Wax myrtle: An evergreen classic

Wax myrtle, also called Southern bayberry, is a native shrub that deserves more attention in landscaping. The narrow, evergreen leaves and fragrant, bluish-white, waxy berries, once a common ingredient of bayberry candles, are winning attributes. Wax myrtle also withstands a range of inhospitable conditions?—?including waterlogged or sandy soils and salt spray. Because of its fast growth, it is popular as privacy screening. Left to its own devices, wax myrtle can reach heights up to 20 feet. It has multiple trunks and is extremely tolerant of pruning, making it a great choice for hedgerows. Wax myrtle is also easily trained into tree form by keeping the lower limbs removed. Many of us are familiar with wax myrtles from seeing the gnarled, bonsai-like shape they assume in maritime forests?—?which can be a charming look in a specimen tree. Typically an eastern Piedmont and coastal plain species, wax myrtle is suitable for growing zones 7–10. It has excellent value for wildlife, providing shelter and food for birds. The yellow-rumped warbler was once commonly called the myrtle warbler due to its fondness for the berries.

Hort shorts

  • When cutting evergreen branches for decorating, use the same care you would when pruning the plant. Avoid making hasty, unattractive cuts.
  • Plant edible and ornamental sweet peas in winter. Seeds will germinate when ground temperatures are cool enough, and seedlings will emerge when conditions are right.

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