Growing Coral Berry Plants: How To Care For Ardisia Crenata

Ardisia crenata (ar-DIS-ee-ah kre-NAY-tah) is a compact evergreen shrub belonging to the genus Ardisia and from the primrose family, Primulaceae. 

The genus name Ardisia is derived from the Greek word Ardis, which means “point” or “arrowhead”, referencing the pointed or spear-tipped anthers of the shrub’s flowers.

Compact Ardisia CrenataPin

The species name (epithet), Crenata, comes from Crenatus, a Latin word (feminine form) that means “with blunt teeth” that references the shrub’s leaf margins. 

This broadleaf evergreen is native to the tropical regions of Eastern and Southeast Asia (Japan, China, Taiwan, Korea, and Philippines) and Northeast India. It’s typically found and is most abundant in forests, valleys, hillsides, and shrubby areas. 

Ardisia crenata is a showy evergreen shrub well-known for its clusters of star-shaped white to pale pink flowers, glossy dark green foliage, and bright coral red berries.

In the 1900s, the Ardisia crenata was introduced as an ornamental species in Florida.

In 1995, it was later identified as an invasive species when this plant escaped into the wild and became intrusive in regions of Florida, Alabama, and Georgia. 

Ardisia crenata is known by various names, such as:

  • Australian Holly
  • Coral Ardisia
  • Christmas Berry
  • Coral Berry
  • Coralberry Tree
  • Coral Bush
  • Hen’s-eyes
  • Scratch Throat
  • Spiceberry

In addition, its bright red berries appear during Christmas time, hence gaining its common name, Christmas berry. 

The Ardisia crenata is widely cultivated as an ornamental plant in the horticulture industry and often marketed during holidays.

The two most popular Ardisia crenata cultivars are:

  • ‘Alba’ – white berries
  • ‘Pink Pearls’ – bright pink berries

Quick Facts On Ardisia Crenata

  • Family: Primulaceae
  • Light: Bright, indirect sunlight
  • Temperature: 60° to 85° degrees Fahrenheit
  • Water: Evenly moist, well-drained soil
  • Fertilizer: Balanced (10-10-10) fertilizer
  • Propagation: Seeds, air layering, or stem cuttings
  • Common Problems: Aphids, Mealybugs, and Spider Mites

Ardisia Crenara Care

How Big Does Ardisia Crenata Grow?

Ardisia crenata is a slow-growing upright evergreen shrub that grows from  4′ to 6′ feet tall in its native tropical habitat, spreading roughly 1′ to 4′ feet wide.

However, this shrub may only reach about 3′ feet, only half its average size, when grown indoors in a container.

The Ardisia crenata plant reaches maturity in 5 to 10 years.

When Does Ardisia Crenata Flower? Are The Flowers Fragrant?

The leaves of Ardisia crenata are dark green, glossy, and have a leathery or waxy feel. 

The broadleaf evergreen foliage is alternate with tightly waved edges, commonly measuring from 4″ to 8″ inches long and 1″ to 3″ inches wide. 

In the spring or early summer, the Ardisia crenata produces a cluster of white or pale pink star-shaped flowers joined at the tips or base of the stems that continue to flower from May to June.

After flowering, the blooms are followed by clumps of glossy rounded berries as large as peas, held on dark grey stalks. 

The shiny berries start green and gradually change into a bright coral red color from September to December.

They also remain on the shrub in the winter until the Ardisia crenata blooms again in the next flowering season. 

The flowering season of Ardisia crenata begins from late spring to early summer, exuding a delicate sweet fragrance. 

What Are The Lighting Needs And Temperature Requirements?

Ardisia Crenata thrives in bright, indirect light or partial shade with only about 2 to 6 hours of direct sunlight daily when grown indoors. 

Be careful not to expose this evergreen shrub to full or direct sun and excessive heat because it may cause the leaves to burn or turn yellow and the berries to shrink. 

It’s also best placed near south-facing windows if planted indoors. 

Ardisia crenata grows best at a temperature around 60° to 85° degrees Fahrenheit and can handle a temperature of 45° degrees Fahrenheit in winter.

Any temperature lower than 45° degrees Fahrenheit will damage the shrub and inhibit fruit production, so keep it away from cold drafts.

Ardisia crenata also appreciates moderate to high humidity (25% to 60% percent), but average house humidity is also recommended. 

You may mist the leaves during the summer months to improve the humidity. 

In addition, this tropical evergreen shrub grows best in USDA Plant Hardiness Zone 8b, 9b, 9a, 10b, and 10a. 

How And When To Water And Fertilize Ardisia Crenata?

Keep the soil evenly moist during the growing season, but be careful not to make it soggy or keep the Ardisia crenata in standing water as it can lead to root rot. 

You may also check how quickly the soil becomes dry and adjust your watering schedule according to how fast it dries. 

Avoid misting the plant during the blooming season and reduce watering during winter to make the berries last longer.

In addition, feed your Ardisia crenata every 2 weeks during the growing season (from early spring to summer) with a balanced 10-10-10 fertilizer, and cut down the feeding in winter. 

What Is The Best Soil For Ardisia Crenata, And When Should You Transplant?

Ardisia crenata thrives in rich, well-draining soil with high organic matter like peat moss. This evergreen shrub grows well in soils with a texture of sand, clay, and loam (silt).

It also prefers slightly acidic soil with a pH level ranging from 6.0 to 8.0. 

If planted indoors or in containers, you may amend the soil using peat moss, rich worm casting, or coconut coir. 

Ardisia crenata also needs repotting in the early spring when it becomes potbound. 

Follow these steps:

  • Get a pot or container larger than the previous one
  • Put a potting soil mix amended with little sand and compost.
  • Make sure the container or pot has appropriate drainage holes.
  • Remove the shrub from the current pot, gently shaking and loosening the roots with your fingertips.
  • Repot the plant into the new container.
  • Water appropriately.

Does Ardisia Crenata Need Special Grooming Or Maintenance?

Ardisia crenata is a low-maintenance plant that needs pruning during spring before the shrub’s flowers begin budding. 

Pruning it will maintain the shrub at an appropriate size and keep the rounded shape of the foliage. 

It would be best if you also pinched the tips of the young plants lightly to stimulate the bushiness of the shrub. 

How To Propagate Christmas Berry?

Christmas berry can be propagated via three methods:

  • Seeds 
  • Stem cuttings
  • Air layering

For seed propagation, you may sow the seeds as the skin of the berries break down and plant them in propagating soil or peat cubes.

It’s also best to keep the temperature at about 55° to 70° degrees Fahrenheit for the seeds to germinate well.

For the stem cuttings, follow these steps:

  • Cut about 6″ to 8″ inches of semi-hard lead shoots or young segments with sterilized pruning shears in the summer.
  • Remove the leaves but leave some at the top.
  • You may either plant stem cuttings or set them in a glass of water.

If you’re going to use the air layering method, follow these steps:

  • Peel the bark away from the middle area of the shrub’s branch.
  • You may also create a simple cut but insert a toothpick to keep the wounded part from closing.
  • Wrap the moist sphagnum moss around the wound.
  • Cover the area with plastic wrap and secure with plant twine to conserve moisture. 

Coral Berry Pests And Disease Problems

Coral berries are generally problem-free plants, but they may encounter common pests such as:

  • Mealybugs
  • Spider mites
  • Scale insects
  • Aphids
  • Whiteflies

Keep an eye out by inspecting your coral berry regularly. You may look at the leaves, stems, and buds. 

If you notice any infestation, take immediate action by removing affected leaves and spraying with insecticides.

Another common disease of coral berries is fungal root rot, which occurs when waterlogged.

Make sure your soil is moist but not too wet to prevent root rot. 

Uses Of Coral Berry

Coral berries are lovely evergreen shrubs widely cultivated as garden ornamentals, making them excellent ground cover plants.

They also make excellent houseplants when grown indoors or in containers. 

Coral berries are also great for landscape as an accent or hedge in flowerbeds because of their delicate flowers and bright red berries.