The plant is an evergreen shrub or small tree, growing to 5 meters (16 ft) tall. However, it takes well to pruning and is used frequently as a topiary plant. The leaf is 3–5 cm long, with a fragrant essential oil.
The star-like flower has five petals and sepals, and numerous stamens. Petals usually are white. The flower is pollinated by insects.
The fruit is a round berry containing several seeds, most commonly blue-black in color. A variety with yellow-amber berries is also present. The seeds are dispersed by birds that eat the berries.
Plants & Propagation – Though Myrtle can be started from seed; it is a lengthy process. It is easiest to purchase plants from a reputable nursery. Re-pot into the container of your choice – see below.
Take semi-ripe cuttings in summer as an insurance policy against loss. Look for new growth that has started to firm up and choose non-flowering shoots if possible (otherwise remove the buds). Take off some of the lower leaves and trim below the node with a sharp knife or scissors. Plunge the cuttings into horticultural sand, or a 50 per cent mixture of sand and compost, and place out of direct sunlight.
Cuttings should root within six to 12 weeks. Pot up individually in gritty compost and overwinter in a sheltered, frost-free place until the following spring. You can either keep the young plants in pots for another year, or plant them out. But they will need both protection from winter squalls and careful nurturing through dry springs.
Container – Be sure to give your Myrtle plant a container with good drainage. It will do better in a plastic or glass container with drainage holes at the bottom, rather than a clay pot, because it likes to stay moist and clay has a tendency to dry out quicker. Be sure to loosely cover the drainage holes with rocks or pebbles. Repot every second year in the spring, the plant may also be cut back at this same time.
Soil – You can grow myrtle in a container in soil-based compost.
Watering – Water regularly with soft water from spring to fall, more sparingly during the rest of the year. Avoid letting the soil dry out. Ease off watering from late August onwards, and then dry off almost completely before over-wintering the container. The shelter of a warm wall under the eaves of the house is a perfect place or a cool pantry.
Light Requirements – Myrtle prefers full sunlight and will tolerate filtered sunlight. The plant prefers a cool position during the winter and will tolerate temperatures down to 41° F. The plant prefers a dormant period during winter when it should be kept in a light, cool position at about 41-50 ° F.
Fertilizer – Water and feed with a potash-rich tomato food during the growing season. The potash will encourage more flower and also harden the wood.
Lore – In the Mediterranean, Myrtle was symbolic of love and immortality.
In Jewish liturgy, it is one of the four sacred plants of Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles representing the different types of personality making up the community – the myrtle having fragrance but not pleasant taste, represents those who have good deeds to their credit despite not having knowledge from Torah study.
Myrtle in a wedding bouquet is a general European custom. A sprig of myrtle from Queen Victoria’s wedding bouquet was planted as a slip, and sprigs from it have continually been included in royal wedding bouquets.
In neo-pagan and wiccan rituals, Myrtle, though not indigenous beyond the Mediterranean Basin, is now commonly associated with and sacred to Beltane (May Day).
In Greek mythology and ritual the Myrtle was sacred to the goddesses Aphrodite (the Roman goddess, Venus) and also Demeter. At the Roman festival of Veneralia, women bathed wearing crowns woven of myrtle branches.
Myrtle was sacred to the Greek Goddess Venus and has been used in love charms and spells throughout history. Grow indoors for good luck. Carry or wear Myrtle leaves to attract love, charms made of the wood have special magickal properties. Wear fresh Myrtle leaves while making love charms, potions or during rituals for love.