Article from The Master Gardening Bench, Manatee County Master Gardener Newsletter
by John Dawson, Master Gardener


The jaboticaba (Plinia cauliflora), a native of Brazil, is a very slow growing evergreen large shrub or small, bushy tree. It normally reaches a height of 10 to 15 feet in Florida and makes an attractive landscape plant. The tree branches close to the ground, slanting upward and outward so that the dense, rounded crown may attain a spread as wide as it is tall. The small yellow-white flowers emerge from the multiple trunks, limbs and large branches in groups of four. The flowers look as if someone glued cotton balls to the trunks of the tree.

The dark purple jaboticaba fruit is large, grape-like in appearance and texture but with a thicker, tougher skin. The fruit tastes much like a mix of Muscadine grapes and cherries. Because the picked fruit begins to ferment three to four days after harvest, they are rarely seen in markets. The fruit may be produced singly or in clusters from the ground up all over the trunk and main branches, and the plant may fruit up to five times per year. The fresh fruit can be eaten out-of-hand or can be made into jellies, jams and wine.

Jaboticaba trees will take full sun or some shade and are small enough to fit into many parts of your landscape. They are fairly wind tolerant but do not like salty sea air. Small, young trees do best with some protection. Jaboticabas grow and fruit best in rich deep soil with a pH of 5.5 to 6.5. Although jaboticaba is not well adapted to alkaline soils, it may be grown successfully by mulching and applying necessary nutrient sprays containing iron. For young plants, half ratio fertilizer at monthly intervals will speed the plant's very slow growth rate. Any well-balanced fertilizer applied three times per year will keep the plant healthy.

The tree is not tolerant of salty or poorly drained soil, but does well in our sandy soil. Water should be supplied as needed to maintain good soil moisture and prevent wilting, but over watering is undesirable. As the root system is shallow, irrigation is usually required when the upper inch or two of soil becomes dry.

Pruning of jaboticabas is not usually needed, except to maintain size and shape. The thin, beige to reddish bark tends to flake off and is not a sign of disease. Although jaboticabas can tolerate a few degrees of frost, they do best under frost-free conditions.

If you wish to grow your own tree from seed, it may take from eight to fifteen years for a seedling to mature into a fruiting tree, whereas a grafted plant may produce fruit within three years. Most seeds are polyembryonic, producing a plant that is true or close to the parent plant. Planted seeds should germinate in about one month.

Please come visit the Master Gardener Educational Gardens at the Manatee County Agriculture and Extension office and see our jaboticaba in our backyard tree exhibit.

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Jaboticaba Page


Dawson, John. "Jaboticaba." The Manatee County Master Gardener Newsletter. Jan. 2014. Volume 13, Issue 1. Web. 8 Feb. 2017.

Published 8 Feb. 2017 LR
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