Inquiries About Two Particularly Unusual Houseplants
by Art Drysdale
by Art Drysdale


Art Drysdale, a life-long resident of Toronto and a horticulturist well known all across Canada, is now a resident of Parksville, British Columbia on Vancouver Island, just north of Nanaimo. He has reno-vated an old home and has a new garden there. His radio gardening vignettes are heard in south-western Ontario over radio station Easy 101 FM out of Tillsonburg at 2 PM weekdays.

Art also has his own website at

February 8, 2015

Above, this is how the Brazilian Grape Tree (Jaboticaba myrciaria cauliflora) produces its edible fruit; our Wolllemi pine in its pot just temporarily outside for a rainwater cleansing. Below, a single Majes-tic palm (Ravenea rivularis) and a small group ready to be planted outdoors in a mild climate.



This week I’ll get back to questions and miscellaneous information. I’ll start with a question that came from Michael Howell who lives on nearby Salt Spring Island. It actually came in last Christmas Eve!

“You don't know me, but I stumbled across your post about the Cannonball Tree and the Brazilian Grape Tree.

“I live on Salt Spring Island, in the unusually temperate Vesuvius microclimate.

“I was wondering if you found out about availability of the Brazilian Grape Tree in our area? I intend to contact Bob and Verna Duncan!

“Much appreciate anything you can share on this! I'm a landscape designer with a passion for using edibles in my designs—so containerized Brazilian Grape Trees appeal!

“Thank you in advance!”

Michael Howell, Terra Luma Design

Sorry to be so long in replying to you Michael. Unfortunately I don’t think I have anything more to tell you about availability of Brazilian Grape Trees now than I did when you originally wrote. I just do not seem to be able to find anyone growing/selling these trees in Canada now than I did originally. I think you will just have to keep your eyes on the various sites where they ‘chat’ back and forth with each other. For example, the forum at ‘The Corroboree’ found here: .

Numerous folks seem to have started their trees from seed obtained using this method. How-ever, from what I read about the tree, it is likely not hardy outdoors even here in the mildest part of Canada. You will likely be able to find some directions for over-wintering the tree(s) in such climates as this. Although keeping them in a protected exposure for the winter is no doubt possible, there are growers who do not recommend over-wintering in a home, you will certainly read about that by using Google.

As an aside here, with regard to over-wintering borderline hardy plants indoors, when I first obtained my two-metre-high Wollemi pine (Wollemia nobilis) from friend Brian Minter, I mentioned to him I might try it for the first winter in our great room, which is kept fairly cool during the heating season.

His response to that was, “No, don’t do that” it is a hardy tree outdoors in the garden in our area!

Well, contrary to Brian’s good advice, we decided to keep the tall, thin plant indoors year-round and only put it outdoors during good heavy rains in order to clean the foliage. You can see how the tree looks now after five or six years of growth in the photo alongside. Since it is adjacent to the large windows facing the Strait of Georgia, Yves lights it up each Christmas.

So Michael, that is all I am able to offer you in the way of advice—I hope you get some seed and try them, and that you’ll let me know how they do.

The second question came much more recently—on the 9th of last month so almost a month ago. It came from Nathan Rollins of unknown location! Here it is.

“So my uncle has a plant at his house called a ravenea. He got it from a greenhouse and has been fertilizing it once every two weeks as he was told but the ends of the plant are going brown and he has already lost one. He was wondering what could be done to remedy this.”

The plant your uncle has is a palm, specifically the Majestic or Majesty palm (Ravenea rivularis) which is of questionable hardiness even here in the mildest part of Canada. Not knowing your actual home city I am unable to suggest whether it might be worth trying by moving it to a mild area of your home in the winter.

I think the browning tips are likely caused by insufficient humidity. Most home-grown palms suffer this problem even in houses with reasonable humidity. There is not a lot you can do except to keep a misting bottle near the plant and mist all of the foliage at least four or five times per day. The other possibility is to place the pot in a tray with large gravel covering the base and to set the plant pot(s) on top of the gravel. That will allow you to keep a little bit of water in the tray at all times and still not have the pots sitting in water (which they should not).

Yellowing foliage may also be caused by too much fertilizer being applied, or leaving the soil too wet. Ideally the surface of the soil in the pot should dry out slightly before you water some more.

Probably the only maintenance that you will need to do regularly is to apply fertilizer to avoid any nutritional deficiency. These palms are reasonably hungry eaters! You can use a regular palm fertilizer with a 3-1-3 ratio for smaller plants and 15-5-15 ratio for bigger plants. Be careful when applying the fertilizer and follow the package instructions.

For slow release fertilizers, apply it once or twice in summer when the palms are growing. Avoid applying it every month as it might overwhelm and burn your plants. Also add fertilizers that have magnesium and calcium so that your plant will truly get all the nutrients it needs.

Over-fertilizing your plant is just as dangerous as a deficiency.

Majestic Palms like a very moist soil. During the summer or warmer months, you may need to water your palm every two days to keep the soil from drying out. If you notice that the soil of your palm is drying out, be sure to be more vigilant in watering.

If you see yellowing fronds, it could be a sign of overwatering. If this happens, let the soil dry out a bit before watering again.

This palm is definitely not hardy outdoors basically anywhere in Canada


  • New Eden
  • Kids Garden
  • Plant a Row Grow a Row