This upright, multi-branched, evergreen shrub or small tree has many features which make it a popular landscape choice. Unfortunately, strawberry guava has escaped cultivation and has infested ditch banks and other wild areas in south Florida, and its use should be tempered. Capable of reaching 25 feet in height but often seen at 10 to 15 feet, the thick, smooth, dark green, four-inch-long, leathery leaves nicely complement the smooth, grey-brown to golden bark which attractively peels off in thin sheets. The single, white, one-inch-diameter flowers have many prominent stamens and look like powderpuffs in miniature. The blooms appear heaviest in April but can open sporadically throughout the year.
Scientific name: Psidium cattleianum
Pronunciation: SID-ee-um kat-lay-ee-AH-num
Common name(s): strawberry guava, cattley guava
USDA hardiness zones: 10A through 11 (Figure 2)
Origin: native to Brazil
UF/IFAS Invasive Assessment Status: invasive and not recommended (South); caution, may be recommended but manage to prevent escape (North, Central)
Uses: shade; deck or patio; specimen; espalier; fruit; container or planter; highway median
Height: 15 to 25 feet
Spread: 10 to 25 feet
Crown uniformity: irregular
Crown shape: round, vase
Crown density: moderate
Growth rate: moderate
Leaf arrangement: opposite/subopposite
Leaf type: simple
Leaf margin: entire
Leaf shape: obovate, elliptic (oval)
Leaf venation: pinnate, brachidodrome
Leaf type and persistence: evergreen, broadleaf evergreen
Leaf blade length: 1 ½ to 4 inches
Leaf color: dark green on top, paler green underneath
Fall color: no color change
Fall characteristic: not showy
Flower color: white
Flower characteristics: showy; fragrant; emerges singly or in groups of 3 at leaf axis
Fruit shape: round or obovoid
Fruit length: 1 to 2 inches
Fruit covering: fleshy berry
Fruit color: purplish red
Fruit characteristics: attracts birds; showy; fruit/leaves a litter problem
Trunk and Branches
Trunk/branches: branches don't droop; showy; typically multi-trunked; no thorns
Bark: gray to reddish brown, smooth, and peeling
Pruning requirement: little required
Current year twig color: green, brown
Current year twig thickness: thin, medium
Wood specific gravity: unknown
Light requirement: full sun to partial shade
Soil tolerances: clay; sand; loam; alkaline; acidic; well-drained
Drought tolerance: moderate
Aerosol salt tolerance: moderate
Roots: not a problem
Winter interest: no
Outstanding tree: no
Ozone sensitivity: unknown
Verticillium wilt susceptibility: unknown
Pest resistance: resistant to pests/diseases
Use and Management
The 1.5-inch-diameter, bright red, pear-shaped fruits ripen to a very dark red in July and are a popular treat - for people and wildlife. Birds, raccoons, and squirrels all love the delicious, sweet-tart, white flesh and will widely spread the small, grape-like seeds. The abundant, fallen fruits may be messy on hard surfaces such as walks and cars, and trees should probably not be planted along residential streets or over sidewalks or patios. It would make a good small boulevard or median street tree and accents an area with its well-shaped canopy and interesting trunk form. It combines well with other plants in a shrub border and provides both food and cover for wildlife.
Strawberry guava grows well in full sun or partial shade on a wide range of soils, including sand or clay, but fruit quality is improved on rich soils. Plants are drought-tolerant once established but benefit from a thick, organic mulch. Any necessary pruning should be done after fruiting. Pick the fruit for eating before the fruit fly larvae discover it.
Psidium littorale var. littorale, lemon guava, is slower-growing and has large yellow fruits with delightful, spicy flavor.
Propagation is by air-layering's or by seeds. Seeds germinate easily and rapidly. Seedling plants take seven or eight years to bear fruit.
Pests and Diseases
No pests or diseases are of major concern. Fruit fly larvae devour the fruit but do no harm to the tree.
Koeser, A.K., Friedman, M.H., Hasing, G., Finley, H., Schelb, J. 2017. Trees: South Florida and the Keys. University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.