A green shrubby groundcover on a street island with palms

'Horizontal' cocoplum cultivar. Stephen H. Brown, UF/IFAS

Groundcover, hedge, and fruit tree — how many plants check all of these boxes? Cocoplum is a versatile, hardy native plant, perfect for coastal landscapes in the warmer half of the state.


Cocoplum is found growing wild from Pasco and Brevard counties south. Although generally listed as appropriate for USDA Hardiness Zones 10A to 12B, they survive in protected areas in 9B. The limiting factor for cocoplum's range is freezing temperatures. These shrubs often do not survive when the temperature drops below 32 degrees. In areas without hard freezes, however, cocoplum thrives!

Cocoplum's scientific name is Chrysobalanus icaco. Although all cocoplums are members of this species, there are two ecotypes and a couple of cultivars you should be aware of. An ecotype is a unique form of a plant usually found in a specific area. In the case of cocoplum, there is a coastal ecotype and an inland ecotype.

The coastal ecotype of cocoplum is a shorter, spreading shrub. It grows at a moderate rate and does not usually exceed 6 feet tall. This ecotype can easily be kept 18-24 inches high with regular pruning. It makes an excellent groundcover and a good low hedge. Look for the cultivar 'Horizontal' to be sure you're selecting this coastal form. The new leaves are light green to yellow and the fruits are white, pink, and occasionally purple. (For gardeners in the cooler half of the state, consider gopher apple, a close relative, as substitute coastal groundcover.)

Cocoplum's inland ecotype can reach 15 to 25 feet tall if not pruned smaller. They can be pruned into hedges or allowed to sprawl into a dome-shaped shrub. If you begin pruning early you can also keep this ecotype a small, single- or multi-trunked tree. Cultivars of inland cocoplum include 'Red Tip' and 'Green Tip'. These two cultivars look roughly the same but display new growth in either red or green. 'Redtip' fruits are oblong and purple. 'Greentip' fruits are white or occasionally purple.

All ecotypes and cultivars of cocoplum share the same attractive, rounded leaves. With age the upper surfaces become dark green and glossy with matte undersides. Cocoplum's small waxy flowers peak in late spring and are white. The ovaries are green and fuzzy and ripen into fruits throughout the summer.

Six round fruits of different colors and sizes in the palm of a hand

Cocoplum fruits. Left: 'Green Tip,' Center: 'Horizontal,' Right top: 'Green Tip,' Right bottom: 'Red Tip'. Stephen H. Brown, UF/IFAS

Cocoplum fruits are edible and can be made into jams and jellies. They are easy to pick, soft, and slightly sweet when ripe. The skin is thin, covering white pulp and a single pit. Some people roast and eat the pits, too. As always, we recommend consulting a UF/IFAS Family and Consumer Sciences Extension Agent at your county Extension office before preserving home-grown fruits and vegetables.

Whether or not you choose to give cocoplum harvesting a try, the crop will not go to waste. Gopher tortoises and other native wildlife love cocoplums and the habitat these plants provide.

Planting and Care

Cocoplums do best in full sun or moderate to light shade. Both ecotypes and all cultivars of cocoplum grow well inland and on the coast. The plants grow naturally in a range of soil pHs and once established are very salt tolerant.

To create of a hedge of cocoplum, space plants 36 to 50 inches apart. It takes about a year to form a dense hedge. From that point onward, two or three trimmings a year will help keep its strong hedge form. Hedges of the inland cocoplum are usually maintained 4-8 feet tall. The coastal cocoplum does better as a hedge 3-6 feet tall.

As with most shrubs, the key to a healthy cocoplum is a healthy establishment period. Keep your new plants watered for the first five to seven months, watering by hand whenever rainfall isn't enough. Once they're well established, cocoplums need very little irrigation or fertilizer. They are also salt and wind resistant, making them an excellent choice for coastal landscapes.

A hedge of cocoplum four to five feet tall with young woman standing next to it for scale

'Red Tip' cocoplum hedge. Stephen H. Brown, UF/IFAS

Cocoplum is a hardy Florida native and suffers from very few pests and diseases. Lobate lac scale, weevils, algal leaf spots, and Botryosphaeria canker are occasional problems. One significant problem, however, comes from poor root health. Plants that become pot-bound before planting suffer from root rot and will slowly decline.

Circling roots are also an issue as the plants mature. If you purchase potted plants, check their root health and remove any circling roots before you plant.

Cocoplum is usually propagated by stem cuttings. This ensures that the new plants will be of the same ecotype or cultivar as the parent. You can also propagate cocoplum by seed but the results are mixed. The offspring might not be "true to type" (identical to the parents) and the process is slower.

For more information on cocoplum contact your county Extension office.

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