Easy-to-grow tropical flowering shrubs, durantas (Duranta spp.) are remarkably trouble-free and you'll have few chores other than watering them in dry weather. The species you're most likely to find at the garden center is golden dewdrop (Duranta erecta), a sprawling, tender evergreen shrub or small tree.
You can grow golden dewdrop in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 8 through 11, although it will die back in winter in USDA zone 8. In USDA zone 8, it will recover in spring to flower although it won't set berries in fall. Durantas can tolerate sandy, loamy and clay soils with a pH between 6 and 7.5 and they are moderately tolerant of salt. Durantas don't generally have problems with pests or diseases.
If you have tight, compacted clay soil, loosen it up by mixing in 3 to 4 inches of compost. To ensure the soil drains properly in rainy areas, plant durantas in a raised bed. Water newly planted durantas daily at first, tapering off to once a week. Mature durantas have deeper roots, and you do not have to water them unless the top few inches of soil are dry. Sprinkle a handful -- 1 ounce -- of granular, slow-release 6-6-6 fertilizer under the outer edge of the branches at the beginning of June, in mid-August and mid-October. Do not allow clumps of fertilizer to stay on the ground or scatter the fertilizer near the trunk because it can burn the roots. Water the area well after applying the fertilizer.
Choosing a Site
If you have space you want to fill quickly, durantas are a good choice. They grow rapidly, more than 25 inches a year. Golden dewdrop has multiple stems that can grow from 8 to 15 feet tall with a round crown. Its drooping, vinelike branches can trail 10 to 15 feet wide. You may have to thin and prune a golden dewdrop regularly to prevent it from sprawling beyond the space you have in mind. If you grow durantas as mounded bushes, give them at least 6 feet of room unless you want to constantly cut them back. Always sterilize pruning equipment before and after using it by wiping it with a cloth soaked in rubbing alcohol.
Avoid planting durantas along building foundations because you have to prune them away from walls. While the young branches are smooth, mature branches develop sharp spines. Durantas can grow and spread from suckers, but they're not classified as invasive. Durantas may be poisonous to animals, but they're not considered poisonous to people.
- Missouri Botanical Garden: Duranta Erecta
- Floridata: Duranta Erecta
- National Gardening Association: Duranta Erecta
- Mississippi State University: Gold Duranta Lights Up Southern Landscape
- University of Florida Okeechobee IFAS Extension: Add Drops of Gold to Florida Yards
- University of Florida Nassau IFAS Extension: Duranta, Duranta Repens
- Arbor Day Foundation: About Growth Rate
- National Institutes of Health: Duranta Erecta Poisoning in Nine Dogs and a Cat
- North Carolina State University Extension: Plant Propagation by Stem Cuttings: Instructions for the Home Gardener
- Seeds Gallery: Duranta Repens Seeds
- Texas A&M University: Duranta -- a Texas SuperStar Plant for Gardeners in '06
- University of Florida IFAS Extension: Duranta Erecta, Golden Dewdrop
- University of Northern Florida: Duranta Erecta, Golden Dewdrop
- Florida Horticulture: Duranta Erecta "Gold Mound"
- Master Gardener Landscaping: Food and Soil
- Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden: Fertilization
- Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden: Planting, Watering and Mulching
A one-time farm boy, Richard Hoyt, holder of a PhD in American studies, is a former newspaper reporter, magazine writer and college professor. While writing 27 novels of suspense, he has lived on sugar cane, pepper and papaya plantations and helped keep bees in Belize.