In its natural habitat on the coasts of South and Central America, coccoloba grows in almost pure sand. It is a shrubby plant whose leathery, circular to kidney-shaped leaves with red veins turn to ivory with age.
The long trusses of white flowers, which are reluctant to form in room conditions, are followed by purple-red fruits 3/4in/2cm long; these resemble grapes and give the plant its common name.
In the wild, the leaves become so large that local people use them as picnic plates, and the fruits are used to make a jelly.
Because its leaves are leathery, this plant tolerates dry air fairly well and so is a good plant for heated houses.
ORIGIN Tropical America; West Indies.
HEIGHT To 6ft/1.8m indoors; 20ft/6m in its natural habitat.
POTTING MIX Soil-based with added peat moss.
REPOTTING Move into a pot one size larger each spring. Once an 8-in/20-cm pot has been reached, top-dress instead.
PROPAGATION Take half-ripe tip cuttings in summer; sow seed in spring, or layer at any time of year.
KEEPING PLANTS Cut back just before the plant starts into growth in spring, to encourage branching. Discard after 3 or 4 years; young specimens are more attractive than older ones.
COCCOLOBA UVIFERA PLANT CARE
- Good light but avoid direct sun.
- Minimum winter temperature of 60°F/16°C, with normal room temperature at other times.
- Keep the soil moderately moist at all times.
- Maintain a humid atmosphere by standing the pot on a tray of damp pebbles and misting the plant occasionally.
- Apply a weak liquid fertilizer every 2 weeks from spring to fall.