autograph tree

How To Care For An Autograph Tree (Clusia Rosea)

autograph tree

Autograph trees are one of the most eye catching plants you can grow. They get their unique name from the thick, waxy green leaves that you can scratch things into. Such as your autograph! Typically they’re grown outside but are more than comfortable being kept in the home. They do require a bit of maintenance to keep them indoors but we’ll give you all the information you need to know about caring for an autograph tree indoors in this article.

Here’s a quick summary of what you can expect caring for an Autograph Tree: This is a plant that does not tolerate cold weather, keeping your home between 16-29°C (60-84°F). With the latter end of the range being preferred. Keep the soil moist, water it regularly – but it can survive short periods of drought. They prefer plenty of bright light, full sun is ideal, but will cope indoors in partially shaded areas. High humidity is essential, so frequent misting is recommended. It’s an irritant if eaten so keep it away from pets and children.

Autograph Tree Care Summary

Scientific Name Clusia Rosea
Common Name Autograph Tree, Copey, Cupey, Balsam Apple
Origin Tropical America
Light Requirements Full sunlight
Watering Regular water, soil needs to be moist at all times
Soil Good draining soil
Temperature Between 16 and 29°C (60 to 84°F)
Fertilizer Granular/Liquid fertilizer
Humidity High humidity, regular misting will help it thrive
Flowering Creamy white flowers with hints of pink but it’s unlikely to flower indoors
Pruning Regular to maintain size
Propagation Easily done via cuttings, but it’s an invasive plant
Re-Potting Will quickly outgrow pots unless pruned well
Toxicity Yes, can be severe
Maximum Growth 6 meters or 32 feet

Indoor Vs Outdoor Growing

Typically this plant is native to the tropical Americas. It’s become an invasive plant in many areas such as Hawaii and Sri Lanka and is spreading rapidly. So they have spread worldwide now.

It begins life as an epiphyte, much like the crispy wave fern. With it then planting itself in the ground once it finally reaches it. Eventually it will suffocate the original host tree by taking over its roots. This is the primary reason it’s known as a dangerous invasive species.

But they prefer plenty off full sunlight and a highly humid environment. So growing outdoors is preferred but they do make beautiful indoor ornamental plants. You can take appropriate steps as laid out later in this care guide to ensure yours thrives indoors.

Ideal Location For Your Autograph Tree

You could grow your autograph tree in a variety of places within your home. But you need to ensure the room at least meet the basic requirements for it. If you’re lucky enough to have a sun room then it will most likely thrive in there. But, it does give you the perfect excuse to get a new plant stand like one from our list of favourites.

It will cope fine with medium light when grown as a houseplant, and partial shade. An ideal location would be near a southern or western facing window as this will receive the most light. The closer to the window, the better for this plant.

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Don’t forget that the plant will still need some periods of darkness in order to recuperate and grow.

Soil For Autograph Trees

As these plants begin their life cycle as an epiphyte, growing on other plants, they do best in organic soil. The ideal soil for this plant is soft, loose and sandy. It’s quite often found near coastlines, so it’s quite tolerant to salty soils too. I personally use this one, available from Amazon.

If you’re mixing your own, ensure it’s rich in organic matter for it to thrive. Personally, i’d try avoid anything that isn’t organic matter as much as you can. Also, ensure that everything you use is free of any hidden pests. This is one of the most common ways those unwanted critters invade your plants.

Two autographs trees, next to a drink can for size comparison

Watering Your Autograph Tree

This is a plant that prefers the soil to be moist most of the time. But you can get away with short periods of drought as the plant matures. This isn’t ideal until the plant is at least 1 year old. If you’re wanting the plant to grow quicker after 1 year, maintaining frequent watering is advised.

A mistake that people often make when watering this plant is over-watering. By doing this you’re opening up the doors to root rot, so it’s best to use a soil moisture indicator like this one. This is a disease of the roots of a plant, where they begin to rot and decay. Which is also helps attract unwanted visitors to your plant (pests!).

Ideally when you water your autograph tree you should always opt for room temperature water. As this is a plant native to warm environments, cold water can send it into shock. This may cause leaves to fall from your plant. Another tip is watering your plant in the morning. By doing this the water will evaporate throughout the day. Consider this a preventative measure, it helps avoid various common diseases. For example, regular night time watering is known to cause brown spots on the leaves of plants.

Forgot to water?
If you forget to water you plant for a short period, DO NOT give it extra next time. Many people think this is a way to make up for the accidental drought. It’s not. It will cause stagnant water to build up and potentially bring on root rot. If you do happen to miss out on watering it, don’t worry. This plant is able to some short periods of no water, albeit infrequently.

Humidity For Your Autograph Tree

This plant is naturally found in highly humid environments. So you’ll not be surprised to hear that it requires a good amount of humidity to really excel. It will be able to tolerate moderate humidity within your home. But there are some extra steps you can take to ensure it gets the care it needs.

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So with that in mind, as previously mentioned, a sun room will make the ideal spot for your tree to sit in – or a bathroom if it receives plenty of sunlight, although this is unlikely. But if either of those aren’t an option for you, then here are three measures you can take to simulate a humid environment for it:

  • Misting bottle: First of all, you can mist the leaves regularly to allow them to trap some moisture. You can do this by filling up a bottle like this one on Amazon. This bottle specifically is one of the better options, as it has a longer spray time, giving you greater control. Plus it also sprays a much finer mist than most, so it uses less water. But if you can’t get that one, look for one with similar features. Unless of course you already have a spray bottle in your home, then use that. But look to do this around once per week for maximum effect. Avoid doing it too often as again, it’s something that can cause mould or attract uninvited pests.
  • Water Trays: This is another great option if you’re on a budget. For this you will need a shallow tray, filled with water. Place this near your plant and this will slowly evaporate, helping providing some of the humidity it needs. Something that I tend to do with my plants is fill this shallow tray with gravel. Pour in some water. Then place the potted plant on top. This is also a good way to capture excess water that has drained from the soil.
  • Humidifier: Now this is the most expensive option, but one that’s probably the most efficient in simulating more ideal conditions. Ideally you want one that gives you control of how much you want it to kick out and adjust it according to your rooms current humidity. Check out this one on Amazon.

signatures on autograph tree leaves

Fertilizing Autograph Trees

To maintain optimal health, you should be fertilizing it 3 times per year. This needs to be done throughout the growing season, from spring to fall. It’s best done with granular fertilizers (pellet form) like this one on Amazon. However, if you want to do it more often then it’s best to go for a liquid fertilizer. If you decide to go for the latter, I’ve found that I tend to get the best results doing it every 2-3 weeks.

Another option you have available is creating your own fertilizer. It’s not too difficult and as this plant thrives on organic matter, you should try pack as much as that as you can into it.

Toxicity

As stated by the FDA in their poisonous plant database, this is one that has unfortunately found itself on that dreaded list. This is also a plant that grows small green fruits. So, with that in mind, you should keep this away from children and animals as this could allure them.

The plant, if ingested, is likely to cause diarrhoea and other gastrointestinal issues that can be quite severe. But other than that, it is considered to be mildly poisonous. 

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One other common problem in regards to the toxicity is that people with skin allergies often find themselves flaring up after coming into contact with it. So it’s always advisable to wear gloves when interacting with the plant.

Propagation

This is one of the easier plants to propagate thanks to ts naturally epiphytic properties. Naturally attaching itself to other trees or structures to grow. Alongside the fact that it tends to grow quickly.

So, in order to propagate the tree all you need to do is take a cutting and plant it. Ideally the cutting needs to be planted in warm, moist soil and then allow it some time to fully root. But bear in mind the epiphytic properties when planting this, as if its near other plants it may take over the roots and kill your other plants.

Repotting

As this is a very fast growing plant you’re likely to need to replant it more often than you’d like. To do this you will have to take the plant out of its pot, ensuring you get all the roots and shake away any excess soil. Then move it into a larger pot with fresh, clean soil. Following the soil requirements previously laid out in this article.

To keep the size on the smaller side then you need to ensure you prune it on a regular basis. This will help you avoid the need for repotting and help to maintain it as a houseplant for a long time to come.

F.A.Q

Often when you’re considering a new houseplant, you have a few burning questions. Hopefully we’ve covered them below, if not, feel free to leave it in the comments and we’ll get back to you.

Why Is It Called An Autograph Plant?

The name comes from the thick, waxy leaves. Due to the nature oft them, you can scratch things into them, such as an autograph. In the west indies, people would etch their name into ta leaf and plant it to watch it grow. They were also often used as playing cards as people would scratch the full set into them.

Are The Fruits Edible?

No. The fruits are poisonous and should not be consumed. This is one of the main reasons to keep this out of reach of children and pets as the fruits can be tempting for them. but if you want to grow your own food, check these out.

Why Does My Clusia Rosea Have Brown Leaves?

Brown leaves are often a sign of over watering. If you frequently over water it then there is a high chance it will develop root rot. Once the leaves have turned brown, you should cut them off from the tree to prevent it spreading. But the best remedy is always prevention. To avoid this you should only water it in the morning. Also, try keep the soil in a state that it is just moist to the touch and not wet. 

5 thoughts on “How To Care For An Autograph Tree (Clusia Rosea)

  1. Not sure if anyone can help. My clusia has brown dots on the new leaves, any suggestions of what might be causing this please?

    1. Root rot most likely, I have a 50cm tall plant and browness began to spread upward from the base of the stalk alongside brown/yellow dots on the leaves, check to see if your roots are a dark colour like mine was. I fixed mine two weeka ago and the plant is now recovering and the brown is slowly disapearing and being replaced by green.

      How I fixed:
      1. Remove the plant from the pot.
      2. Hose down the plant, to remove any bacteria and hose away ALL of its soil (be careful with the pressure, too powerful and it may cut the roots).
      3. Wash the roots with soap, I used liquid hand soap but any soap will suffice, its just a matter of killing the harmful bacteria that thrive in wet conditions that causes root rot. Some roots will fall of during this process which is fine, cut away any further roots that are particuarly bad. (Some recommend re-rooting entirely, but I did not).
      4. Allow the plant to air dry for 24 hours (this further kills bacteria, ones that do not like air), I placed mine on the bathroom floor with paper towels below and above it.
      5. After 24 hours re-pot the plant (ensuring you wash the pot thoroughly to ensure no bacteria is in there), add new healthy soil, I watered mine during the process to ensure the soil was compact and without air bubbles and then left is on the windowsill for one week before watering again.

      Hope this helps, feel free to email me brandan.thomas777@gmail.com if you need more help.

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