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...
Portulaca 'ColorBlast Tangerine'

February 26, 2017

2016 University of Georgia Field Trials Results

Check out the 2016 field trials results for the University Of Georgia trial gardens in Athens, GA.

Read More
University of Wisconsin field trial gardens

February 25, 2017

2016 University of Wisconsin Field Trials Results

Check out the 2016 field trials results for the University of Wisconsin display gardens at the West Madison Agricultural Research Station in Verona, WI.

Read More
Poinsettia 'Christmas Joy Marble'

February 20, 2017

5 New Varieties Shaking Up the Poinsettia Tradition

With poinsettias trending toward non-traditional colors, growers may find new opportunities to spread sales beyond the winter holidays. Here are five of the newest euphorbia varieties to hit the market that may play a role in redefining the future of the poinsettia market.

Read More
Latest Stories
Portulaca 'ColorBlast Tangerine'

February 26, 2017

2016 University of Georgia Field Trials Results

Check out the 2016 field trials results for the University Of Georgia trial gardens in Athens, GA.

Read More
University of Wisconsin field trial gardens

February 25, 2017

2016 University of Wisconsin Field Trials Results

Check out the 2016 field trials results for the University of Wisconsin display gardens at the West Madison Agricultural Research Station in Verona, WI.

Read More
Poinsettia 'Christmas Joy Marble'

February 20, 2017

5 New Varieties Shaking Up the Poinsettia Tradition

With poinsettias trending toward non-traditional colors, growers may find new opportunities to spread sales beyond the winter holidays. Here are five of the newest euphorbia varieties to hit the market that may play a role in redefining the future of the poinsettia market.

Read More
University of Tennessee trials overview (2015 University of Tennessee Field Trials)

February 19, 2017

2016 University of Tennessee Field Trials Results

Check out the 2016 field trials results for the University of Tennessee Gardens in Knoxville and Jackson, TN.

Read More
Reiman Gardens field trials

February 18, 2017

2016 Iowa State University Field Trials Results

Check out the 2016 field trials results for Reiman Gardens at Iowa State University in Ames, IA.

Read More
Syngenta Obsession Cascade

February 15, 2017

Syngenta Introduces Two New Flower Series for 2017

‘Sunfinity’ Sunflower produces multiple branches with numerous flowers that bloom all season long, while ‘Obsession Cascade’ Verbena quickly fills containers with vibrant flower patterns.

Read More
Euphorbia 'Gold Rush'

February 8, 2017

5 Ways to Tie Poinsettias to Lifestyle Trends for Incre…

With poinsettia planning upon us, here are a few ideas to incorporate them into upcoming lifestyle and home décor trends to help increase sales.

Read More
Table setting with begonias for decoration

February 7, 2017

Seasonal Plant Trends for 2017 and Beyond

Aligning your plant sales with popular lifestyle and home décor movements will engage your customers and multiply your profits.

Read More

February 7, 2017

Costa Farms’ Season Premier Presents a First Look at Ne…

The annual event brings breeders, growers, and retailers together to compare new plant varieties and evaluate their performance. Here's a look at some of the new varieties featured in the trial gardens.

Read More
Grateful Heart Rose feature

February 5, 2017

Flower Breeders Making Donations for Heart Disease and …

Companies such as Jackson & Perkins and Proven Winners ColorChoice Shrubs are donating portions of their sales to groups such as the American Heart Association and the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

Read More
Tyler Beasley

February 1, 2017

Allan Armitage California Spring Trials Scholarship Win…

Beasley, a junior at Oregon State University’s Ecampus who also manages a local community college greenhouse, will join Armitage and a team of Greenhouse Grower editors in attending and reporting on the 2017 California Spring Trials.

Read More
IPM Essen Plant Innovations Winners

January 31, 2017

Top New Plants Recognized at IPM Essen in Germany

Winners were announced in several categories in the Innovations Showcase, from flowering houseplants to cut flowers.

Read More
Allan Armitage San Marzano tomato plant feature

January 25, 2017

Allan Armitage Describes Veggies, Shade Plants, and Cli…

Here's a look at plants that could help you with successful growing in 2017.

Read More
Hibiscus Hollywood Gossip Queen

January 24, 2017

29 New Flowering and Foliage Plants from TPIE 2017

The Tropical Plant Industry Exhibition (TPIE) was the place to be Jan. 18-20 to catch a peek at some of the new plant introductions making their first appearance on the market.

Read More
Quick Plug

January 24, 2017

Dümmen Orange Acquires Quick Plug, a Cutting Compost Su…

Quick Plug technology is designed to open up opportunities for automation and robotization of several product groups and add quality to rooted products.

Read More
EPCOT Suntory Princettia Euphorbia

January 23, 2017

Princettia Euphorbias Charm Vacationers at Disney Resor…

Suntory’s Princettia euphorbias have brought a new color palette to the holiday landscapes at Walt Disney World’s resorts and theme parks in central Florida.

Read More
Youngs Plant Farm Trial Garden feature

January 21, 2017

Don’t Miss the Southern Garden Tour This June

Growers, retailers, and all industry professionals are invited to the 2017 Southern Garden Tour, which is hosted by Young’s Plant Farms, Sakata, and Metrolina Greenhouses, and will be held June 6-8.

Read More
Gaillardia 'Mesa Red'

January 21, 2017

2016 Pike Creek Horticulture Center Field Trials Result…

Check out the 2016 field trials results for The Pike Creek Horticulture Center in Kenosha, WI.

Read More