medium in size, evergreen shrub, native to southern Africa. The species in nature reaches 4-5 meters high, the varieties grown in Europe are smaller in size, and are kept below two meters, there are also dwarf cultivars that do not exceed 100-150 cm high. It has a roundish, very dense and branched habit; the stems are smooth, usually carrying numerous sharp spines, but there are cultivars without spines; the foliage is shiny and thick, oval in shape, and bright dark green in colour.
From spring to winter, the carisse produce numerous white flowers, star-shaped, waxy, delicately perfumed; in summer, the flowers are followed by small green, oval, fruits, which develop up to the size of big plums, and, when ripe, become of a fuchsia red colour. The plants of carissa macrocarpa are poisonous, both the leaves and the latex produced by the wood; ripe fruits, on the other hand, are edible and have a delicate taste of strawberries or sweetcurrants.
Carissa macrocarpa plants prefer sunny positions, but can also withstand slightly shady positions, even if poor lighting causes poor flowering. These plants don’t like frost, especially if prolonged, therefore they are cultivated in a place sheltered from wind and frost; in areas with very cold winters it is advisable to cultivate the carissa macrocarpa in pots, so you can move it in cold greenhouse, or in a sheltered place, during the winter.
There are some cultivars that are particularly resistant to cold, which can be grown in the open land even in the regions of northern Italy. These shrubs do not fear the salinity and the sea wind, therefore they can be cultivated also on the coasts.
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As far as the supply of water to the plants of the plum of Natal from March to October is concerned, it is advisable to water only when the soil is well dry; these shrubs bear without problems even prolonged periods of drought. During the winter months water should be provided only sporadically, on days when the temperatures are fairly mild.
Check that there are no dangerous water stagnations on the ground, which could compromise the health of the plant.
In nature, the plum plants of Natal grow in the woods on the coastal dunes and, for this reason, the ideal type of substrate is composed of sandy soils, very well drained, which do not retain moisture. An enemy of the development and health of the plant is, in fact, the formation of stagnations of water that can cause the onset of radical rottenness and cause suffering to the plant.
The propagation of the plants of the plum of Natal takes place by seed or by cutting; varieties with a particular bearing or coloured foliage must be multiplied exclusively by cutting in late spring, using portions of semi-ignified branches, planted in a container to allow the correct rooting and the subsequent transplantation in the final location.
Natal plum – Carissa macrocarpa: Parasites and diseases
The plum of Natal is particularly afraid of the attack of cochineal. When you see the symptoms of a possible attack by parasites and diseases, it is good to intervene promptly with targeted treatments carried out with special products available on the market, so as to effectively counteract the problem.
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