Lilly Pilly berries aka riberries are indigenous to Southeast Asia, Australia and the Indian Ocean region as far west as Madagascar. They are unique from nearly all other berries in both taste and texture. The berries are pear shaped with a pink -red skin sometimes red-brown or purple and roughly the size of a cherry.
Some varieties differ somewhat. Technically they are a stone fruit – but for culinary and gardening purposes we consider them berries. The major bulk of the berry is the pit, which is encased in the edible flesh. The flesh has been described as similar to figs, pears and at times apples with a tartness similar to cranberry. When fully or over-ripe there is a faint after-taste reminiscent of cloves.
Lilly Pilly berries are most commonly acquired via foraging in their native lands , but can and are cultivated commercially on a small scale. In the correct climatic conditions they can be grown by home gardeners. In Austrailia they are very popular and are being imported to North America on a limited scale.
Zones: Undetermined – In their natural habitat they have shown to tolerate temperatures slightly below freezing [Low 30s F]
- Soil: Loamy – Well Drained
- pH Level: 4.5 – 6.0
- Light: Full Sun / Partial Shade
- Self Pollinating – More than one specimen is better for biodiversity
- Ripens/Harvest:Mid to Late Summer
- Maturity [Years to bare Fruit]: 2
There are many varieties that range from Goliath trees to those that lend themselves well to hedgerows or even dwarf potted plants. They can be started either by seed or cuttings.
Lilly pillies when grown in a manicured landscape scenario are frequently pruned and respond very well . Smaller varieties respond well to tip pruning which encourages a bushy growth if that is what you want. They can withstand a heavy pruning or top pruning to maintain a desired height or size. Be sure plants are well watered and healthy prior to and after pruning.
They can be grown in Full sun or partial shade – full shade is not advisable. They grow well in a variety of soil types so long as there is sufficient drainage – clay soils are not advisable and should be worked heavily with mulch and organic compost .
Younger plants respond well to fertilizers, manure, compost 4 times per season is best [early spring, late spring, summer and early fall]. Once established the fertilizer should be cut back to modest applications twice yearly [Spring and Fall]
The Lilly pilly berry can be devoured au naturelle / as is, but is best when used in a number of preserves jams and jellies as well as pies, pastries, sauces and syrups.
Known Pests / Problems
As these plants have not been grown extensively in North America, their susceptibility or resistance to native disease has not been studied with any degree of reliability. They are however known to be susceptible to several categories of insect pests as well as a favorite of some birds.
Sap sucking pests are common problems associated with these trees – scales, aphids, sap sucking beetles and Psyllids.
Sooty mold is an occasional problem, it is the result of sap sucking insects who excrete a liquid called honey dew. Fungus in turn develops on the excretion and creates a black sooty mold on foliage and basically anything it comes into contact with.
Some leaf eating beetles will also chow down on this plant, but are usually not a major issue.