Monterey Bay Brush Cherry

ttingleyJuly 8, 2009

I planted 2 Moneterey Bay Brush Cherry bushes last year in anticipation that they would grow tall and wide to give us privacy from my neighbor's new balcony.

We planted them about 10 feet apart.

The one on the left keeps growing tall but does not thicken. The one on the right does not seem to grow at all.

Any ideas?

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hoovb zone 9 sunset 23

Decide how tall you want them, and then when they reach that height, start topping them. They will then widen out.

Try a deep watering, a slow soaking, on the one that isn't growing and see if that helps...but they tend to grow most in spring and fall, rather than in the heat of summer.

I fertilize mine in March or April and they respond well to that. Mine are 4' apart. If you need a faster screen plant a couple more in between. I love mine. They're so beautiful.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2009 at 8:28PM
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benboy620(10B)

I'm considering this tree for privacy screen in backyard. I have an L-shaped area, with the western side up against my neighbor's garage and the northern side against a block wall. There are Oleanders behind the wall on that neighbor's side, but no one has lived there for awhile and they are not being watered and dying out, so only a matter of time before I can see right over the 6 ft wall into their yard. I've investigated the usual suspects - Ficus Nitida and Wax Privet. Both seem somewhat problematic as I am building a short (21 inch high) paver block wall in front of where the trees will be and the root system of the Ficus is an issue, I suppose, with that footing, as well as the footing for the existing block wall, and the footing for my neighbor's garage. The Wax privet sound great, but I've heard the blooms smell terrible, and are poisonous to dogs and kids!

That leads me to Brush Cherry, which l haven't seen much. They are kind of expensive - 5 gallon, 5-ft size at Green Arrow in the North San Fernando Valley (LA) near me, is $36.99. Any negatives about this tree? Fast grower, nice green leaves (nothing can beat Ficus in this regard), pest-free, non-poisonous?

I will be doing about 14 trees 3-4 ft apart.

    Bookmark   October 24, 2013 at 5:07PM
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hoovb zone 9 sunset 23

The Brush Cherry (Eugenia myrtifolia 'Monterey Bay' aka Syzygium australe 'Monterey Bay') used to be THE screening shrub for so cal, until the Eugenia psyllid invaded in 1988 The psyllid damages the foliage significantly. The state has released a minute parasitic wasp (doesn't bother humans) to control the psyllid, so the problem is not as bad as it used to be. Some areas seem to be having more success with the parasitic wasps than other areas. I get some mild damage, not bad enough to interfere with the screening ability. I think they make a great screen. The fruits are edible, but have little or no flavor.

The Ficus roots are scary.

The Ligustrum does have flowers that can smell bad, but if you trim your screen just as the plants bloom you can cut off 95% of the flowers, and if you are not that close, the fragrance is not overly noticeable.

There is a lot of demand for narrow screen plants in our area. There's a narrow tallish boxwood, a couple of denser more narrow forms of Pittosporum tenuifolium, a newish conical holly, all attempts to replace the Brush Cherry. They all have their pluses and minuses.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2013 at 7:53PM
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hoosierquilt USDA 10A Sunset 23 Vista CA

I have a bunch of these in my yard. Hoovb is correct, just start topping and shaping. Fertilize to encourage growth. I have a very, VERY large screen that we have to used scaffolds to top, now, along with about 6 tall pillars in the back we need a very tall ladder to get to, to top. I some affectation from the psyllid, but not too bad. The birds like the fruit. I also have several different Pittosporum tenuifolium cultivars, but they are lacier and less dense. If you're looking for a real screen, the Brush Cherry is a better choice. Oleanders aren't really a great choice for a lot of reasons - extremely poisonous (although I have plenty of them as well on my property), but more importantly, Oleander Leaf Scorch, which is untreatable and eventually fatal.


In need of trimming up


Two of the columnar Brush Cherries up against the house (you can see the bark scattered on our paver walkway from the Towhees scratching for bugs).


And, the third columnar Brush Cherry against the back of the house. You can see how tall they get. Our second story windows are quite a ways up, as we have 10' ceilings downstairs.

These are just a few of the Brush Cherries in our yard. Have several more out front that are topiaries as well.

Patty S.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2013 at 8:20PM
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benboy620(10B)

Thanks for the great info Hoosierquilt and hoovb - couple of follow-ups. Not considering Oleanders at all as those are behind my property and currently act as screens and are dying out.

The brush cherry looks really narrow and tall in your photos. Do they fluff out if left untamed for a bit, as I was hoping for about a 4-5 ft spread between trees that would lace together into a screen. I tasted the cherry fruit at the nursery yesterday - a tad sour.

Do you know which of the three - ficus, brush cherry, or wax privet will get to 10 ft the fastest if I start with 5 gallon (4-5ft plantings)?

Finally, does Ficus have any blooms, berries, droppings or anything to worry about severe clean-up? I must say I am partial to the Ficus leaves, but the nursery said even if I sleeve with plastic and go for deep watering, the roots will still wreak havoc at the surface (eventually) (:

    Bookmark   October 25, 2013 at 8:31PM
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benboy620(10B)

And one more question - no root issues with cherry or wax privet? I've got about 3 ft from garage/block wall to the paver stone footings

    Bookmark   October 25, 2013 at 8:36PM
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hoovb zone 9 sunset 23

If you only have 3' to garage/block wall DON'T plant Ficus.

That said, the Ficus will be fastest, the Syzygium second, but not that much slower than the Ficus, the Ligustrum third. The ficus drops berries as they mature, though if you are trimming them regularly you won't see much of that. All plants drop foliage, even evergreens.

Syzygium and Ligustrum are considered to be safe around pavement, but always water correctly. The Syzygium can absolutely get 5' wide (actually a lot wider than that), but it takes a few years. What they do is grow tall first, then widen out. You pick your height, top at that point, then they start to grow outwards.

Your garden looks really pretty, H!

    Bookmark   October 30, 2013 at 6:32PM
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benboy620(10B)

Thanks hoovb. I am going to go for the Syzygiums as you suggested. I was thinking the small red cheeries will drop off and stain my new concrete paver wall just below them, but the birds may take care of that for me, it sounds like : )

questions on planting - do I need deep root watering when they first go in? I have a drip system set up where they will be going in that I can run for awhile (30 min per day or more for first few weeks) but wondering if I need to supplement by hose? rain should be coming soon to my area (San Fernando Valley north of LA) so I was hoping that might save me some watering costs if I can get them in the ground in the next month. was going to use half organic soil with nutrients and half native soil with a little general fertilizer when I plant the root ball.

been seeing more around town and have come to really like their look when they are left more free and loose, rather than topiary style.

    Bookmark   October 31, 2013 at 2:53PM
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hoosierquilt USDA 10A Sunset 23 Vista CA

Hoovb is right with regard to ficus. NOT a fan at ALL of ficus, the roots are awful, can lift sidewalks, crack house foundations, etc. My brush cherries up against the house are trimmed to stay narrow, we keep them that way, but yes, they are a little more narrow in their growth habit, so I would plant them about 4 to 6' apart (see my screen on the side of the patio - they touch each other are create a very dense screen and are planted about 6' apart). And, what Hoovb said about how to fill in a hedge would also apply to Brush Cherry. That's exactly what we do - top then hedge for symmetry. They grow quickly and fill quickly once established and are not fussy. The birds love them, they are filled with lovely bird nests, mostly finches and song sparrows, who eat the berries as well. The bees and butterflies like the blossoms, so it supports my ecosystem in my yard very nicely, plus gives us a great privacy screen. What you can't see in the photo, due to the screen, is my neighbor's house beyond the screen, way up on the hillside. And, what's on the other side of that patio is our pool. So, we can swim in the pool and the neighbor can't see us in the pool. In fact, funny story: When we were looking to buy the house, the owners of the home told us that they purposefully planted the screen so they could skinny dip in their pool (clearly a case of TMI at the time, but now it's kind of funny!) And thank you very much. Just trying to keep up with Hoovb and Hosenemesis, lol!! Renee, I thought of you the other day, when I nearly did a face-plant into the gravel over in my Parterre garden, after tripping on the Go#%*&@# hose.

Patty S.

    Bookmark   October 31, 2013 at 2:58PM
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calistoga_al

No one has mentioned this is a very tender plant. When I lived in Watsonville on the Monterey Bay the town was full of hedges gracing the front yards. In December 1990 the temperature got down to 14 degrees one night, and all those mature hedges were killed. A wonderful plant but not dependable below about 25 degrees. We grew the Ligustrums as a tree making a screen above our six foot back fence. The roots were so close to the surface and so fibrous we could not find anything able to grow under them. They were also incredibly messy, Al

    Bookmark   November 1, 2013 at 10:11AM
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benboy620(10B)

Thanks Calistoga - are you referring to the Syzygiums as being not very hardy or the Ligustrums? I saw some Syzgiums near my house and they were full of cherries, and the sidewalk just beyond the fence they were growing behind was stained like crazy! Not too keen on that but I think if I trim when blooms appear I can avoid excessive cherry dropping on my paver stones, which will be right under the length of the tree screen.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2013 at 12:58AM
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calistoga_al

Sorry for the possible confusion, it is the Syzgiums commonly called Brush Cherry that is tender. Al

    Bookmark   November 3, 2013 at 9:17AM
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hoosierquilt USDA 10A Sunset 23 Vista CA

Al, we had temps sustained in the mid twenties this last winter for at least 5 days in a row, which was very unusual for us. My poor citrus suffered, lost my papayas, my mangos, most of my more exposed Foxtail Agaves got burnt, pretty tough winter. But, all my Brush Cherries did just fine. Zero damage. Some are right up against the house, which of course helped, but others were not, and out in the open. Zero damage. But, worth considering if you're in an area that might routinely have sustained temps below 25 degrees.

Patty S.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2013 at 4:27PM
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benboy620(10B)

We are in San Fernando Valley, just north of L.A., which is similar to Vista (Hoosierquilt). Rarely gets below freezing and when it does, all heck breaks loose, particularly on the citrus and more tropical plants. My neighbor thought she lost her Plumeria during that bad freeze several years back but the tree recovered and is doing better than ever :)

I definitely can save money going with Glossy Privet over the brush cherry, but speed of growth is important and I'm nervous about the smell from the Privet blooms that everyone complains about, vs. staining and mess from small cherries. tough call

I'm also going to mix in a few fruit trees at intersection points (both ends and where the block wall fence 90-degrees from neighbor's garage) with the privacy trees, so maybe the more upright grower for privacy screen the better, which would lend more toward cherry. can't decide, but at least I've been able to knock the ficus out of the running...

    Bookmark   November 4, 2013 at 4:59PM
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