Sea Grape

Coccoloba uvifera

The unusual texture of sea grape, with its big rounded leaves on upright branches, makes it an interesting and handsome large shrub for a South Florida landscape.

sea grape

The leathery leaves grow 8 to 10 inches in diameter, with a hint of red.

They have red veining, new growth has a bronzy-red tint, and some leaves will turn completely red in winter before they fall off.

In late summer female shrubs produce clusters of fruit that resemble grapes (hence the plant's name) that start out green and ripen to purple.

When ripe, the fruit is very sweet, providing tasty treats for people, birds and squirrels. You can make a delicious jelly or wine from them as well.

There is no way to tell if you're buying a male or female plant. And the female sea grape needs a nearby male to cross-pollinate and bear fruit. You may want to purchase several plants to increase your chances of getting grapes.

This plant tolerates windy conditions and can act as a windbreak. It can also stabilize sand dunes, and provide habitat for wildlife - including protection for nesting sea turtles from artificial light (street lamps, car headlights, outdoor house lighting).

These are salt-tolerant native plants. Florida beach homes are the perfect setting for these plants - provided you have the space needed.

Plant specs

These shrubs can grow really big, but they grow at a moderate rate so you can control their size.

They spread very wide with outstretched branch "arms" - you can keep a mature shrub about 6 to 8 feet tall and wide.

Or it can be pruned to tree-form - multi-trunk or, with some effort, single trunk - and left to grow to 20 or 25 feet.

Full to partial sun is ideal. These are evergreen, tropical shrubs that do best in Zone 10.

This plant is salt-tolerant, and it's drought-tolerant once established.

Plant care

No soil amendments are needed when you plant native Florida plants like this one...but adding top soil (or organic peat humus) and cow manure to the planting hole helps a young plant get off to a good start.

Prune for size in spring, cutting back as much as 1/3 of the plant. It's a good idea to do this at least several years in a row while the plant is young to form a full, strong shrub or tree.

You can trim lightly anytime for shape, or leave it untrimmed to create a nice, natural form.

NOTE: Sea grapes planted on or by the beach are subject to legal regulations for how much you can trim. Consult your local authority for guidelines.

Water on a regular basis with enough time between waterings for the plant to dry out. Once it's mature, you can water it just during dry spells, if you prefer, but a good irrigation schedule will keep the plant looking its best.

Apply a good granular fertilizer 3 times a year - in spring, summer and fall. 

Fallen leaves can litter the lawn or drive and make a mess so keep this in mind if you're thinking of planting near paved areas.


Plant spacing

Give this shrub lots of room...though spacing depends on how you're going to grow it.

Come out from the house 4 or 5 feet. Same goes for planting by a patio area.

Along a walk or drive, come in 5 to 6 feet to keep trimming back and leaf litter to a minimum.

If you're planting a hedge of sea grapes, space them about 3 or 4 feet apart.

For a single specimen in the yard, allow plenty of room to get around it once the plant is mature.

These shrubs will grow in a large container and look especially nice in tree form.


Landscape uses for sea grape

  • hedge
  • windbreak
  • privacy screen
  • large accent
  • single yard specimen
  • backdrop for smaller plants
  • small tree
  • shade plant by the patio
  • anchor for a wildlife garden

A.K.A. (also known as): Baygrape

GOOD SNOWBIRD PLANT? YES

COMPANION PLANT SUGGESTIONS: You might like to use other salt-tolerant and moderately salt-tolerant plants in the landscape such as cape honeysuckle, muhly grass, croton, crinum lily, bougainvillea, cocoplum, podocarpus, dwarf oleander, and yesterday today and tomorrow.

Other plants you might like: Clusia, Schefflera

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