Ternstroemia gymnanthera 'Carolina Sunset'

Common Name: Japanese ternstroemia 
Type: Broadleaf evergreen
Family: Pentaphylacaceae
Zone: 7 to 9
Height: 5.00 to 6.00 feet
Spread: 5.00 to 6.00 feet
Bloom Time: May to June
Bloom Description: White
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Hedge
Leaf: Colorful, Evergreen
Other: Winter Interest


Best grown in evenly moist, acidic, well-draining soils in full sun to part shade. Intolerant of heavy, poorly-drained, wet soils. Takes well to pruning. Hardy in USDA Zones 7-9.

'Carolina Sunset' will produce the best foliage color when provided afternoon shade.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Ternstroemia gymnanthera, commonly called Japanese ternstroemia or false Japanese cleyera, is an evergreen shrub native to forests and thickets of eastern and southeastern Asia. Mature plants have an upright to rounded, densely branched growth habit and will reach around 10' tall with a 6' spread in cultivation. Some specimens may reach 15-20' tall, and plants in the wild have been recorded as tall as 50'. The glossy, leathery foliage is elliptic to obovate in shape and will reach 4.75" long and 2" wide. The leaves emerge in spring with bronzy-red tones before maturing to dark green. The white, 0.5" wide, fragrant flowers bloom singly or in clusters of up to three from the leaf axils from late spring into early summer. The flowers are followed by 1" long and 0.5" wide, rounded fruits that mature from green to red in the fall. Both the flowers and fruit are typically produced in small numbers and not considered particularly showy. May be found at nurseries or garden centers sold under the common names Japanese cleyera or cleyera although this plant is not in the genus Cleyera.

Genus name honors Christopher Tarnstrom (1703-1746), Swedish student of Linnaeus.

The specific epithet gymnanthera means "naked anther", in reference to the lack of hairs on the anthers of this species compared to the anthers of Cleyera japonica.

'Carolina Sunset' is a compact selection of Japanese ternstroemia that features new growth with yellow and red tones. Mature plants will reach around 6' tall with an equal spread.


No major pest or disease problems. Watch for leaf spot diseases, though infections are generally mild. Winter leaf scorching is possible, particularly when planted in full sun.


Mixed borders, foundation plantings, screens, hedges.