Catalina Perfume: The Fragrant Native Shrub That Smells Like Citrus

Hello, Good News! Welcome to another article where we explore the amazing diversity of plants and their scents. Today, we are going to talk about a very special shrub that is native to California and Mexico, and has a delightful citrus fragrance. It’s called Catalina perfume, and it’s one of the most aromatic plants you can grow in your garden.

Catalina perfume (Ribes viburnifolium) is also known as evergreen currant, island gooseberry, or Santa Catalina Island currant. It belongs to the gooseberry family (Grossulariaceae), and it’s related to other fragrant plants like currants and gooseberries. Catalina perfume is a low-growing, spreading shrub that can reach up to 3 feet tall and 8 feet wide. It has dark green, shiny, leathery leaves that are sticky to the touch and exude a sweet, citrusy sap. The leaves are evergreen, meaning they stay on the plant all year round. The flowers are small, deep red, and clustered in late winter to early spring. They attract hummingbirds and insects with their nectar. The fruits are also red, but they are not edible for humans. They are enjoyed by birds and small mammals, though.

Why Grow Catalina Perfume?

It’s Drought-Tolerant and Easy to Care For

One of the main reasons to grow Catalina perfume is that it’s very drought-tolerant and easy to care for. It can survive with very little water once established, and it doesn’t need much fertilizer or pruning. It can grow in a variety of soils as long as they have good drainage. It can also tolerate some shade, but it prefers partial sun. Catalina perfume is hardy to USDA zones 8-10, which means it can withstand temperatures as low as 15 degrees Fahrenheit.

Catalina perfume is also resistant to deer and other pests that might nibble on your plants. It’s a great choice for xeriscaping, which is a type of landscaping that reduces water use by choosing plants that are adapted to dry climates. Catalina perfume can also be used as a ground cover, a bank stabilizer, or an espalier (a plant trained to grow flat against a wall or fence).

It’s Beautiful and Fragrant

Another reason to grow Catalina perfume is that it’s beautiful and fragrant. The dark green leaves contrast nicely with the red flowers and fruits, creating a striking display in your garden. The flowers are especially attractive in late winter and early spring, when few other plants are blooming. The fragrance of the leaves is one of the most appealing features of Catalina perfume. It’s described as citrusy, spicy, musky, or wine-like, depending on who you ask. Some people compare it to lemon verbena or bergamot. The scent is strongest after a rain or on warm days, when the glands on the leaves release their sap.

The fragrance of Catalina perfume is not only pleasant for humans, but also beneficial for wildlife. The scent attracts pollinators like hummingbirds and bees, which help the plant reproduce and spread its seeds. The scent also deters predators like deer and rabbits, which avoid eating the sticky leaves. The fragrance of Catalina perfume can also be enjoyed indoors, by cutting some branches and putting them in a vase or potpourri.

It’s Native and Rare

A third reason to grow Catalina perfume is that it’s native and rare. Catalina perfume is endemic to southern California and northern Baja California, meaning it only grows naturally in those regions. It’s especially common on Santa Catalina Island, where it got its name from. It’s a rare member of the chaparral plant community, which is a type of shrubland that covers the hills and mountains of California and Mexico.

By growing Catalina perfume, you are helping to preserve a unique and endangered plant species that has adapted to its harsh environment over millions of years. You are also supporting the biodiversity and ecosystem services of your local area, by providing food and shelter for native wildlife. You are also honoring the cultural heritage of the indigenous people who have used Catalina perfume for medicinal and ceremonial purposes for centuries.

How to Grow Catalina Perfume?


Catalina perfume can be propagated by seeds or cuttings. Seeds can be collected from ripe fruits in late spring or early summer. They should be cleaned from the pulp and stored in a cool, dry place until fall or winter. Then they can be sown in pots filled with moist potting soil or sand. They should be kept in a sunny spot and watered regularly until they germinate, which can take several weeks or months. Seedlings can be transplanted to their final location when they are big enough to handle.

Cuttings can be taken from semi-hardwood stems in late summer or fall. They should be about 6 inches long and have several nodes (the bumps where leaves grow). The lower leaves should be removed and the cut end dipped in rooting hormone. Then they can be inserted in pots filled with moist potting soil or sand. They should be kept in a shady spot and watered regularly until they root, which can take several weeks or months. Cuttings can be transplanted to their final location when they have developed a strong root system.


Catalina perfume can be planted in the ground or in containers. It should be planted in a spot that receives partial sun and has well-drained soil. It can tolerate some shade, but it will produce more flowers and fragrance in more sun. It can also tolerate some clay, sand, or rocky soil, but it will grow better in loamy or sandy soil. It should be spaced about 4 feet apart from other plants to allow for its spreading habit.

Catalina perfume can also be grown in pots or hanging baskets, as long as they have drainage holes and are large enough to accommodate its roots. It should be potted in a mix of potting soil, sand, and perlite or vermiculite. It should be watered thoroughly and allowed to dry out slightly between waterings. It should be fertilized once or twice a year with a balanced organic fertilizer.


Catalina perfume is a low-maintenance plant that doesn’t need much care once established. It only needs occasional watering during dry spells, and no watering at all during the rainy season. It doesn’t need much pruning, except to remove dead or damaged branches or to control its size and shape. It can be pruned lightly after flowering to encourage new growth and more flowers the next year.

Catalina perfume is generally pest- and disease-free, but it can sometimes be affected by aphids, scale insects, spider mites, or fungal diseases. These can be controlled by spraying the plant with insecticidal soap, neem oil, or horticultural oil, or by pruning off the affected parts and disposing of them properly. Catalina perfume is also deer-resistant, but it can sometimes be browsed by rabbits or gophers. These can be deterred by fencing, repellents, or traps.

A Detailed Table Breakdown of Catalina Perfume

To summarize the main features and benefits of Catalina perfume, here is a detailed table breakdown of this fragrant native shrub:

| Feature | Description |
| — | — |
| Botanical name | Ribes viburnifolium |
| Common names | Catalina perfume, evergreen currant, island gooseberry, Santa Catalina Island currant |
| Family | Gooseberry (Grossulariaceae) |
| Origin | Southern California and northern Baja California |
| Type | Evergreen shrub |
| Size | 2-3 feet tall and 8 feet wide |
| Leaves | Dark green, shiny, leathery, sticky, citrus-scented |
| Flowers | Small, deep red, clustered, nectar-rich |
| Fruits | Small, red, inedible |
| Bloom time | Late winter to early spring |
| Hardiness zones | 8-10 |
| Exposure | Partial sun to light shade |
| Soil | Well-drained, loamy or sandy |
| Water | Very low to none |
| Fertilizer | Low to none |
| Pruning | Low to none |
| Pests | Aphids, scale insects, spider mites |
| Diseases | Fungal diseases |
| Wildlife value | Attracts hummingbirds, bees, birds, small mammals; repels deer |
| Uses | Ground cover, bank stabilizer, espalier, xeriscape, fragrance garden |

FAQs About Catalina Perfume

Is Catalina perfume edible?

No, Catalina perfume is not edible for humans. The fruits are bitter and sour, and the leaves are sticky and unpleasant. The plant may also contain some toxins that could cause stomach upset or allergic reactions. However, the fruits are edible for birds and small mammals, which help disperse the seeds.

Is Catalina perfume invasive?

No, Catalina perfume is not invasive in its native range. It is a rare and endangered plant that has a limited distribution and habitat. It does not compete with other plants or harm the environment. However, it may become invasive if introduced to areas where itis not native or adapted. It may escape from cultivation and spread to natural areas, where it could outcompete or hybridize with native plants. Therefore, it is important to check the local regulations and invasive species lists before planting Catalina perfume outside its native range.

How do I propagate Catalina perfume from cuttings?

To propagate Catalina perfume from cuttings, you need to take semi-hardwood stems from the plant in late summer or fall. They should be about 6 inches long and have several nodes. You need to remove the lower leaves and dip the cut end in rooting hormone. Then you need to insert the cuttings in pots filled with moist potting soil or sand. You need to keep them in a shady spot and water them regularly until they root. This can take several weeks or months. Once they have a strong root system, you can transplant them to their final location.

How do I prune Catalina perfume?

Catalina perfume does not need much pruning, except to remove dead or damaged branches or to control its size and shape. You can prune it lightly after flowering to encourage new growth and more flowers the next year. You can also prune it more severely if you want to train it as an espalier or a hedge. You should use sharp and clean tools to avoid damaging or infecting the plant.

How do I harvest Catalina perfume for fragrance?

To harvest Catalina perfume for fragrance, you need to cut some branches from the plant and put them in a vase or potpourri. You can do this anytime of the year, but the scent is strongest after a rain or on warm days. You can also dry the leaves and flowers and use them as sachets or incense. The fragrance of Catalina perfume can last for a long time and fill your home with a pleasant citrus aroma.

What are some companion plants for Catalina perfume?

Some companion plants for Catalina perfume are other native plants that share its habitat and preferences. For example, you can plant it with manzanita (Arctostaphylos spp.), ceanothus (Ceanothus spp.), sagebrush (Artemisia spp.), buckwheat (Eriogonum spp.), monkeyflower (Mimulus spp.), penstemon (Penstemon spp.), yarrow (Achillea spp.), and California poppy (Eschscholzia californica). These plants will create a beautiful and fragrant chaparral garden that attracts wildlife and conserves water.

What are some uses of Catalina perfume in traditional medicine?

Catalina perfume has been used in traditional medicine by the indigenous people of California and Mexico for various purposes. The leaves have been used as a poultice for wounds, sores, ulcers, boils, and burns. The sap has been used as a salve for skin infections, rashes, insect bites, and poison oak. The flowers have been used as a tea for colds, coughs, sore throat, fever, and stomach problems. The fruits have been used as a laxative and a diuretic. The roots have been used as a tonic and a blood purifier.

What are some other names of Catalina perfume?

Catalina perfume has many other names in different languages and regions. Some of them are:

  • Spanish: grosella de la isla de Santa Catalina, grosella de hoja perenne, grosella de hoja lustrosa
  • French: groseillier à feuilles persistantes, groseillier de l’île de Santa Catalina
  • German: immergrüne Johannisbeere, Santa-Catalina-Insel-Johannisbeere
  • Italian: ribes sempreverde, ribes dell’isola di Santa Catalina
  • Japanese: カタリナベリー, カタリナベリーの木
  • Chinese: 卡塔利娜香薰果, 常绿茶藨子


We hope you enjoyed this article about Catalina perfume, the fragrant native shrub that smells like citrus. We learned about its features, benefits, cultivation, care, propagation, pruning, harvesting, companions, uses, and names. We also learned that it’s a rare and endangered plant that needs our protection and appreciation.

If you want to learn more about other aromatic plants and their scents, check out our other articles on this website. We have articles on lavender, rosemary, mint, jasmine, rose, and many more. You can also subscribe to our newsletter to get the latest updates and tips on fragrance gardening. Thank you for reading and happy gardening!

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