Name: muntries, emu apples, native cranberries, monterry (Kunzea pomifera).
Plant type: perennial ground cover.
Climate: cool and warm temperate.
Soil: well drained, moderate to strong alkaline pH (6.0–8.0).
Position: full sun with protection from strong winds.
Foliage: small, round, glossy green leaves.
Flowering and fruiting: clusters of fluffy, cream-white flowers appear in spring followed by small, fragrant green to red berries that ripen from February.
Feeding: feed with an organic-based fertiliser suitable for native plants.
Watering: water regularly at first. Once established, muntries are drought hardy but will grow better with regular watering, especially when flowering and fruiting.
Muntries are sprawling, woody native shrubs that grow to 0.5–1m tall and 2–5m wide. Their small, glossy green leaves are densely crowded along the stems, forming a thick mat of foliage. Clusters of fluffy, cream-white flowers appear on the ends of branches in spring, followed by small green to red berries that can develop a purplish tinge when ripe. However, colour is not necessarily an indicator of ripeness, as berries can remain green and be ready to eat. The muntrie flesh is crisp and tastes of spiced apple.
Once established, muntries are tolerant of drought and frost. They are generally fruit-bearing three years after planting. They can be left as a sprawling ground cover or trained to grow up a trellis, which makes harvesting easier.
Muntries rely on insects for pollination, so position other spring-flowering plants nearby to encourage pollinators.
Use muntries as a ground cover in garden beds, retaining walls or rockeries. They are great for growing in pots, too. The spicy apple-flavoured berries can be harvested and eaten fresh, added to salads or used in savoury or sweet sauces, pastries and jams. They’re high in antioxidants – four times the amount found in blueberries – so are a wonderful healthy snack.
Choose a spot in full sun with well-drained soil. Improve the soil by digging in compost and well-aged manure and forking in well. Dig a hole twice as wide and the same depth as the existing root ball. Remove the plant from its pot, gently loosen the mix to free the roots and place in the centre of the hole. Backfill with soil, firm down and water well.
Mulch around the base of the plant with an organic mulch like pine bark to help suppress weed growth and retain soil moisture.
In the first couple of years, it’s important to feed muntries regularly to help boost vegetative growth (leaves and stems). Once they are fruit bearing (generally in the third year), reduce the fertiliser frequency to encourage the shrub to focus more on producing fruit.
Tip prune regularly to encourage a bushy habit. To train muntries to grow up a trellis, carefully weave the branches through a sturdy support and use soft garden ties to secure the branches.
Water regularly at first. Once established, muntries are tolerant of hot, dry periods but will perform better if given regular water when flowering and fruiting.
When young, feed in spring and autumn with a complete fertiliser suitable for native plants. Once the shrubs start to flower and fruit, feed with a native-specific fertiliser after harvesting.
Harvest fruit from February. While the fruit can remain the on the shrub for 2–3 months, it’s best to pick it early as older fruit can be floury and lack flavour.
Muntries are mostly pest and disease free. However, they can suffer from root rot if planted in poorly drained soil, so ensure the soil is well draining prior to planting or consider growing in raised beds or pots.
Muntries can be propagated via seeds or cuttings. Sow seeds in a tray filled with seed-raising mix, lightly cover and gently water. Position in a warm spot and mist regularly to keep the soil moist. Germination can take several weeks. For cuttings, use semi-hardwood cuttings approximately 10cm long. Remove the lower leaves, dip the base into a rooting hormone and insert into a propagating mix. Keep in a warm spot and mist regularly to keep the soil moist. Cuttings can take 6–12 weeks to root.
After applying fertiliser, delay harvesting for a few days and rinse well before cooking and eating. If using products to deal with pests, diseases or weeds, always read the label, follow the instructions carefully and wear suitable protective equipment. Store all garden chemicals out of the reach of children and pets.
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Check out our huge range of plants now and get your garden growing!
Photo credit: tuckerbush.com.au and iStock