Cleyera japonica ( Japanese Cleyera )
Also called Ternstroemia gymnanthera. An evergreen upright-oval shrub to medium-sized tree, that is native to Japan, Korea and nearby parts of China. Reaching up to 15 x 10 ( rarely over ) 10 feet in 10 years, the largest on record is 40 x 22 feet with a trunk diameter of 1 foot. The Japanese Cleyera is moderate to fast growing on ideal sites ( fastest recorded growth rate being 3.5 feet ).
The leathery foliage is similar to that of its relative the Camellia. The toothed, oblong or elliptical leaves are up to 4 x 1.5 inches ( rarely to 6 x 2 inches ) in size. The foliage is deep red at first during spring turning to glossy deep green then to burgundy during fall & winter. They are generally tufted or clustered at the ends of the branches.
The small, fragrant, 0.6 inch wide, bell-shaped, pendulous, white flowers are borne in sprays on 2nd year wood during late spring.
They are followed by small black olive like drupes.
The smooth bark is pale gray.
Heat tolerant, the Japanese Cleyera prefers cool, moist, light, slightly acidic, well drained soil. It is also prefers being sheltered from strong winds and hot sun. Tolerant of clay, drought, salt and any exposure from sun to shade. Rarely bothered by insects or disease. Foliage can turn yellow from chlorosis on excessively alkaline soil. Fertilize in early spring and prune and shape after blooming. Propagation is from seed and half hardened cuttings. Hardy zones 6 to 10 ( tolerating to 0 F, damaged at -3 and killed at -6 F ) and heat tolerant.
Cercospora leaf spot can be a problem however most of the cultivars are only lightly prone in comparison to the species with Leann showing high resistance.
* photos taken on March 26 2010 in Columbia, MD
* photos taken March 28 2010 @ U.S. National Arboretum, D.C.
* photos taken on October 14 2010 in Crownsville, MD
* photos taken on June 30 2013 @ U.S. National Arboretum, DC
* photos taken on July 11 2014 in Washington, DC
* photo taken on Feb 8 2014 @ U.S. National Arboretum, DC
fast growing and upright to 20 x 8 feet or more with large very glossy light green leaves.
One of the best dense evergreen hedges for the southeast U.S.A. A great problem free replacement for the Red Tip Photinia. Very tolerant of shearing and can be kept much lower than its natural height
Foliage is rich bronze in spring turning to deep green in summer then back to bronze in autumn and winter. Grows to 10.5 x 6 feet in 5 years and eventually up to 15 x 10 feet and makes an excellent sheared hedge.
Much more prone to sun scald than other cultivars.
Similar to species except for having very attractive foliage that is intense golden-orange at first, before turning to glossy deep green.
Fast growing to 12 x 7 feet.
The very attractive foliage is showy red in spring turning to dark green in summer, and then to maroon again in fall and winter.
Dense and upright in habit, reaching up to 6 feet in 10 years, eventually to 10 x 10 feet.
The foliage is glossy bright red at first, maturing to dark green.
Scarlet very attractive new leaves turning to glossy dark green.
Slower growing, reaching up to 10 feet. The very attractive, glossy deep gray-green foliage is heavily variegated pink & yellow. The variegation turns to rosy-pink during fall and winter.
An evergreen shrub up to 6 feet in height native from the Himalayas to Japan ( especially near Hiroshima ). Similar to Cleyera japonica but with small creamy yellow flowers in spring. Hardy zones 8 to 10
A tree native to Central America reaching up to 90 feet tall with a trunk up to 2.5 feet in diameter.
A medium-sized, evergreen tree, reaching a maximum height of 50 feet, that is a widespread native of the Himalayas and southeastern Asia ( from Nepal & Bhutan to Korea and central & southern Japan; south into India to Burma, Thailand, Camboia and Vietnam.
The smooth-edged, obovate leaves are up to 3 x 1 inches in size. The foliage is glossy deep green above, bright green beneath.
The white flowers, up to 0.7 inches wide, are borne solitarly or in small clusters from the leaf axils during late spring to early summer.
The smooth to lightly-fissured bark is grayish-brown.
They are followed by purplish-red berries, up to 0.6 inches wide, during early through late autumn.
Hardy zones 8 to 11
Large, slow-growing, carefree shrub to 10 feet tall, 6 feet wide (easily kept smaller through pruning). Good substitute for the overused and disease-prone Fraser photinia (Photinia x fraseri). Often confused with true Japanese cleyera (Cleyera japonica), page 246.
Glossy, leathery, rounded oval to narrowly oval leaves are 1123 inches long, borne on red leafstalks; they are bronzy red when new, maturing to deep green, bronzy green, or purplish red depending on season, exposure, and the particular plant. Red tints are deeper in cold weather. Summer flowers are 12 inches wide, creamy yellow, fragrant but not showy. Fruit resembles little red-orange holly berries.
Grow in moist, well-drained, acid soil. Tip-pinch to encourage compact growth. Use as basic landscaping shrub, informal hedge, foundation plant, poolside plant. Good companion for camellias (to which it is related), azaleas, nandina, pieris, ferns. Cut foliage keeps well.
Several interesting selections are available. ‘Bigfoot’ has large, glossy, light green leaves and a notably upright habit; it grows quickly to 1214 feet tall and only 56 feet wide. ‘Bronze Beauty’ has bronze new growth and reddish bronze fall color. ‘Burnished Gold’ produces bright golden new growth that gradually fades to bronzy green. ‘LeAnn’ has glossy, orange-red new growth that matures to deep green. ‘Variegata’ has dark green leaves with a creamy yellow edge that turns pink in winter.
Ternstroemia gymnanthera Cleyera, Japanese Ternstroemia1
Edward F. Gilman2
The dense, unusually dark green foliage takes on various shades of red depending upon the season and exposure but always remains shining and evergreen (Fig. 1). The small, white, fragrant flowers are borne in clusters at the leaf axils and are followed by yellow to dark red fruits, eventually splitting open to reveal shiny, black seeds which persist through the winter.
Scientific name: Ternstroemia gymnanthera Pronunciation: tern-STROE-mee-uh jim-NANTH-er-uh Common name(s): cleyera, Japanese ternstroemia Family: Theaceae Plant type: tree USDA hardiness zones: 7 through 10 (Fig. 2) Planting month for zone 7: year round Planting month for zone 8: year round Planting month for zone 9: year round Planting month for zone 10: year round Origin: not native to North America Uses: screen; border; near a deck or patio; specimen; superior hedge Availability: somewhat available, may have to go out of the region to find the plant Figure 2.
Shaded area represents potential planting range.
Height: 12 to 20 feet Spread: 5 to 10 feet Plant habit: upright Plant density: moderate Growth rate: moderate Texture: medium
Leaf arrangement: alternate Leaf type: simple Leaf margin: entire Leaf shape: ovate Leaf venation: pinnate Leaf type and persistence: evergreen Leaf blade length: 2 to 4 inches Leaf color: green Fall color: no fall color change Fall characteristic: not showy
Flower color: white Flower characteristic: spring flowering; pleasant fragrance Figure 3.
Flower of cleyera.
Fruit shape: oval Fruit length: .5 to 1 inch Fruit cover: fleshy Fruit color: red Fruit characteristic: persists on the plant
Trunk and Branches
Trunk/bark/branches: showy; typically multi-trunked or clumping stems Current year stem/twig color: gray/silver Current year stem/twig thickness: thin
Light requirement: plant grows in the shade Soil tolerances: clay; sand; acidic; loam; slightly alkaline Drought tolerance: moderate Soil salt tolerances: poor Plant spacing: 36 to 60 inches
Roots: usually not a problem Winter interest: plant has winter interest due to unusual form, nice persistent fruits, showy winter trunk, or winter flowers Outstanding plant: plant has outstanding ornamental features and could be planted more Invasive potential: not known to be invasive Pest resistance: no serious pests are normally seen on the plant
Use and Management
Cleyera is tolerant of full sun but grows best in partial shade in rich, moisture-retentive but well-drained, acid soil. The leaves will turn yellow if the soil is alkaline. Pruning is not usually necessary on slow-growing cleyera, but new growth may be pinched to encourage compactness, particularly in the shade. The clean, neat, upright growth of cleyera makes it a good choice as an accent plant as well as a screen or hedge. Plant on three- to five-foot centers to form a hedge of mass planting. Cleyera makes a good background plant for a shrub border that acts as a screen or wind break.
Propagation is by seed or cuttings.
Pests and Disease
Pest problems are rare on cleyera with scale being the only one of occasional significance.
No diseases are of major concern.
This document is FPS-575, one of a series of the Environmental Horticulture Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date October 1999. Reviewed February 2014. Visit the EDIS website at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu.
Edward F. Gilman, professor, Environmental Horticulture Department; UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.
The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county’s UF/IFAS Extension office.
U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.
Cleyera (Ternstroemia gymnanthera) stands out among other evergreen shrubs with its colorful, glossy foliage. Sometimes sold under the name Cleyera japonica, it grows in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 8 through 10, where it serves several roles. Cleyera provides year-round interest and demands little care, but you should understand its needs and traits before you plant one.
It’s a Looker
Reaching 8 to 10 feet tall with a 6-foot spread, cleyera makes an assertive addition to the yard. It is clad in dense masses of glossy, evergreen leaves, which change color from red to green during the growing season. Tiny white flowers emerge in spring and are replaced by 1-inch-long oval berries. Cultivars, such as Bronze Beauty (Cleyera japonica “Conthery”) differ slightly in appearance, producing bronze-colored new foliage that matures to solid green. Its dimensions are roughly the same as standard cleyera shrubs, but it is slightly more cold-tolerant and will grow in USDA zones 7 through 10.
Cleyera’s dense, upright growth habit make it a good choice for hedging, but it also works well as a stand-alone specimen plant due to its attractive vase shape and showy foliage. Because it responds well to pruning, a cleyera shrub can also be pruned into a standard or a multitrunked tree to show its graceful structure. Cleyera shrubs used for a hedge or screen should be planted 3 to 6 feet apart on a staggered line to maximize their foliage coverage while allowing them plenty of room to spread their roots. Those pruned into a tree form should be planted well away from driveways and streets because their low-growing canopies may catch on or block taller vehicles.
Hardy and adaptable, cleyera will grow better and live longer if planted in the right conditions. A lightly shaded, fast-draining site with acidic soil provides the best environment for growing cleyera, although it will tolerate full sun in cooler climates. Don’t plant it in alkaline soil because it will increase the chances of chlorosis, an iron deficiency that causes yellowed foliage and slow growth. Also, avoid planting it under a deciduous tree that casts heavy shade because it may suffer leaf burn when exposed to winter sunshine after the tree loses its leaves.
Keeping It Healthy
Once established in a suitable site, a cleyera seldom needs hands-on care or maintenance. It generally doesn’t have issues with pests or diseases. Water it weekly to a depth of 1 inch during the summer, especially in warmer climates or during times of extreme drought. Stop watering in winter or during rainy weather. Routine feeding is not necessary, although a 3-inch layer of compost spread beneath the drip line of the shrub will provide a constant, low-level source of nutrients while keeping weeds at bay. Cleyera grows slowly and seldom needs pruning, but you can pinch it back in spring to encourage a more compact shape.