“The flower blooms of my Barbados cherry are pink with yellow but they fall off the whole stem while in bloom. What am I doing or I should ask what I am not doing? I water it a little extra, but they seem to keep falling off.” Question from Carol of Joaquin, Texas.
Answer: It sounds like you are hoping for fruits in addition to stopping premature flower drop. It is typical for most of the small pink flowers of Barbados cherry to fall from the tree, but using a product called Blossom Set can help flowers remain for longer to encourage fruiting. It is also important to know that older, more established Barbados cherries flower more because the flowers occur on old wood. Good irrigation and extra care can also help these trees to flower. Try adding compost around the base of the tree and feeding it with a fertilizer formulated for flowering trees and shrubs. (Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations regarding fertilizer quantity and method.)
When it comes to fruiting, planting more than one tree can encourage cross-pollination and fruit set, though some trees are self-fertile. Native bees are the primary pollinators, so avoid using any pesticides on or around your tree.
I hope that this helps answer your question!
Black Gold Horticulturist
“I have a Barbados cherry tree that I just bought from a fast-growing tree nursery, and it’s small and dying. When I got the plant, all the leaves were gone, and it’s just not growing. I added seaweed and some fish emulsion, but it just won’t grow. There is green when I scratch the stem. What can I do to bring it back?” Question from Carol of Joaquin, Texas
Answer: This a concern because the leaves of Barbados cherry (Malpighia glabra) are evergreen, so it should have had leaves when it arrived from the nursery. But, it’s a good sign that you see green when you scratch the stem. It may still have enough life left in it to survive.
Because this subtropical shrub/tree is not reliably hardy where you live (USDA Hardiness Zone 8), I would plant it in a pot with very well-drained potting soil and keep the soil just moist. In the wild, it grows in very dry soils, so too much water will kill it. I suggest Black Gold Cactus Mix with a little added peat moss.
If your tree has enough life in it, the little guy should start putting out leaves and new growth within a couple of weeks. If it doesn’t, be sure to get a replacement. Barbados cherry makes a nice potted specimen, and I’ve never eaten the fruit, but it’s supposed to be tart and tasty.
To learn more about this South Texas native tree/shrub, check out this webpage from the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. Barbados cherry is a great wildlife plant because its delicate pink flowers feed butterflies and edible fruits feed songbirds.
Black Gold Horticulturist