What Is A Panama Berry: Caring For Panama Berry Trees

What Is A Panama Berry: Caring For Panama Berry Trees

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By: Bonnie L. Grant, Certified Urban Agriculturist

Tropical plants provide endless novelties in the landscape. Panama berry trees (Muntingia calabura) are one of these unique beauties that not only provide shade but sweet, tasty fruits. What is a Panama berry? The plant has numerous indigenous names but for our purposes, it is a fruiting tree of tropical America. It has been nicknamed variously as Chinese cherry, strawberry tree and Jamaican cherry. Further Panama berry plant info can introduce you to this fabulous exotic plant and its delightful fruits.

Panama Berry Plant Info

Fruit of the Old World Americas are often brought into the warmer regions of the New World and such is the case with Jamaican cherry trees. While the plant is indigenous to warm areas of Central and South America, it has been introduced to other tropical climes such as Florida, Hawaii, and farther afield, the Philippines and India. It has a lovely hibiscus-looking bloom and produces musky, fig noted fruits.

This may be your first introduction to Panama berry trees, which can grow 25 to 40 feet (7.5 to 12 m.) in height with large 2- to 5-inch (5 to 12 cm.) lance-shaped, evergreen leaves. The extraordinary flowers grow up to ¾ inches (2 cm.) across and are creamy white with prominent bright gold stamen. The flowers last for just one day.

Fruits are prolific ½ inch (1.25 cm.) round and green, ripening to red. They actually resemble tiny pomegranates when mature. The flavor is said to be very sweet and good fresh or made into jams or added to baked goods. Fruits are often sold in Mexican markets where they are called capolin.

Uses for Jamaican Cherry Trees

This tall tree would look at home in a tropical landscape. It provides shade, animal habitat and food. As an ornamental specimen, the exotic blooms alone create quite a show. The fruits dangle like Christmas ornaments on the plant, tempting birds and humans alike.

In very warm regions, the tree flowers and fruits year around, but in areas such as Florida, this is interrupted by several months of winter. Fruits fall easily when ripe and may be collected by laying a sheet under the tree and shaking the branches.

These make excellent tarts and jams or can be squeezed for a refreshing drink. An infusion of the leaves also makes a nice tea. In Brazil, the trees are planted over river banks. The dropping fruits attract fish which are easily scooped up by fishermen lounging under the tree’s shade.

How to Grow Panama Berries

Unless you live in United States Department of Agriculture zones 9 to 11, you will have to grow the tree in a greenhouse. For those in warm climates, select a location with full sun and well-draining soil. The tree thrives on either alkaline or acidic soil and does beautifully even in low nutrient situations.

Once established, Panama berry is drought tolerant but young trees will need consistent water as they become established.

The seeds may be harvested and planted directly outside in well tilled soil with organic fertilizer and fungicide incorporated. Seedlings will produce fruit within 18 months and grow 13 feet (4 m.) in just 3 years.

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Trees and Plants to Grow for an All-Year Fruit Garden

If you have a little space for a garden, you’re probably growing seasonal vegetables—but there’s never a bad time of year to grow fruit, either. This graphic shows you plants that grow fruit at any time of year, including some year-round options that’ll feed you in the warm and cool months alike.

Which of these you could plant depends highly on your specific climate, of course, and some of these options take longer to bear fruit than others (berry bushes can be up and feeding you in a year or so, while avocado trees can take between three and 15 years at most), but if you scroll down in the graphic, you’ll get a handy map of North America that helps you decide what type of fruit to plant depending on where you live. There are even some tips for small-space gardening in container boxes and vertical gardens, which can help you even if you don’t have a ton of room to plant.

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That’s sort of an improbable list of plants to fruit year-round, as many of them would require both a hot house to limit winter dormancy and bees to pollinate. Except, bees don’t go out collecting pollen in cold climates in the middle of winter.

It’s entirely possible to do this in a temperate climate zone, but the only state in the US that exists in the temperate zone is Hawai’i.

Lycium Species, Barbary Matrimony Vine, Chinese Box Thorn, Goji Berry, Wolfberry

Family: Solanaceae (so-lan-AY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Lycium (LY-see-um) (Info)
Species: barbarum (BAR-bar-rum) (Info)
Synonym:Lycium halimifolium
Synonym:Lycium vulgare


Water Requirements:

Average Water Needs Water regularly do not overwater

Sun Exposure:


Foliage Color:




USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 °C (-5 °F)

USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 °C (0 °F)

USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 °C (5 °F)

USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 °C (10 °F)

USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 °C (15 °F)

USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 °C (20 °F)

USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 °C (25 °F)

Where to Grow:

Grow outdoors year-round in hardiness zone

Can be grown as an annual

Suitable for growing in containers


Parts of plant are poisonous if ingested

Plant has spines or sharp edges use extreme caution when handling

Bloom Color:

Bloom Characteristics:

Bloom Size:

Bloom Time:

Other details:

May be a noxious weed or invasive

Soil pH requirements:

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:

From seed winter sow in vented containers, coldframe or unheated greenhouse

Direct sow as soon as the ground can be worked

From seed germinate in vitro in gelatin, agar or other medium

Self-sows freely deadhead if you do not want volunteer seedlings next season

Seed Collecting:

Unblemished fruit must be significantly overripe before harvesting seed clean and dry seeds


This plant is said to grow outdoors in the following regions:

Fallbrook, California(5 reports)

Gardeners' Notes:

On Aug 16, 2017, Tulegirl from Tulare, CA wrote:

In April I planted two 3 gal containers of Goji berries from Costco (raised by Double A farms) in a planter by my fence. I live in a small house with a small back yard in the CA San Joaquin Valley and it is hot here in summer and cold/foggy in winter. My goji berries are thriving, as are my grapes this first growing season. Can't boast much about any other of my berries but the goji berries grew impressively and are overflowing with (tiny) berries and blossoms. I'm hoping to train them as trees, though they are quite bushy right now. I will wait to trim most side branches until they are dormant in winter. Hope the berries get bigger next season.

On Oct 1, 2016, coriaceous from ROSLINDALE, MA wrote:

This is a spiny, sprawling shrub/vine. It has spread quickly underground here (in Boston, USDA Z6a), like a bramble, and also roots where the stems touch the ground. It needs regular attention if it isn't to turn into a tangled brier patch.

I don't find the little flowers to be big enough to be showy.

At least two cultivars have been selected.

According to the Penn State Extension service, this species is hardy to USDA hardiness zone 2.

According to BONAP, it has naturalized in all but 2 of the lower 48 states and all but one of the southern Canadian pro. read more vinces. It hasn't been declared invasive or a noxious weed by any state.

On Sep 25, 2015, malsprower from Daytona, FL wrote:

I bought a Goji from Walmart grown by Dewar nurseries. This plant is absolutely amazing, it flowered like crazy as soon as I transplanted it into a large pot. I left it out in the Florida heat and it seemed to deal with it quite well. The soil got a bit hot and the rain was constant so it was not bearing any fruit. I put it up in the screened in south facing porch and I finally got my first berry to grow, it is still green so I shouldn't get ahead of myself. Even if the plant never ever fruits, I would be fine with that because it's such a beautiful specimen when it flowers. Every vine on this plant has flowers.

May 2016 update:
I bought another strain of goji with black and purple flowers (the walmart one has black, white, and purple flowers) and planted them clos. read more e enough to each other. The cross pollination led to more fruit growth on the walmart strain. The other strain is larger and more bitter, the walmart strain is sweet and succulent.

On Apr 25, 2014, kevhumphreys from Newcastle,
Australia wrote:

I live in Nsw, Australia on the east coast.
I believe our climate is similar to Californias, maybe hotter summers and mild winters ( no frosts )
In early spring planted some lycium barbarum seeds in punnets and they germinated quickly. Later transplanted them to pots and then into my garden where they get plenty of sun. Now they are growing quickly, and about 4 ft high but still no fruit although a few have produced flowers but after flowering the buds fall off.
During summer I mulched the ground with sugar cane mulch as the heat of summer can bake the ground. These goji plants seem pretty hardy.If the ground got too dry they just stopped growing, so maybe soil
Needs to be kept moist just as for tomatoes
It is now mid autumn and plants are still growin. read more g well
I did lime the soil as I read that the plants like it neutral to alkaline condition
Look forward to getting ftuit next summer

On Sep 26, 2013, FlaFlower from Titusville, FL (Zone 9b) wrote:

It escaped from the bottom of the pot and rooted it's self.
I thought that was OK I just snipped it off. OMG. 6 weeks later those snipped off root are taking over an entire area!

On Jul 28, 2013, agreenerside from Quantico, MD wrote:

we ordered these in quart pots for 3 dollars in the spring, i bumped some up to 3 gallon and stuck some in the ground, they quickly shot up to 3 feet and turned yellow in the pots, the ones in the ground got to much rain and didn't grow, i peed on them in the pots and now they are happy and green, they seem to like to be trained like black berries and to be given there own space until established as to not have competition for the first year. so far they like it kinda dry and nitrogen until there "Extensive" root system finds its way around your yard lol

On Jul 12, 2013, HeatherY from Kensington, NY wrote:

This might sound odd with all the stories about how invasive Goji ( Lycium) can be, but mine is barely growing.

It has one tiny leaf cluster that slowly is getting a little more greenery as time goes on. It is, I admit, only planted this year for a few months, ( four) but I really expected more growth sooner.

I am feeding it nightshade friendly tomato nutrient, trimming the willow above it (although it is supposed to be partial shade friendly) and building up the soil around it.

My zone is 7-A, Brooklyn New York.

On May 16, 2013, cltopliff from Tucson, AZ wrote:

Just got a wolfberry from the Orange box store. Was delighted to find they were the L barbarum/true Goji Berry. Got 2 more! ) But am not clear whether they are deciduous or some degree of evergreen outdoors in Tucson. Sources I've found either don't say, or vary. One said they're evergreen in temperate parts of China.
Answer will influence what else I plant, so any info is appreciated-the sooner, the better )

On Dec 28, 2012, RobertCrandall from Capac, MI wrote:

I was getting a bit discouraged after the worst growing season in Michigan history. We lost all of our fruit so the berry's were the only hope we had. The first few goji plants were two years old and were just holding at about 2 foot tall. In late July they started taking off and shot up about 2 more feet, limbs split to about six or seven each and blossoms we covering them. For our first crop we got about 100 off of each one and they were the best tasting berry we could hope for. I immediately planted a dozen more!

On Sep 19, 2012, risingcreek from sun city, CA (Zone 9a) wrote:

I found out the hard way that these plants do not grow much at all in containers. put them in the ground and they take off. mine stayed a few inches tall the first year in pots, when i planted them in the ground they shot up to 4 feet in a very short time. they already have blossoms, but dont think i will get much fruit this year. temps here vary from 15 degrees in the winter to 108 in the summer and these plants just keep going. cant wait to taste the fruit!

On May 25, 2011, AnitTina from Eustis, FL (Zone 9a) wrote:

I purchased 3 of them this year from 2 different venders on line each one has a different leaf type one is thicker oval leaf one with a smaller oval leaf one with a long thin leaf. The thicker leaf plants seem to be bushier while the thin leaf plant is growing tall and thin branches.
I have never eaten a berry from this plant I do hope I like them.
They had a lot of good benefits so I thought I would give growing them a shot.

On Feb 7, 2011, bishopbookworm from Bishop, CA wrote:

veganman, I'm glad to hear of your success w/goji beerries in arizona - we have summer temp's like that here too & I'd read that they were good only to about 100F. The more I read about these plants, the more I realize that there are pretty much just a bunch of educated guesses out there about them. Thanks for the good info here everyone!

On Oct 20, 2010, veganman from Peoria, AZ (Zone 9b) wrote:

I grew my plants from seed harvested from the dried Goji berries I bought at Trader Joe's.

So far so good! They're a year old now. Heavy feeders when it's warm.

I've pruned 2 of them into 3' weeping standards. They are blossoming on the new growth with purple and pink splashed flowers this month.

I let 2 grow unabated, they have not produced yet.

The last 2 I have in large hanging baskets. The fronds hang down and make fruit harvesting really easy.

The seedlings survived the Phoenix summer outside in full sun, to my surprise. The hotter it got, the larger they grew. They didn't burn when it hit 115 in full sun! Amazing!

As for harvesting. all I can say is they're MUCH sweeter dried. LOL!

On Jul 22, 2010, insipidtoast from Santa Barbara, CA (Zone 10a) wrote:

I bought lots of tiny seeds off the internet. A month ago I started an entire seedling flat solely devoted to the Goji berry seed. The seed packet reads Lycium chinense, which, according to Plants for a Future database, is a synonym for L. barbarum. The seeds were quick to germinate (less than 2 weeks) and practically had a 100% germination rate. That's the good news. The bad news is that the seedlings are growing VERY slow. Granted we haven't had the warmest summer, but I would have expected the seedlings to be taller than 1 inch by the end of one month's growth.

I also bought an established plant from a local nursery. Grown by the wholesaler, La Verne. In the usual La Verne fashion the plant was staked up to a post, so that upon planting the plant at home and removing it f. read more rom the stake, it just flopped over. It's a very spindly plant not nearly what I would call "bushy". I cut off some of the "floppers" and the remaining lower branches seem to be doing okay.

On Feb 13, 2009, Jianhua from Shangshui, Henan,
China (Zone 7b) wrote:

Chinese name for the plant:
Pinyin: Go Qi Character: 枸杞
A well-known and traditional Chinese herb. People use the red berries as a healthcare tea, and Ningxia Goji is among the best.

On Nov 19, 2008, rosilinda from Fallbrook, CA wrote:

We started our Lycium bararum plants in March 2008, indoors on a plant heat pad, from seeds bought on E-Bay. They germanated very nicely with plenty of seedlings to plant out in 6-packs, then into 6" pots. They shot straight up in our hot summer months here in North San Diego Co. Some have bushed out, but many are 3' tall single stems. The one question we have not found an answer to is how to prune, but they seem so vigorous that I'm sure we can't make a mistake prunning like any other shrub. Would love to see prunning information included in the extremely informative plant discriptions on this site. Hoping for berries next year.

On Nov 29, 2007, BeverlyGojiSeed from Winterset, IA (Zone 5a) wrote:

“This herb has five names. You want to take a different part of the herb each season. In spring you take its leaves, which is known as the essence of heaven . In summer you take its flowers, which is known as the longevity of life. In autumn you t. read more ake its fruits, which is known as Gou Qi Zi - Wolfberry. In winter you take the bark of its roots, which is known as the skin and bone of the earth, or the staff of the Almighty. Taking these four parts in the four seasons respectively, will give you a life as lofty as heaven and earth.”

Goji - Lycium barbarum has mildly sweet berries and is being called the worlds most powerful anti-aging food and it is one of the most nutritionally dense foods on earth.

On Mar 23, 2005, lmelling from Ithaca, NY (Zone 5b) wrote:

For thousands of years, people in Asia have used lycium fruit and licorice to help maintain good health. Lycium is a Chinese herb that is said to help improve vision and prevent headaches and dizziness caused by liver and kidney deficiencies. Sources report also that it has been shown effective in mild forms of diabetes. Also said to serve as a liver and blood tonic.. The berry is supposed to be one of the best sources for anti-oxidents.

Lycium fruit extract contains both conventional nutrients and phytonutrients (nutrients from plants), including vitamins, minerals, beta carotene, polysaccharides and amino acids. Also known as the Goji berry in China.

5 Unusual Fruit Trees to Grow in Your Backyard

If you fancy a ready supply of fruit you probably can't get at your local fruit shop, and you have a bit of space in your yard, you might like to try growing some of these unusual fruit trees.

1. Black Sapote (Diospyros nigra)

Black Sapote is a tropical fruit tree, but can also be grown in the subtropics. It is native to Mexico, the Carribean, Central America and Columbia. It is also known as the "chocolate pudding fruit", because the ripe fruit have a taste and consistency like chocolate pudding. They can be eaten raw or made into desserts like ice cream, making them a low fat, delicious treat.

The trees grow pretty slowly for the first few years, and take at least 5 years to fruit. They can grow between 5 and 10 metres tall, and you should ideally have at least two trees so they can cross-pollinate and produce more fruit, so you need a bit of room for these, but they're worth it.

2. Miracle Fruit (Synsepalum dulcificum)

Despite the name, Miracle Fruit aren't the cure for cancer or anything, but they do have a unique and interesting property. The berries contain a chemical called Miraculin. When you eat them the Miraculin temporarily alters the chemistry of your mouth causing everything you eat for the next few minutes to taste sweet. The fruit itself tastes a bit like passionfruit, somewhat tart. You swish it around your mouth to ensure your tastebuds are covered, then try eating something like slices of lemon or lime and it makes it taste like it has been dipped it icing sugar. It's bizarre!

Miracle fruit trees only grow to 1-2 metres tall, so they are a good choice for a smaller garden. They can fruit in 2-3 years, but will probably take longer than that outside the tropics. They are worth a bit of patience for the fun of eating different things with the berries.

3. Sapodilla (Manilkara zapota)

Sapodillas are native to Mexico, the Carribean and Central America. The fruit taste a bit like a cooked pear with brown sugar, and have a gritty texture.

The trees can grow fairly tall, but you can keep them pruned to around 2 metres so you can reach the fruit. Seedlings take at least 5 years to fruit, and you need two trees for them to cross pollinate. Grafted trees grow will fruit faster, though they are more expensive and less cold-hardy, which might be a factor if you are growing them outside the tropics.

4. Panama Berry (Muntingia calabura)

Panama berry trees fruit early (within the first year) and often (continuously through most of the year). They can grow 5-10 metres tall if conditions are ideal, but the branches droop so it's easy to pick the fruit, and you can keep them pruned if you like. The fruit are very sweet, sort of like a cross between strawberries and vanilla ice cream. They are best eaten raw because they have rubbery skin which would be very fiddly to remove if you wanted to cook with them, but when eating them out of hand you can easily spit out the skin and seed and just eat the pulp.

Panama berries have a lot of other common names, including calabur tree, capulin, Jamaica cherry, strawberry tree, ornamental cherry, jamfruit tree, Singapore cherry and West Indian cherry.

They are a good shade tree and attract a lot of birds and they're a nice addition to yard if you have children because they can play in the shade and eat the berries.

5. Peachcot (Prunus persica)

Peachcots are botanically a peach, but look more like an apricot. The fruit are small and orange like apricots, but taste sweeter and less tangy. The blossoms are white rather than pink like peach blossoms.

They are low chill, so you can grow them successfully in the subtropics, unlike some other stone fruit. They can flower and fruit within 2-3 years, and look gorgeous when covered in blossoms. Fruit fly can be a problem, though some years they seem to fruit early enough in Spring that it's too cold for fruit fly.

Seedlings for these trees can be purchased at local plant nurseries and online stores, such as Daleys Fruit Tree Nursery, who have excellent customer service and a huge variety of high quality plants.

Watch the video: Airlayering Jamaican Cherry Tree Mutingia calabura