Myrtle (Myrtus) has been grown as a decorative plant for thousands of years and yet it is still a rarity indoors. The small oval leaves are shiny and aromatic – the white flowers appear in large numbers in summer. In the fall the purple berries appear. In midwinter, many of the shoots are crowned by a series of radiating pink stems that are themselves topped with small heather-pink stars. These are immature fruits that eventually berry into purple-black, but in their unformed state they brighten the foliage and give this ancient, egg-shaped evergreen extra sparkle.
The shrub will grow about 2 ft tall if left untrimmed and can be stood outdoors during the summer months. Outdoors, myrtle needs to be tucked against a sheltered wall, grown in a seaside garden with a maritime climate, or planted in a container if it’s to avoid being browned by frost.
Myrtus communis bears bowl-shaped blooms, each with a prominent central boss of golden stamens. Where space is limited choose the small-leaved variety M. microphylla.
Secrets of success
Temperature: Cool or average warmth – minimum 40°F in winter. In mid-fall we have to locate myrtus communis in a cool room.
Light: Bright with some direct sunlight all year round, but protect from midday summer sun. Sunny windowsill in summertime is perfect place for growth.
Water: Water regularly from spring to fall. Water sparingly in winter. Use soft water.
Berries in winter
Air Humidity: Mist leaves frequently.
Repotting: Repot, if necessary. in spring.
Propagation: Take stem cuttings in summer.
The myrtle plant is also thought to have aphrodisiac qualities and it is traditional to use myrtle in bridal bouquets. But this may be because it produces vestal-white flowers in July and August, when many brides marry.