Clusia rosea & Clusia guttifera

Exotic texture and drought tolerance make these two clusia varieties - rosea and guttifera - outstanding and unusual plants for home landscapes.

clusia rosea in a front yard

The foliage is this plant's feature characteristic - leaves are thick and leathery, shaped like fat teardrops or paddles.

Low-maintenance and trouble-free, these plants branch out close to the ground and can get very wide.

They're excellent as hedges, large accent plants, or grow them as a wall of privacy and/or shade.

Their salt-tolerant nature makes them ideal for a seaside home, and the unique foliage adds unique texture to a tropical garden.

Rosea is also known as "Pitch Apple."

With the biggest leaves, it's often grown as a small tree or you can grow it as a very wide shrub.

If you choose the tree-form, buy one already trained to a single trunk.

These shrubs are sometimes called Autograph Tree or Plant because you can scratch a name or initials onto a leaf and it will stay there forever...or as long as the leaf remains on the plant.

huge guttifera in a landscape

With the recently increased popularity of clusia guttifera (pictured above), people tend to forget - or just be unaware of - how big this plant can actually get. 

And stores that sell plants, box stores and some nurseries, are now commonly labelling guttifera as "Pitch Apple," which can cause confusion.

If you're buying a plant labelled Pitch Apple, look for the botanical name to be sure it's the clusia you want. C. rosea is rarely sold in stores so it's likely the one you see marked Pitch Apple is actually guttifera. 


Guttifera can be a lovely hedge or large accent and is occasionally available in tree-form as well.

There is also an appealing dwarf variety you can use as a small shrub.

These plants rarely flower, other than in the warmest areas of Zone 10. Flowers are pale pink and appear in summer.

NOTE: According to the ASPCA, clusia rosea is poisonous to animals, including horses. I would assume all other clusia varieties may be toxic as well.

Plant specs

These salt-tolerant, evergreen shrubs will grow in full sun to part shade.

They're drought tolerant shrubs, moderate to fast growers that do best in Zone 10, though you can keep one in a container in Zone 9B to move indoors during cold weather.

Rosea gets very big - as a shrub you can keep it 8 or 10 feet tall and wide. As a tree, you may want to let it grow as much as 25 feet.

Though you can trim the guttifera variety to stay about 5 or 6 feet tall, it can be allowed to grow much larger.

Guttifera shrub

Plant care

Add composted cow manure to the hole when you plant.

You can do just one hard pruning in spring (late March or early April) and let it do its thing from there. (Guttifera does best with a minor trim rather than being cut way back...with a hard pruning it may not grow out into a nice, natural shape.)

Or trim it more often to keep the plant shaped - with branch trimming only, never cut across foliage.

guttifera leaves

This plant is drought-tolerant once established. For the first year, water on a regular basis (with time for the plant to dry out a bit between waterings).

Once it's mature, you can water just during dry spells, though regular irrigation will keep the shrub prettier and more full.

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

Plant spacing

Because these shrubs spread out wide, place them about 5 feet apart. Give nearby shrubs plenty of space so they won't be overtaken.

Come out from the house about 4 feet or more.

If you grow rosea (or guttifera) as a tree, you can underplant smaller things fairly close to the trunk.

These make excellent container plants, especially nice in large pots by the pool or on the patio.

Landscape uses for clusia

  • hedge
  • privacy screen
  • shade around a patio or deck
  • along a fence
  • accent
  • by a walk or driveway
  • small tree
  • corner-of-the-house shrub
  • under tall palms or pine trees
  • container plant for pool, patio or deck
  • backdrop for smaller plants
  • single yard specimen

A.K.A. (also known as): Rosea - Pitch Apple, Autograph Tree. Guttifera - Small Leaf Clusia.


COMPANION PLANT SUGGESTIONS: Use with other drought-resistant things like muhly grass, crown of thorns, Texas sage, agave, baby sun rose, desert rose, Madagascar palm, mid-size bougainvillea, and cycads.

Other plants you might like: Sea Grape, Schefflera

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