Duranta erecta, commonly called golden dewdrop, pigeon berry or Brazilian sky flower, is the one plant out of 30 species in the genus you're likely to grow. While you may think it odd that a plant with purple flowers has “golden” in its name, once you see the shrub’s fruit, you'll understand. Use golden dewdrop as a specimen plant, in hedges or in a butterfly garden.
1. About Golden Dewdrops
Golden dewdrops are small, evergreen trees that grow in the warm climates of U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 9 and 10. In its native habit, the golden dewdrop may grow to 18 feet, but it will probably only grow 4 feet tall and wide in your yard. The serrated yellow-green leaves, each have a single thorn near the stem. Golden dewdrop's flowers are tubular, fragrant and typically purple, although some may bear white blooms. After blooming, the flowers give way to yellow fruits that hang from the tree in clusters.
Grow the species in full-sun, but some cultivars, such as “Gold Edge” (Duranta erecta “Gold Edge”), require shade. One of the most important considerations when planting golden dewdrop is space. If you don’t want to spend a lot of time pruning it, give it 6 feet of clearance on all sides. To control the size of the plant, cut it back in late winter or early spring. The amount of water to provide golden dewdrop depends on the climate. A rule of thumb is to allow the top of the soil to dry between waterings. In dry climates, you’ll need to water it weekly during the summer. Golden dewdrop wilts when it’s thirsty, so keep an eye on it and provide water as needed. For maximum bloom, fertilize the golden dewdrop with a solution containing 1 teaspoon of 15-15-15, water-soluble fertilizer in 2 gallons of water, once a week. When the plant stops growing as winter approaches, stop fertilizing it.
The golden dewdrop may cause dermatitis, so wear long sleeves and gloves to protect your skin while working with the plant. The fruit is poisonous, so think carefully before growing it in a yard where children or pets play. The good news is that golden dewdrop is somewhat resistant to most pests and diseases. Occasionally the plant is bothered by caterpillars, mites, mealybugs and scale insects, but infestations are typically light and require no treatment. The biggest problem is that it grows quickly and needs frequent pruning if it wasn’t given enough growing room at planting.
Golden dewdrop is easy to propagate from either cuttings or seeds. Softwood cuttings root easiest when planted in a sand-based potting soil and provided bottom heat at 70 degrees Fahrenheit. This type of cutting is from stems that are at that stage of growth between green and succulent and woody. A softwood stem snaps when it is bent. Seeds should be planted in spring, when temperatures are between 64 and 70 F.
- Texas A&M University AgriLife Extension: Duranta -– A Texas Super Star Plant
- North Carolina State University: Duranta Erecta
- Missouri Botanical Garden: Duranta Erecta
- Fine Gardening: Duranta Erecta
- Manual of Woody Landscape Plants; Michael A. Dirr
- University of Florida IFAS Extension Okeechobee County Extension: Add Drops of Gold to Florida Yards
- Controlling Pests and Diseases; Patricia S. Michalak and Linda Gilkeson
- Jupiterimages/liquidlibrary/Getty Images