant.