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Duranta erecta

Duranta erecta
May 2019, after an early-season haircut
golden dewdrop, pigeonberry
Just after setting in the garden, May 2017

Common name golden dewdrop, pigeonberry
Family verbenaceae
Life cycle shrub (Z9-11)
Flowers blue
Size to 18'
Light sun-part shade
Cultural notes ordinary garden soil, not too dry

Yet another not-quite-hardy plant carried by local nurseries for its delightful clusters of purple-blue flowers outlined in a crinkly white edge, duranta is a shrub or small tree in areas where it is unlikely to encounter frost – it is native to tropical areas in and surrounding the Caribbean. In zone 8 (which describes the coldest winters in the Houston area), it is killed to the ground by freezes into the 20s, but is likely to regrow from the roots and bloom by end of season. That is just what happened after January 2018's big freeze: the top was all dead, but new growth pushed out from the trunk just above soil level, where a layer of mulch had provided some cold protection. I did not notice any regrowth directly from the roots. The plant proceeded to grow fast and somewhat gangly, but pleased us with flowers again later that season. The following two winters were milder, and our duranta didn't suffer any setback at all. In spring, I cut the tallest leaders back quite a bit, and was rewarded with a much more pleasing bushy shape covered in flowers by May. An even stronger freeze hit in February '21, and this time it took two months before some growth emerged from the base of the main tree. However, I was pleasantly surprised to spot, several weeks before that, a few saplings or suckers growing nearby; they must have gotten their start the previous season, so apparently the youngsters are better able to survive a hard freeze than older specimens.

Duranta erecta
golden dewdrop, pigeonberry
Duranta erecta
Growth pushing out from bottom of trunk after top got killed in freeze
golden dewdrop, pigeonberry
In the immediate aftermath of the '21 megafreeze
Duranta erecta
One of the saplings that survived the megafreeze

In our garden, this plant grows in the following areas: back fence border, right-fence nursery area

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