Common myrtle is a small, original, flower-bearing and very ornamental garden shrub.
Basic common myrtle facts
Name – Myrtus communis
Family – Myrtaceae
Type – shrub
Height – 10 to 16 feet (3-5 meters)
Exposure – rather sunny
Soil – ordinary, well drained
Foliage – evergreen
Flowering – June to October
Many find myrtle appealing all year round for its blooming, fragrance and edible pepper-flavored berries.
Planting common myrtle
Myrtle is a plant native to the Mediterranean area. It finds cold weather unbearable, especially over long periods of time.
It’s preferable to plant common myrtle in fall to favor root development and renewed growth in spring.
It is also possible to plant common myrtle in spring provided you diligently water it all summer long for the first year.
- Common myrtle prefers locations with high exposure to sunlight.
- It likes rich, well-drained soil: that is where it flowers best.
- Adding soil conditioner when planting enhances settling in and root development.
- Water well during the first 2 years after planting.
Common myrtle in pots and containers
Also try planting common myrtle in pots outside: just avoid both below-freezing temperatures and hot weather.
Potted common myrtle is ideal wherever winters are harsh. Pots are easier to move around and bring indoors during winter (greenhouse or unheated lean-in).
Growing myrtle indoors
In a pot, myrtle will do just fine indoors. Provide it with enough moisture that the leaf tips don’t dry out (brown tips). This will reduce risks of scale and whitefly, too. Don’t place in direct sunlight.
Propagation: seed or prepare myrtle cuttings
- Keep a few seeds from ripe berries. Dry them and store in a paper envelope in a cool, dry spot.
- Sow in spring.
New plants may come out different from the mother plant because of cross-pollination.
Cuttings, the way to get an exact same myrtle plant
A myrtle plant is quite easily multiplied through cuttings from semi-hardened sprigs. It’s the simplest propagation method.
Prepare your myrtle cuttings in spring or at the end of summer, on soft-wood growth, that is, wood that is not hard yet, nor has grown brown bark, but is in the process of hardening.
- Collect stems about 6-inches (15 cm) long.
- Remove lower leaves, leaving only the topmost one or two pairs.
- Plant the cuttings in special cutting soil mix or a blend of peat and river sand.
- Keep the substrate a little moist.
Protect your cuttings before winter
- Protect your common myrtle cuttings with a tunnel greenhouse or any other solution that maintains a temperature of at least 40°F (5°C).
Transplant in spring
- When the last frosts are past, towards mid-May, transplant in nursery pots one size larger.
- Transfer your myrtle cuttings to the ground in the following fall.
Read also: understanding the technique for cuttings
Pruning and caring for common myrtle
Although not pruning at all will suite the shrub fine since it rarely exceeds 16 feet (5 m) tall, you can balance or reduce the breadth of your common myrtle at the beginning of spring. Prune delicately.
To keep a compact appearance, trim the year’s new shoots back to half their length after the blooming.
Increase blooming by often adding liquid organic fertilizer. This is especially true for indoor plants since potted soil quickly loses nutrients.
Pests and diseases on common myrtle
Myrtus communis isn’t a favorite of many animals, so you will rarely have problems. For example, larger animals such as deer don’t like it. Insects (aphids, spider mite, scale…), if they appear, quickly move on to other hosts.
Myrtle resists diseases well, including honey fungus.
Types and varieties of myrtle
Dwarf common myrtle is great for growing in pots and for hedges both low and medium-high. The name to ask for in garden stores is ‘Compacta’.
- ‘Buxifolia’: grows very short with tiny leaves
- ‘Flore pleno’: bears beautiful double flowers
- ‘Microphylla’: small-leaved variety for a dense look
- ‘Variegata’ or ‘Variegatus’: leaves have creamy white markings
- Tarentum variety (tarentina) and ‘Leucocarpa’: both bear white berries
Myrtle, together with its “Tarentum” (or “Tarantina”) variety, won the Award of Garden Merit of the Royal Horticultural Society (United Kingdom) in 1993.
Learn more about common myrtle
Other names for this plant include “Sweet myrtle”, “Nerte” and “Lagui herb”. Common myrtle is often confused with other plants also called myrtle:
Myrtle’s cute summer blooming usually lasts from June to October, releasing a delicate fragrance. Each flower has wispy stamens jutting out from 5-6 pearly white petals (violet, more rarely). Leaves, when rumpled, are also fragrant.
Afterwards, flowers turn into edible dark berries perfect for making liquor, especially in Corsica and Sardinia. They’re also deliciously tart in sauces to pair with poultry and meats (prepare as you would cranberries). They have a pepper-like taste when dried: that’s what flavors some Italian sausages so deliciously!
Common myrtle has health benefits that have long been known, specifically as a tonic and antiseptic. Infusions (leaves) treat wounds and ulcers as well as urinary and digestive disorders. Why all these benefits? It’s a relative of Eucalyptus!
Smart tip about common myrtle
You must water regularly in summer but not too much. Water in the evening to reduce evaporation.
CC BY 4.0: Kim & Forest Starr