One of Florida’s native plants is the wax myrtle. It’s a small tree, or large shrub that can be grown anywhere in the state. Wax myrtle does well in a moist environment, so it’s excellent for use in poorly drained soils. However, the plant also grows well in drier soils.
In this article we’ll describe some of the uses for wax myrtle, and offer some tips on how you can grow this plant in your landscape. My information was provided by Extension Urban Horticulture Emeritus Dr. Robert Black, of the University of Florida.
Wax Myrtle unisexual, with male and female flowers produced on separate plants. Female flowers grow in close bunches, and produce fruits that are round, light green, and about an eighth of an inch in diameter. These fruits are coated with a thick, bluish wax that may be used in making candles.
One of the unique features of wax myrtle is its fragrance. When the foliage is crushed, Wax Myrtle produces a very pleasant aromatic fragrance known as Bayberry.
A northern relative of Wax Myrtle is the Bayberry tree, which produces larger berries, and is used extensively for making the popular and fragrant Bayberry candles.
Wax Myrtles can reach a height of twenty-five feet. Their leaves are evergreen narrow at the base and broader toward the upper end of the leaves. About midway up the leaf toward the tip coarse teeth appear on the leaf edges.
Wax Myrtles produce suckers, which are small plants that sprout from the roots. These suckers grow into large clumps or clusters, and eventually grow into a very large, dense plant. However, if you remove these suckers from around the main trunk, an attractive, small tree can be produced. The trunk of the Wax Myrtle is grayish white in color, and reminds one of Northern Birch. These trees are used extensively in patio plantings and as landscape screens.
Wax Myrtles can be grown from seeds, cuttings, and simple layering techniques. If you’re growing them from seed, be sure to sow the seed as soon as it matures. Seeds can be started in a mixture of equal parts sand and peat moss.
Another method for propagating Wax Myrtle is to dig established plants during the winter months. Cut the plants back to within a few inches of the ground. Dig out the root clumps and set them in containers.
In a few months, a fairly good-sized plant will grow. A small tree, say 10-12 feet in height, will take a few years to grow, using this method.
Being a native plant, wax myrtle is well suited to Florida’s soil and climate. In fact, this plant is often seen growing along highways, close to roadside ditches, and other uncultivated areas. The plant is cold hardy, salt tolerant, and relatively free of disease and insects.
In summary, Wax Myrtles are among the most desirable plants for use in the Florida landscape. Their leaves give off a pleasant aromatic fragrance of Bayberry, and their waxy fruits can be sued for making candles. The plants thrive in moist, sandy soils, needs very little maintenance and are rarely bothered by insects and diseases.