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Japanese Ternstroemia Ternstroemia gymnanthera

Other Common Name(s):

Phonetic Spelling
tern-STROE-mee-uh jim-NANTH-er-uh
Description

The Latin name Ternstroemia comes from the Swedish naturalist Christopher Ternstroem who died in 1748.  He was a world traveler who developed this plant while in China.

Upright to rounded oval broadleaf evergreen. Salt spray tolerant - hence an excellent choice for NC coastal areas. It can be located in full sun to partial shade, however it does its best when situated in part shade.  It may winter burn in full sun.  It does not tolerate poorly drained soils. 

Juvenile leaves emerge bronze to reddish, turning to green as the leaves mature.  It will bloom in the summer, but the flowers inconspicuous.  The fruit ripens in fall but is again relatively inconspicuous.

It is typically cultivated for its attractive growth habit and tiered branches with evergreen, blue-green leaves that appear whorled at the branch tips.  This moderately drought tolerant specimen is utilized as a screen, a specimen, and in large borders.  It can be pruned, however its slow growth rate makes pruning unnecessary.  You can pinch new growth to encourage a more compact habit.  

Growing best in acidic soils, the leaves will yellow when the soil is alkaline.  Maintenance is not an issue for this easy keeper.  It can be allowed to grow into a large shrub, or can be kept small through regular pruning. 

Very similar to and often sold as Cleyera japonica.  It is often planted as a substitute for the problem plagued redtip photinia and the Leyland cypress.

Quick ID

  • Branches are tiered, leaves appear whorled at tips
  • Evergreen blue-green leaves have purple petioles
  • Erect shrub with sympodial growth

Insects, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems:  No serious issues noted.  Scale can be an occasional problem.  

See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Bigfoot'
    Large, upright plant with glossy light green leaves.
  • 'Bronze Beauty'
    Bronze new growth and red/bronze fall color.
  • 'Burnished Gold'
    Golden new growth fades to bronzy/green.
  • 'Le Ann'
    Orange/red new growth matures to deep green.
  • 'Regal'
    Dense, compact and rounded. Matures to upright multi-trunked.
  • 'Variegata'
    Dark green leaves with a creamy yellow edge turn pink in winter.
'Bigfoot', 'Bronze Beauty', 'Burnished Gold', 'Le Ann', 'Regal', 'Variegata'
Tags:
#evergreen#small tree#shrub#salt tolerant#broadleaf evergreen#colorful leaves#winter interest#salt spray tolerant#cpp#fantz#winter garden#wet soils intolerant#coastal plant
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Bigfoot'
    Large, upright plant with glossy light green leaves.
  • 'Bronze Beauty'
    Bronze new growth and red/bronze fall color.
  • 'Burnished Gold'
    Golden new growth fades to bronzy/green.
  • 'Le Ann'
    Orange/red new growth matures to deep green.
  • 'Regal'
    Dense, compact and rounded. Matures to upright multi-trunked.
  • 'Variegata'
    Dark green leaves with a creamy yellow edge turn pink in winter.
'Bigfoot', 'Bronze Beauty', 'Burnished Gold', 'Le Ann', 'Regal', 'Variegata'
Tags:
#evergreen#small tree#shrub#salt tolerant#broadleaf evergreen#colorful leaves#winter interest#salt spray tolerant#cpp#fantz#winter garden#wet soils intolerant#coastal plant
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Ternstroemia
    Species:
    gymnanthera
    Family:
    Pentaphylacacaeae
    Life Cycle:
    Woody
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Seed
    Stem Cutting
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Japan, Korea, China
    Play Value:
    Buffer
    Screening
    Particularly Resistant To (Insects/Diseases/Other Problems):
    Salt spray tolerant, can tolerate severe pruning.
    Dimensions:
    Height: 8 ft. 0 in. - 10 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 5 ft. 0 in. - 10 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Shrub
    Tree
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Broadleaf Evergreen
    Habit/Form:
    Dense
    Erect
    Oval
    Growth Rate:
    Slow
    Maintenance:
    Low
    Texture:
    Medium
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Texture:
    Clay
    Loam (Silt)
    Sand
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Available Space To Plant:
    3 feet-6 feet
    6-feet-12 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    7b, 7a, 8b, 8a, 9b, 9a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Green
    Red/Burgundy
    Fruit Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Fruit Type:
    Capsule
    Fruit Length:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Width:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Description:
    The 1/2 in. green to red berry-like speckled fruit in matures in the fall. Although the individual fruits are quite attractive, the low number of fruits and their location behind the foliage, they fail to make a showy display.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    White
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Solitary
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Flower Petals:
    4-5 petals/rays
    Flower Size:
    < 1 inch
    Flower Description:
    The creamy white flowers are small, less than1 inch wide, and borne in the leaf axils on the previous year's wood or on short spurs. The petals may have red pigmentation along the edges. The 5 petals are fleshy and obovate. They have 5 sepals and numerous stamens.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Broadleaf Evergreen
    Leaf Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Green
    Purple/Lavender
    Red/Burgundy
    Leaf Feel:
    Glossy
    Leathery
    Leaf Value To Gardener:
    Long-lasting
    Showy
    Deciduous Leaf Fall Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Red/Burgundy
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Shape:
    Oblong
    Ovate
    Leaf Margin:
    Entire
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    3-6 inches
    Leaf Width:
    1-3 inches
    Leaf Description:
    Alternate, simple, leathery, lustrous, dark green leaves; 2.5-4 in. long; new growth is bronze, reddish purple to red; reddish bronze winter color when grown in sun
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Gray/Silver
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Surface:
    Smooth (glabrous)
    Stem Description:
    Stems are rusty gray, glabrous; sympodial growth.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Coastal
    Patio
    Pond
    Walkways
    Landscape Theme:
    Winter Garden
    Design Feature:
    Accent
    Barrier
    Border
    Foundation Planting
    Hedge
    Mass Planting
    Screen/Privacy
    Small groups
    Specimen
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Salt