When planted right and in the right spot Wax Myrtle, also known as Bayberry, are exceptionally easy to grow.

Here's a breakdown of what you need to know regarding how to plant and care for Wax Myrtle...


Cultural Preferences



Soil Preferences

Wax Myrtle is very easy to grow. It adapts to most any soil of average fertility to poor soils. When young it prefers a consistently moist soil, but established plants are exceptionally drought tolerant. That said, established plants will also tolerate moist to soggy soil conditions.



Soil pH

Wax Myrtle grow in a wide range of soil pH; from acid to moderately alkaline soils ranging between 6.0 to 8.0 on the pH scale. Most average garden soils fall between a pH range of 6.0 to 7.0. 


How To Test Soil pH 

Soil pH is a measurement of the alkalinity or acidity of soil and is measured on a scale of 1-14, with 7 as the neutral mark. Any measurement below 7 indicates acid soil conditions, and anything above 7 indicates alkaline. 

If you're unsure about the pH of your soil, and whether or not it's suitable for growing Wax Myrtle, it's a good idea to test the soil pH in the planting area. You can quickly test soil pH with an inexpensive soil pH tester probe. To raise the pH (make more alkaline) you can add pelletized limestone to the soil. To lower the pH (make more acid) you can apply Soil SulfurAluminum Sulfate, or Chelated Iron. Adding organic compost to the soil or using compost as mulch can also help to increase acidity and maintain acid soil conditions.




Light Preferences

Wax Myrtle can be grown in full sun or part shade. Plants growing in more sun will have more dense foliage. A minimum of 4 to 5 hours of direct sunlight is suggested.



How To Plant A Wax Myrtle In The Ground

Scroll down for container planting instructions and care tips)


Step 1

Start by digging your planting hole at least two to three times as wide and no deeper than the rootball of your Wax Myrtle. The wider the hole the better. Place native soil removed from planting hole around the perimeter of the hole, in a wheel barrow, or on a tarp.


Step 2

In this step I usually suggest using a soil amendment to improve dense clay or poor soils. Wax Myrtle adapt well and actually like poor soils. In all but the the poorest of soils there is no need to add a soil amendment to the native soil removed from the planting hole. That said, if the soil is hard as a brick it might be beneficial to mix in some sand and/or bagged top soil to the native soil.


Step 3

To remove your Wax Myrtle from the container it was growing in first squeeze the sides of the container to loosen the root ball. Then grasp the base of the plant with your fingers and gently try to lift and remove the root ball from the container. After having removed the plant from the container, loosen some feeder roots around the surface of the root ball.


Step 4

Set your Wax Myrtle in the planting hole so that the top edge of the root ball is at or slightly above ground level to allow for settling. If necessary, add some backfill soil mixture to the bottom of the hole to achieve proper planting height. 



Step 5

After setting your Wax Myrtle in the planting hole, use one hand to hold the plant straight and your other hand to begin back-filling your soil mixture around the root ball, tamping as you go to remove air pockets. When you have filled the hole to the halfway point you can soak the soil. Then continue back-filling to the top edge of the root ball. To avoid suffocating your plant, avoid placing any soil on top of the root ball.


Step 6 (Optional)

When planting your Wax Myrtle in a site far away from a water source you can use remaining soil mixture to build a water retaining berm (catch basin / doughnut) that is several inches high around the outside perimeter of the planting hole. This basin will help to collect water from rainfall and irrigation often reducing the need for hand-watering. The berm can be removed after a growing season or two.


Step 7

Next, deeply water the planting area, including the root ball, to a depth equal to the height of the root ball. For an extra boost, you can water your newly planted Wax Myrtle with a solution of Root Stimulator, which stimulates early root formation and stronger root development, thereby reducing plant shock and promoting greener, more vigorous plants.


Step 8

To conserve moisture and suppress weed growth, apply a 2" layer of shredded or chipped wood mulch or pine straw around the planting area. Avoid using freshly chipped or shredded wood for mulch until it has cured in a pile for at least 6 months, a year is better. Avoid placing or piling mulch directly against the base of your plant as this could cause the bark to rot.





How To Plant A Wax Myrtle In A Container


Wax Myrtle growing in pots appreciate a consistently moist, but well-drained soil. Therefore, I suggest a container with a drainage hole(s) filled with a quality potting soil.

Choose a container that is large enough to allow for 2 to 3 years of growth before shifting up to a larger size container. This might mean your planting pot would be 10 to 12 inches or more in diameter (width) than the root ball of your plant. 

Container color will matter as well. Not only will you want to pick a color of container that goes well with the foliage color of your Wax Myrtle, you'll also want to pick a container that matches the style of your home or other structures and other plants in the surrounding environment. 

Many nursery & garden centers offer a wide variety of containers to choose from. Before heading out to buy a container take pictures of your home and the surrounding environment. Doing so will help you to choose just the right color and style.


Container Planting Instructions


Step 1

Before filling your container with the soil mix, I recommend lining the bottom with shade cloth or a porous landscape fabric. This will keep the drain holes from becoming stopped up with soil. If you use gravel or other materials in the bottom of the container lay the fabric over it. 


Step 2

To remove your Wax Myrtle from the container it was growing in first squeeze the sides of the container to loosen the root ball. Then grasp the base of the plant with your fingers and gently try to lift and remove the root ball from the container. After having removed the plant from the container, loosen some feeder roots around the surface of the root ball.


Step 3

Pour a small amount of your soil mixture in the bottom of the container. Set the root ball of your plant in the container and make necessary adjustments by adding or removing some soil so that the top edge of the root ball will sit approximately 1" below the rim of the container.




Step 4

Backfill with your soil mixture around the root ball, tamping as you go, until the level of potting soil is even with the top edge of root ball.


Step 5

Water thoroughly until water starts to drain from the holes in the bottom of the container. Add more soil mixture if settling occurs during watering.


Step 6 (Optional)

Apply a 1/2" layer of wood chips or sphagnum moss to soil surface to help conserve moisture. Stone mulch can also be used.





Caring For Wax Myrtle Shrubs & Trees


Wax Myrtle are very easy to care for. Follow the basic guidelines below and you'll be growing Wax Myrtles like the pros.


Here's a breakdown of what you need to know...


How To Fertilize Wax Myrtle

Wax Myrtle are light feeders however will benefit from fertilization. I fertilize mine in spring with a slow-release shrub & tree food, preferably one that contains Sulfur and/or Iron. Alternatively, you can feed with a natural organic plant food

Note: To avoid stimulating new growth that could be damaged by an early frost, cease fertilization two weeks prior to the average first frost date in your area.


Soil pH 

Soil pH is a measurement of the alkalinity or acidity of soil, which is measured on a scale of 1-14, with 7 as the neutral mark. Any measurement below 7 indicates acid soil conditions, and anything above 7 indicates alkaline.

Wax Myrtle grow in a wide range of soil pH; from acid to moderately alkaline soils ranging between 6.0 to 8.0 on the pH scale. Most average garden soils fall between a pH range of 6.0 to 7.0. 




Watering Ligustrum Plants


When young, Wax Myrtle will appreciate consistent moisture in the soil to establish roots. When established they are exceptionally drought tolerant plants. That said, when established they are also tolerant of consistently moist to wet soils. 


At Planting Time 

Immediately after planting deep soak the soil in the planting area, including the rootball, to a depth equal to the height of the root ball. For an extra boost, you can water your newly planted Ligustrum with a solution of Root Stimulator, which stimulates early root formation and stronger root development. Root Stimulator reduces plant shock and promotes greener, more vigorous plants.


During the First Active Growth Season

In average garden soil you should not have to water your newly planted Wax Myrtle every day. In the absence of sufficient rainfall, water only as needed to keep the root ball and surrounding soil moist. Keep in mind that deep soaking less frequently is much better than splashing just a little water on the plants every day.


Thereafter

Only during prolonged drought will established Wax Myrtle plants require supplemental irrigation. If you see new leaves wilting, curling, or turning a lighter shade of green, or the tips of new stems bending over during dry weather, this could be a sign your plants could use a good deep soaking.


TIP:  When watering with an automated irrigation system it's best to set your timer to water during the early morning hours and not in the late evening or at night, which can lead to the onset of fungus and other foliage diseases. During the first few weeks after planting, check soil moisture often and adjust irrigation time if necessary to keep the soil moist, not wet. 




Ligustrums, what many gardeners call "privets," come in several different species and many varieties. Some are smaller shrubs and useful in the landscape as hedges or in home foundation plantings. Others grow much taller making them ideal for use as a privacy screen or 'limbed up" to form an attractive small tree.


Pruning A Wax Myrtle


Wax Myrtle do not require pruning however respond well to it for shaping purposes, for hedges, or to form a very attractive small tree with larger growing cultivars.


When To Prune Wax Myrtle

Light pruning of Wax Myrtle to remove a stray or damaged branch can be performed any time of year. 

Shearing of Wax Myrtle to form hedges can be performed any time of year. That said, to avoid damage to new growth that emerges after pruning, I recommend ceasing pruning two months prior to the average first frost date in your area. 

Heavy pruning of Wax Myrtle to reduce size or to tree form should be performed in late winter, while the plant is dormant.


Selective Pruning of Wax Myrtle

Use a sharp pair of bypass hand pruners to selectively remove stray or damaged branches. When removing a stray branch, make your cut at a point along the branch even with main form of the plant. When removing a damaged or dead branch, make your cut beyond the point of breakage or at the origin of the branch. 


Pruning Wax Myrtle for Hedges

Wax Myrtle may be lightly shear using hedge trimmers or clippers several times throughout the growing season. As mentioned, cease trimming two months prior to the average first-frost date in your area. 


Tree Forming a Wax Myrtle

Taller growing Wax Myrtle cultivars are very easy to tree form. 

Wait until your shrub is about 4 feet tall to begin the tree forming process. At that time, start at the base of the plant by removing the lateral (horizontal) branches growing from trunk(s). Continue removing branches until you've reached the desired height and are satisfied with the appearance. Before making your cuts, make sure that the removal of a branch will not spoil the shape of the canopy. Also, between each cut take a few steps back to take a look at your plant. 



Plant Long & Prosper!

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