A Great Group Of Plants: Pigeon Berries, a.k.a. Duranta erecta

In 1995, I was wandering around on my bicycle in Perth, Western Australia, when I spied a 15- to 20-foot-tall shrub/tree magnificently laden with beautiful lilac-blue flowers. After checking with the locals, I was told it was a sky flower, otherwise known as duranta. It was a weed in many parts of Australia, but did not appear to be so in Perth. I stayed in Perth throughout the summer but left before the golden berries had ripened. I can’t imagine what a sight that must have been. However, I brought one back to Athens with me. It only grows to about 6 feet tall, not only in the summer with its fine foliage and handsome flowers, but then later in the fall when the fruit ripens. It is one of the finest plants in the gardens at UGA. The flowers are fragrant and the butterflies adore them. The flowers and fruit are responsible for the common names of Sky Flower, Golden Dewdrop and Pigeon Berry. The genus duranta is a group of approximately 20 species of shrubs and small trees native from southern Florida to Mexico and South America. The genus honors the 15th century Italian botanist and papal physician, Castore Durantes. The plant I brought back is thornless and completely hardy to zone 7b, at least.

Some Cultivars

I have since trialed some handsome variegated forms (‘Variegata,’ ‘Gold Edge’) which seldom flower but are excellent for the handsome foliage. They should be placed in some afternoon shade once they leave the greenhouse. A white-flowered form (‘Alba’) is, in truth, a poor plant compared to the lilac-flowered forms. Recently, other flowering cultivars have appeared. ‘Sapphire Showers’ has blue and white flowers and is beautiful but can be quite gangly. ‘Geisha Girl’ appears to be fairly similar. All cultivars should be considered annuals in most of the country. As interesting as all these are, they have a couple of drawbacks. Most are big and rather unwieldy and most have very sharp thorns. 

The Best Of All

About six years ago, Dennis Schrader, an extraordinary plantsman and owner of Landscape Environmentals on Long Island, N.Y., showed me a most wonderful plant. It was only about 2 feet tall and completely golden. He called it ‘Cuban Gold.’ I was stunned with its beauty and habit. Of course, that was Long Island and I wanted to put it to the true test. I took some cuttings back to Georgia and discovered that even in our summer heat, it stayed dwarf and remained golden throughout the summer. Since that time, ‘Cuban Gold’ has been on our “best plants” list and performed so well, we included it as part of our Athens Select group of plants for heat and humidity. It is available through most reputable brokers. 

In The Greenhouse

Plant cuttings in 4-inch to 1-gallon containers in full winter sun. Apply 100 ppm N constant liquid feed. ‘Cuban Gold’ needs no growth regulators, but others benefit from a 1,500 ppm application of B-Nine or other PGRs. From a rooted plug, expect about 7 to 12 weeks at 65ºF, depending on container size. I have seldom seen an insect or pathogen in all the years I have been growing it, but whiteflies have been reported to be a problem.

In the Landscape

‘Cuban Gold’ is a perfect plant for edging and is wonderful in mixed containers with cascading blue torenia. If it gets a little too tall, just cut it back. The variegated forms are useful for the front of the garden and in containers, as well. The other forms take considerable space but are excellent garden plants if room is available. 

Unfortunately, plants don’t flower, but the good looking foliage makes up for it. There are a few thorns, but they are mostly at the base of the plant, so seldom will be a problem. There are many reasons to include these plants in your garden. However, if your clients struggle with deer, this may not be the plant for them.

Leave a Reply

2 comments on “A Great Group Of Plants: Pigeon Berries, a.k.a. Duranta erecta

  1. I am a landscape designer in Jacksonville, Florida and have grown to adore the duranta cuban gold and have used it in many of my clients landscapes. We have just had 3 nights of very unusually cold weather and covered the plants with frost cloth. I am wondering if some have been nicked by the cold still does this plant come back? Do I need to fertilize with anything special to help it along?
    Many thanks!

  2. I am a landscape designer in Jacksonville, Florida and have grown to adore the duranta cuban gold and have used it in many of my clients landscapes. We have just had 3 nights of very unusually cold weather and covered the plants with frost cloth. I am wondering if some have been nicked by the cold still does this plant come back? Do I need to fertilize with anything special to help it along?
    Many thanks!

More From Varieties...
Miscanthus-Bandwidth EmeraldCoastGrowers

May 11, 2018

New Sterile Ornamental Grasses One Solution to Grass Invasion

Aggressive grass species can turn gardeners off to using ornamental grasses. Less fertile alternatives offer options for keeping grasses from taking over the garden.

Read More

May 10, 2018

Beekenkamp Plants Acquires Sunny Osteospermum Breeding Program

Beekenkamp took over all Sunny Holland sales activities in 2017, and now has ownership of the company’s entire breeding program.

Read More
Stokesia-Divinity-1-feature

May 6, 2018

Growing Tips From an Expert for Stokesia ‘Divinity’

'Divinity’ has large, white flowers that open with a hint of yellow in the center and then mature to a pure, long-lasting white.

Read More
Latest Stories
Miscanthus-Bandwidth EmeraldCoastGrowers

May 11, 2018

New Sterile Ornamental Grasses One Solution to Grass In…

Aggressive grass species can turn gardeners off to using ornamental grasses. Less fertile alternatives offer options for keeping grasses from taking over the garden.

Read More

May 10, 2018

Beekenkamp Plants Acquires Sunny Osteospermum Breeding …

Beekenkamp took over all Sunny Holland sales activities in 2017, and now has ownership of the company’s entire breeding program.

Read More
Stokesia-Divinity-1-feature

May 6, 2018

Growing Tips From an Expert for Stokesia ‘Divinit…

'Divinity’ has large, white flowers that open with a hint of yellow in the center and then mature to a pure, long-lasting white.

Read More
Panicum-Northwind-feature

May 4, 2018

Allan Armitage: Three Ways to Market Grasses as Great O…

I don’t expect my friends to know the difference between switchgrass and grama grass, yet I always try to do my best to enhance the visibility of these grasses.

Read More
Bailey-Nurseries-Tree-Art-at-US-Capitol

May 1, 2018

Bailey Nurseries Fills U.S. Capitol Front Lawn With Tre…

A 150-foot tree art installation was constructed on the front lawn of the U.S. Capitol Building to promote the planting of trees in an effort to combat climate, change while creating meaningful experiences that bring nature into people’s every day lives.

Read More
Carex-and-Onoclea

April 28, 2018

Kelly Norris: Why the Plant Experience Really Matters W…

For Millennials and other new gardeners, the features of plants such as natives aren’t terribly important. It's the benefits that are paramount.

Read More
Zinfin-Doll-Hydrangea

April 25, 2018

March Was a Month of Awards for Spring Meadow Nursery, …

After taking home a best new variety award at a Belgian horticulture event, Proven Winners held its always-popular Shrub Madness tournament to coincide with the annual NCAA Championship.

Read More

April 25, 2018

Armitage Scholar’s Final Thoughts on the People a…

"This trip solidified my desire to breed plants. Every time I was able to have a discussion about plant traits, genetics, and germplasm, I felt a thrill of excitement."

Read More
Gomphrena Truffula Pink (Proven Winners)

April 24, 2018

Armitage Talks Favorites From Danziger and Proven Winne…

From annuals that look like they came out of a Dr. Seuss book to breeding marvels in perennials and shrubs, the visits to Danziger and Proven Winners at California Spring Trials were exciting, to be sure. Here are some of Dr. A's favorites.

Read More

April 24, 2018

Proven Winners Reveals Marketing Efforts for 2018-2019 …

For the first time, the brand has generated one billion consumer impressions, and plans to keep that momentum going with a number of ambitious programs.

Read More

April 24, 2018

California Spring Trials 2018: New Plant Intros from Pr…

Check out the newest 2018 plant introductions from Proven Winners and Danziger.

Read More

April 20, 2018

California Dreaming Takes on a Whole New Meaning at CAS…

At California Spring Trials 2018, the Greenhouse Grower team witnessed the revitalization of a company, plus some awesome merchandising displays, and efforts toward automation.

Read More

April 19, 2018

California Spring Trials 2018: New Intros from Syngenta…

Check out the newest 2018 plant introductions from Syngenta Flowers, Hishtil, Jaldety, Cohen Propagators, Nir Nursery, Bailey Nurseries, and Sunset Western/Southern Living Plants.

Read More

April 19, 2018

CAST 2018: Dr. A’s Favorites From Syngenta Flowers, Bai…

From an exciting perennial to a new white begonia, Allan Armitage says these showstoppers deserve recognition.

Read More
GG-and-Benary-Team

April 19, 2018

Spring Trials Rookie Inspired by Connections

The Allan Armitage Scholarship recipient has added a number of industry connections during his time at California Spring Trials, and discusses what that means to him and his career.

Read More
Benary 2018

April 18, 2018

At CAST 2018, Sakata Captures Consumer Attention Spans,…

More than halfway through the California Spring Trials, the Greenhouse Grower team had a busy but fantastic day seeing dozens of our friends at American Takii and Benary, and spending time talking about the industry's past and its bright future.

Read More

April 18, 2018

California Spring Trials 2018: New Varieties to Watch F…

Check out the newest 2018 plant introductions from American Takii, Hilverdakooijj, Hem Genetics, Thompson & Morgan, Sakata Ornamentals, and Ernst Benary of America.

Read More

April 18, 2018

How the Horticulture Industry’s Past Shaped Its P…

Andrew Scheldorf, the winner of Dr. Allan Armitage’s California Spring Trials Scholarship, says the stories of plant origins help ground our industry to the people and places that have changed us.

Read More