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Coffeeberry is an evergreen shrub that is native to many parts of California. Across this range, most plants develop a mounding habit and are highly variable in size from 5 - 10 ft. and occasionally to 15 ft. in height. Leathery leaves grow to 3 in. long, and 1 in. wide; tiny inconspicuous yellow-green flowers occur in spring. Attractive berries mature to red or black in fall that are valued by birds. It is often found on slopes and ridges, in light or heavy soils and in full sun to partial shade.

Coffeeberry grows best with regular winter moisture and then adapts to seasonal summer drought. Its varied size and attractive evergreen foliage make this a useful shrub on slopes and in perimeter garden areas. It grows well in sun to partial shade with other California natives on the Coast Live Oak Native Garden palette and with low amounts of summer irrigation.

Horticultural interest in coffeeberry as led to the selection and introduction of several cultivars for their foliage and colorful berries. Larger cultivars are used as background and screen plants; smaller types are good for borders and on banks, including: R. c. 'Eve Case' has large dull green leaves to 3 in. long and grows 3-5 ft. tall and as wide. R. c. 'Leatherleaf' is a compact selection that produces smaller dark green leaves and mounds to 5 ft. tall and 6 ft. wide. R. c. 'Mound San Bruno' is a large mounding shrub with a dense habit, 8-12 ft. tall and as wide.

Water Needs

Coffeeberry and its many cultivars grow well with normal winter rains and low amounts of supplemental water during summer. The chart shown below provides a recommended baseline guide to the monthly irrigation schedule and volume of supplemental water needed to maintain healthy growth throughout the average year. It should be noted there are several winter months indicated by an asterisk (*) when rains can provide sufficient moisture and irrigation is not needed. The high and low range of moisture indicates it can grow with varying amounts of water; young plants will grow faster and larger with the higher amounts of supplemental moisture in this range.

Irrigation Schedule and Graph

Low Water Use Plants

Irrigation Schedule 1

  Jan* Feb* Mar* Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov* Dec*
Runs per Month 0x to 2x 0x to 2x 0x to 2x 1x 1x 1x 1x 1x 1x 1x 0x to 2x 0x to 2x
Inches per Run 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1"
Inches per Month 0" to 2" 0" to 2" 0" to 2" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 0" to 2" 0" to 2"

Range of supplemental summer water: 7"
Range of supplemental winter water: 0"-10"

  Jan* Feb* Mar* Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov* Dec*
For more information on how to use this Irrigation Schedule and Graph, follow this link.

For information how to calculate your irrigation system’s schedule and precipitation rate, please follow this link.

Plant Properties

Plant Type: Shrub, Native
Foliage Character: Evergreen
Habit: Spreading, Mounding
Growth Rate: Moderate
Height: 8 ft. - 10 ft.
Width: 8 ft. - 10 ft.
Water Needs: Low 1
Foliage Color: Dark green
Flower Color: Insignificant, Green
Flower Season: Spring
Soil Adaptations: Well-draining soil, Silt, Clay
Exposure Adaptations: Morning sun, Fog, Drought, All day sun, Partial sun
Function: Wildlife value, Slopes, Screening, Foundations, Foliage accent plant, California native, Borders, Banks, Background plant, Attracts butterflies


Prune by heading back as much of the new-ish growth as desired and shape to encourage long-term nice form and branching pattern in May (1). Feel free to lightly prune outer branches if shaping is needed in early Fall, but try to reserve any more substantial pruning for late spring (1).



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