University of Florida

Sapindus saponaria (Florida Soapberry)

Florida Soapberry

*Click on picture for more images of this species.

  • USDA Hardiness Zone: 10A - 11
  • Mature Height: 30 to 40 ft
  • Mature Spread: 33 to 50 ft
  • Growth Rate: Moderate
  • Availability: Somewhat available in small sizes
  • Drought Tolerance: High
  • Salt Tolerance: High
  • Light Requirements: Full sun
  • Native Origin: Native to Florida.
  • Soil Drainage: Needs a well-drained site.
  • Foliage: Evergreen tree with no showy fall color.
  • Flowers: White, not showy flowers from fall to spring.
  • Pests: Free of serious pests and diseases.

Description: Florida Soapberry grows at a moderate rate to 30 to 40 feet tall but spreads wider without pruning. The pinnately compound, evergreen leaves are 12 inches long with each leaflet four inches long. Ten-inch-long panicles of small, white flowers appear during fall, winter, and spring but these are fairly inconspicuous. The fleshy fruits which follow are less than an inch-long, shiny, and orange/brown. The seeds inside are poisonous, a fact which should be considered in the tree's placement in the landscape, especially if children will be present. The bark is rough and gray.

The common name of Soapberry comes from to the soap-like material which is made from the berries in tropical countries. Soapberry can be planted in low maintenance landscapes for the unusually prominent, orange-colored berries. They require little care other than some initial pruning to direct growth and to develop a strong branch structure. The bushy growth habit of this medium-sized tree combines nicely with shrubs and ground covers planted beneath and around the tree. Fruits attract the boxelder bug. Florida Soapberry should be grown in full sun and will tolerate almost any soil.

Gainesville Observations: Trees do not develop many branches so heading is required to produce a structure and nursery canopy suitable for landscape usage. We have been able to develop a main leader with typical reduction and heading cuts as part of structural pruning program. Trees turn an attractive yellow before dropping in late fall.

Fact Sheet (pdf)