A premium native hedge for the right place – cocoplum

a close up image of a plant with small flowers and a fruit forming
Early cocoplum fruit starts to form

When a native plant moves its way into the mainstream nursery trade, that says a lot about how ornamental and successful it can be in your landscape.  The popular cocoplum is a native of South Florida that is a common hedge plant in the warmer parts of Charlotte County.  More plum, than coco, the cocoplum offers a premium evergreen plant that is sure to please.

The cocoplum is definitely a plant better suited to warmers areas of Charlotte County.  Being a plant listed for hardiness zone 10b and south, the cocoplum can be damaged by frosts and freezes where damage to the leaves can occur at twenty-eight degrees F.  I saw this happen several years ago when a large commercial planting was put in and a hard freeze leveled it to the ground in Port Charlotte.  Some of these cocoplums survived as they were protected in a microclimate and actually grew back bigger and better.   I had one cocoplum in Port Charlotte about the same time and it also froze to the ground never to be seen again.  As such, unless you have a protected area, limit the cocoplums use to the immediate coast which better guarantees a moderating climate.  Many sites in Punta Gorda and along through coastal Englewood seem to be appropriate environments.  In addition to being better suited to warmer coastal areas, many cultivars of cocoplum are well adapted to salty conditions.  This adaptation ranges from the cultivar called ‘Horizontal’ with high salt tolerance to ‘Red Tip’ which is less tolerant.  Cocoplum, as a group, is also very wind resistant and does well in coastal conditions.

The rounded to elliptical leaves are shiny dark green above and yellow green below.  New leaves are coppery pink in color and some, notably ‘Red Tip” have reddish new leaves.  Small, greenish-white flowers are followed by plum-like fruit that range in size from three-quarters to over one-inch is length.  The edible fruit is pink, white or purple with a juicy flesh most often sweet with a unique flavor.  The flesh surrounds a relatively large pit.  In addition to fresh-eating, people have made jams and jellies from the fruit.

While the cocoplum could be trained into a small tree as some can grow upwards to fifteen feet tall, it is mostly used as a very dense and attractive hedge.  Easily pruned to shape and size, cocoplum can be trained into one nice formal hedge.  ‘Red Tip’ or ‘Green Tip’ are good choices for hedges.  For groundcover purposes, the cultivar call ‘Horizontal’ is better adapted with slow growth and better salt and drought tolerance.  Rooting at the nodes as it spreads out over the soil surface, this cultivar hugs the ground.

To develop a hedge from cocoplum plants, space the individual specimens anywhere from forty to sixty inches apart on center for best development.  It will take at least a year for the hedge to develop and take form.  Prune to develop this hedge at least once per year.  Remember to prune the hedge so that the top is narrow, and base is wide for best results.

In the correct place, the cocoplum is an excellent and interesting plant well suited to dense, tidy hedges.  For more information on all types of shrubs suitable for our area, you can also call the Master Gardener Volunteer Helpdesk on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 1 to 4 pm at 764-4340 for gardening help and insight into their role as an Extension volunteer.  Ralph E. Mitchell is the Director/Horticulture Agent for UF/IFAS Extension – Charlotte County. He can be reached at 941-764-4344 or ralph.mitchell@charlottecountyfl.gov  .  Connect with us on social media. Like us on Facebook @CharlotteCountyExtension and follow us on Instagram @ifascharco.

Brown, S. H. (2011) Chrysobalanus icaco.  The University of Florida Extension Service, IFAS – Lee County.
Brown, S. H. & Frank, M. S. (2018) Cocoplum (Chrysobalanus icaco L.) Identification and Uses.  The University of Florida Extension Service, IFAS.
Gilman, E. F. (2020) Landscape Plants – Chrysobalanus icaco, Cocoplum.  The University of Florida Extension Service, IFAS.


ralph mitchell
Posted: May 25, 2023

Category: Florida-Friendly Landscaping, Home Landscapes
Tags: Chrysobalanus Icaco, Cocoplum, Hedge

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