Natal Plum Bonsai Tree Care Guide (Carissa macrocarpa)

Carissa macrocarpa, also called Natal plum big numnum, Amatungulu, and grootnoemnoem is from South Africa and has grown in several parts of America. It belongs to the Dogbane or Apocynaceae group. Its fruit can be consumed fresh or can also be cooked.

Many relish the Carissa fruit natural or in jellies, jams, tarts, and seasonings. They taste like a little sweet cranberry with the consistency of a grown strawberry, but many individuals say it is like a small unripe cherry.

The entire plant is toxic, except for red-colored fruits. Only the fruit of this plant is eaten and is called plum, but it has almost no taste. Fruits are low in cholesterol, sodium, vitamins C, B1, B2, and A, calcium, protein, iron, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, sodium, copper, and low in fat.

Carissa can be difficult to grow because when cut or broken, milky sap exudes, and the fruits can be easily damaged, making harvesting and transportation difficult. And as the juice thickens, the berries are only retained for a short time. Crops are a valuable source of food and a huge source of income for African farmers and have the potential to succeed in the global market.

Carissa is a firm, evergreen, thorny native shrub that grows 7 feet high and 10 feet wide. The plant grows well in tropical and subtropical climates, grows naturally in the poorest and most rocky soils, and grows as hedge plants in dry sandy or rocky soils. It is most prolific in deep, fertile, and well-drained soils, but too moist soils can lead to excessive vegetative growth and reduced fruit production. It has many branches, thorny branches. The stem is generally bifurcated and has thorns.

The plant has shiny, shiny, dark green oval leaves. They are usually 13 inches long and are formed along the branches in the opposite arrangement. The fruits are green when unripe and change from bright red to purple when ripe. The fruits have a hard skin that tastes a bit bitter. The flesh is slightly grainy, dark red or purple with white spots. The fruits have a mild, slightly tangy aroma, juicy tart, and a sour-sweet taste. As already mentioned, the whole plant is toxic, except for the red-colored fruits.

Today, fruits continue to grow in parts of Africa and warmer parts of the United States, including California, Hawaii, and Florida. Attempts were made to introduce the shrubs to Israel, but they did not bear fruit.

Benefits of Natal Plum Bonsai Tree

  • It is rich in iron and is beneficial for patients with anemia. It is also used to cure the effects of scurvy.
  • Prevents excessive secretion of bile by the liver and prevents bile.
  • Provides comfort in case of diarrhea.
  • It effectively reduces heat and regulates and optimizes heart function to prevent heart disease.
  • When you are naturally depressed, you are less excited to heal your anxiety.
  • It is recommended to relieve constipation.
  • It strengthens, tones, and prevents stomach problems.
  • It is beneficial to stop internal bleeding.
  • Relieves a cough.
  • Removes impurities from the blood.
  • It is beneficial in lowering blood sugar levels and is useful in treating diabetes.
  • Ripe fruits are taken as biliary anti-scrub agents and remedies.
  • It is effective against intermittent fever, diarrhea, oral infections, and ear pain.
  • Roots are used to remedy bitter stomachs and insects and are part of the anti-itch remedy.
  • The roots contain salicylic acid and cardiac glycosides, which slightly lower blood pressure.

How to Grow Natal Plum Bonsai Tree

The best way to grow new plum plants is from seeds, which take about two weeks to germinate. Large flat seeds are collected from ripe fruits and grown in trays in the fall or spring. Cuttings can successfully propagate these plants. Summer semi-ripe cuttings show the best results. These plants work well in various soils, but well-drained substrates are preferred. If the sandy soil is very poor, consider mixing organic matter with the plantation.

Carissa macrocarpa comes from a fairly water-rich and humid climate, so it is necessary to water it regularly for maximum growth in dry climates. These plants work best in full shade to partial shade. Plants that grow in the shade survive but develop a thin, long-legged habit.

This plant is frost-sensitive and is considered tough in USDA zones 9 and 11. It withstands salty soils and splashes and grows well in windy areas, making it an ideal plant for coastal areas. Some plants were laid on the ground in the cold and then re-grown normally, but it is better not to expose them to frost. A great option for gardeners in cold climates is to grow one of the dwarf forms in a container and bring the plants indoors during the colder months.

How to Care and Maintain Natal Plum Bonsai Tree

These are medium to fast-growing shrubs, depending on where they grow. They have a naturally rounded shape but are easy to trim. Dwarf foam can revert to a larger wild type if not pruned regularly. The thorns are very sharp, so be careful when pruning. If you have a lot to do, wear coveralls and heavy gloves for your safety.

Balanced liquid fertilizer helps promote growth in areas with poor soil. It is especially recommended in areas with alkaline soils. Carissa macrocarpa plants grown in containers must be brought indoors during the colder months when grown in cool climates. Natal plums are generally very resistant to pests. However, pests such as spider mites, thrips, and whiteflies can attack young plants. Potential illness problems include leaf spots, rot, and root rot.


A natal plum bonsai must be brought inside when the temperature drops below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, as with most tropical trees. Ensure your natal plum tree receives 6 hours of good lighting when you’re inside, either from a grow lamp or a southern doorway. If it provides 6+ hours of sunlight, an eastern or western window ledge will suffice. It can be put outside for the period in full brightness in the summertime whenever the likelihood of it dipping under 50 is passed.

Watering and Fertilizing

Avoid allowing the soil to dry fully. Hydrate your plant until the water has evaporated from the bottom, even when the soil appears parched. You can do it frequently during the planting season. Your natal plum bonsai requires fertilizers in a small container rather than in the field. A gradual fertilizer comes in handy, as it may be used judiciously per 1-2 months throughout most of the growth period.


Whenever the roots of your bonsai, including the natal plum, have covered the container, repotting is required. It’s appropriate to repot your bonsai if you can see the roots sprouting out of the bottom of the container. A hardwood tree should be pruned for 2-3 years, while you should prune a shrubby or tropical plant for 4-5 years.

Check out these bonsai pots made from different materials ranging from Mica to Aztec!

Diseases and Pests

Like a regular natal plum tree, your natal plum bonsai can be treated for insects. Keep in mind that your tree is little and will require a gentler approach.