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Garden Club of Cape Coral | Wax myrtle

By SHERIE BLEILER - Garden Club of Cape Coral | Apr 10, 2024

A wax myrtle tree. PROVIDED

Wax myrtle is an outstanding shrub for a Cape Coral yard, especially if you are close to the Caloosahatchee River. It thrives in sandy, well drained soil and can stand salty conditions along the coast. You may grow it as a small multi-trunked tree, up to 25 feet tall, and watch it gracefully fill out. It is often grown as a hedge, trimmed from 4 feet to 8 feet, depending on the privacy required. It creates a natural barrier while maintaining an attractive evergreen appearance. It is a great size for use under power lines as well as a tough parking lot shrub.

Important to many of us is what it provides to our local habitat. Wax myrtle has great wildlife value. Birds find shelter from predators and are drawn to its waxy berries for food. They are familiar with its usefulness because it occurs throughout their range. Wax myrtle is the larval host plant for caterpillars of the Red-banded Hairstreak butterfly. It is commonly found in our wild areas so it is a great plant to help replace the habitat we have lost due to development.

This low-maintenance shrub requires minimal attention once established. It’s perfect for busy gardeners who want attractive greenery without constant upkeep. They are tolerant of our dry season yet they don’t mind being flooded. They actually prefer a wet environment and will grow better than most shrubs in that low, damp place in your yard.

In fact, I was taking a walk down the shell path in Joe Coviello Park this week in southwest Cape Coral. This is a 50-acre park that residents wanted to keep “natural.” It is a reminder of what the cape looked like before development — relatively low, wet land with tall pine trees, palmetto bushes, wax myrtle and various wild flowers. Here in the shade of the pines, wax myrtle grows tall and airy, not like the dense bushes they become when grown in the sun. At Eco Park (Four Mile Cove Ecological Preserve) many wax myrtle bushes are seen growing in the upland, dry area, in part to full sun.

Wax myrtle (Myrica cerifera) has a huge range, naturally growing along the coast from New Jersey south to Central America. Also called southern bayberry, it has wax coated berries which were boiled down to extract the wax and made into bayberry candles and soaps. The aromatic leaves have been used in herbal medicine. When you rub the leaves, it’s soothing to breathe the pine-like fragrance.

Do you think you could find a space to add a wax myrtle?

If you are interested in buying new plants or taking a class about landscaping in Cape Coral, you may wish to look into these upcoming activities at Rotary Park, 5505 Rose Garden Road, 239-549-4606.

April 12, Friday, 9 a.m. – Design a Florida Friendly Yard.

April 20, Saturday, 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. – Native Plant Sale. Shop from a variety of native trees, shrubs, flowers, grasses, butterfly plants and tropical edibles, too. Plant experts will be on hand to answer questions and help you choose the right plant for the right place.

May 3, Friday, 1 p.m. – Florida Friendly Landscaping.

Sherie Bleiler is a member of the Garden Club of Cape Coral and the Cape Coral Library butterfly garden committee.