This small multi-branching tree or shrub grows about 10-20 ft tall. Leaves are 2-3" long, glossy, waxy, dark green, and somewhat folded down the center. As the tree gets older the bark peels off, resulting in a smooth and very attractive trunk. In the spring the Cherry of the Rio Grande is one of our early flowering tropical fruits and often blossoms in the first part of March. The flowers are white and quite showy. Blooming and fruiting season continues for several months into Summer. The delicious cherry is one inch oblong fruit, beautiful dark red to purple, and is produced soon after flowering. When ripe the the fruit can turn almost black and have a full cherry-like flavor. The fruit are highly prized fresh and as jellies, jams or juices. They freeze quite well, so they can be picked at maturity and frozen for later use.
A slow grower, Cherry of the Rio Grande grows 2 to 3 feet per year and makes a very attractive large shrub or small tree, depending on how it's trained. It is ideal for limited space landscapes since it can be kept as a bush or even as a container specimen and still produce adequate quantities of fruit. Propagated by seed, although seedlings may take up to 4-5 years to fruit.
The plant is fairly drought tolerant, but needs regular watering when flowering and fruiting, but avoid over-irrigation as it may create problems with the root system. The plant is tolerant of a variety of soils, it grows best in partly acidic soil; it does not like large amounts of salt spray. A relatively hardy plant, it can tolerate as low as low 20's F when mature, though younger plants should be protected from frosts.