It’s the cheerful, orange-red winter berries that make this easy-to-care-for plant so special, and indoors or out they add a great bit of winter interest.
It’s also called the Jerusalem Cherry, Christmas Cherry, Madeira Cherry, Cleveland Cherry, and Coral Bush.
Though probably not so in keeping with the current taste in restrained-pallet modern gardens, I think these hardy little shrubs are a great addition to any garden in milder parts of the UK, and can also be grown in pots for indoor / outdoor, long-lasting (2-3 months) displays of colour.
These small, evergreen, perennial shrubs have glossy small leaves, and the plant can be pruned into shape to keep it compact. However – this can only be done after the berries have gone, and before the little, white, citrus like flowers come out mid summer – if you cut off the flowers, you get no berries!
One usually buys the plants when they are in berry in late autumn / winter, and the berries will last until Feb-March. Berries are about 1cm, round, and shiny. They are really quite cheap to buy – I get mine at Columbia Road Flower Market for a £1 each, and the plants are 30 cm tall and in berry.
I use these in several ways, and treat them as disposable annuals and as perennials - indoors as a winter ‘bouquet’, as winter bedding plants, and as shrubbery. They look great in all forms, and because they are cheap, you don’t have to feel so bad if you get rid of a few come summer. They fit in well in more formal settings, but can also look good naturalized in a mixed border.
Plant out the plants either before first frosts, or after last frosts. If you kept them inside, allow them to acclimatize to the could outside before planting for a week or so.
I’ve had some in the ground now, in light shade, and they seem to be ok with lower light levels, though its best to give them as much sun as you can, they will flower more, and give you more berries. They like a reasonable soil, an average amount of water (if the soil feels dry 2 cm down, it needs water), and reasonable care – it really is an easy-going plant!
They will grow to be 45-50 cm high and about the same outwards. They can self-seed, at least in London.
Warning: these plants, and berries are poisonous if eaten – be careful if you have kids around!
- Allow pods to dry on plant; break open to collect seeds
- Allow seed heads to dry on plants; remove and collect seeds
- Remove fleshy coating on seeds before storing
- Properly cleaned, seed can be successfully stored
- From seed; sow indoors before last frost
- From seed; direct sow after last frost
- From seed; germinate in a damp paper towel