Floridata Plant Encyclopedia

A Floridata Plant Profile 250 Ternstroemia gymnanthera

Common Names: Cleyera Family: Theaceae (tea Family)
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cleyera foliage
The brilliant young leaves of cleyera progress through a series of color changes as they mature to ultimately become dark green.


Cleyera is an evergreen shrub with alternate, glossy, dark green leaves. Like the popular shrub, redtop (Photinia X fraseri), new growth on cleyera is red, then it changes to dark green as it matures. The shrub grows upright but full and rounded, and a mature specimen can attain a height of 8-10 ft (2.4-3 m) with a 6 ft (2 m) spread. This shrub does not grow as fast as some, but is well worth waiting for! Flowers are white and emerge from the leaf axils on the previous year's growth. Oval shaped berries follow, starting green and gradually turning red by fall. Flowers and berries are not particularly showy, but the foliage is beautiful!

Compared to the foliage, cleyera flowers are less than showy.


Ternstroemia gymnanthera is native to China and Japan. It has become naturalized in the southern United States and in other semi-tropical climates.


Cleyera likes a moist, well drained, acidic soil. Overgrown shrubs may be pruned. Cutting back can rejuvenate the plant. Young leaves are quite tender, so pruning should be done well before chance of frost. Light: Cleyera grows best in part sun to shade. Moisture: Soils should be average to moist. Hardiness: USDA Zones 8 - 10. Propagation: Start cuttings in late summer or seeds in spring.
With periodic trimming the cleyera can be shaped into hedges and topiary.


This shiny little shrub is a good accent plant; use one as a tall shrub at a northern corner of a foundation planting. It is also good as a hedge plant or in a mixed shrub border. A row of cleyera makes a fine screen. If planting in a row or grouping, space 4-6 ft (1.2-2 m) apart.


The glossy foliage and handsome overall appearance make cleyera a standout among hedge shrubs. Cleyera demands little care, stands up well to drought and is seldom bothered by pests or disease.

Steve Christman 06/12/97; updated 07/07/06, 10/13/07, 12/11/08

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