Though Coccoloba is a large and diverse genus of about 150 species, the most commonly grown species is the seagrape, or Coccoloba uvifera. This large shrub is native to the tropical Americas, spanning from South America all the way up to south Florida, and derives its common name from its tendency to grow along the coastline. Though they can grow as tall as 25 feet, this fast-growing shrub is usually around 10 feet when cultivated in gardens. It can be grown inside as a seedling and then moved outside to tropical gardens as it matures, making it a popular ornamental plant in Florida and the Caribbean islands.
|Botanical Name||Coccoloba uvifera|
|Common Name||Seagrape, baygrape|
|Plant Type||Evergreen shrub|
|Mature Size||10-30 feet|
|Sun Exposure||Full to partial sun|
|Bloom Time||Late summer|
|Flower Color||White flowers become green fruit that ripens to purple|
|Hardiness Zones||10A-11 (USDA)|
|Native Area||The Caribbean and southern Florida|
|Toxicity||Nontoxic to humans and animals|
Seagrape is dioecious, which means that a single specimen grows both male and female flowers and can self-pollinate. Its foliage is deep green and shiny, with variegated leaves about 6 to 10 inches long that turn orange as they mature and eventually fall. The most distinctive attribute of the sea grape is its clusters of fruit, which grow from green to purple as they mature and droop down during the growing season. Thanks to its tolerance of both wind and salt, this is a very popular plant along tropical seasides and can be pruned into an ornamental shrub—not to mention its delectable fruit.
Seagrapes are rarely bothered by pests, and only occasionally fall prey to the seagrape borer, a native moth which eats twigs and branches.
Seagrape needs lots of tropical sun, although the plant is moderately shade-tolerant.
Sandy soil is best, but it tolerates a wide range of soil conditions.
The sea grape is drought-tolerant, but should be watered if grown in a container; once transferred to the ground, watering is not necessary as long as you live in a tropical area with lots of rainfall, but regular watering can help it grow fuller.
Temperature and Humidity
Seagrape needs warm temperatures; it is not frost-tolerant, and temperatures below 32 degrees Fahrenheit will injure if not kill them.
- 'Grandleaf seagrape' (C. pubescens): This variety looks similar in appearance but is much larger, with terminal spikes of flowers over 2 feet high.
- 'Pigeonplum' (C. diversifolia): A common seaside plant, its leaves are a darker green, and it grows taller than the seagrape.
Seagrape responds well to pruning and should be pared back in late summer in order to maintain the ideal shape; when left unchecked, it tends to sprawl. Watering it regularly can ensure that it reaches its full potential, and it should be kept in warm, tropical conditions that mirror its natural habitat. This tough and tolerant shrub can be a great ornamental plant for those along the tropical coastline.
The sea grape propagates easily by seeds or cuttings. To propagate by cuttings, sever a branch during the beginning of spring and replant as soon as possible in a combination of peat moss, potting mix, and sand. Make sure to keep the cuttings moist and in a sunny area, with good drainage. The seedlings can grow in a container until they become large enough to transfer into the ground.
How to Grow Seagrape From Seed
Seagrapes grow quickly from seeds, which come from its appealing purplish black fruit. Seeds must be fully cleaned of any fruit residue, which can cause them to mildew and rot. Once seeds are dry, sow in individual pots in a 50/50 mixture of sand and compost. Water lightly, and cover with plastic wrap. Keep in a warm place, with southern exposure. Seeds should germinate in about three weeks, maybe longer. Once seedlings are 6 inches tall, they can be planted outdoors.
Potting and Repotting Seagrape
Repotting is generally not necessary for the seagrape. They can be cultivated in a pot and then transferred. Once they outgrow their pot, there’s really no reason to repot them. If the roots are protruding from the pot and the plant is still very young, they can be transferred to a larger container, preferably a plastic one.
Keep seagrapes in full sun in the winter; they may not grow as fast, and may drop leaves, but will recover when the temperature increases.