Pomegranate trees (Punica granatum) produce delicious fruit, and if you have the right warm climate, they are easy to maintain and not affected by many pests or diseases. The fruits have a red, leathery rind, and the sweet, edible seeds are full of antioxidants and have many health benefits.
The pomegranate can range from a dwarf shrub of 3 feet to a tree of 20 to 30 feet. The average size of a standard pomegranate shrub is 12 to 16 feet tall with a round shape. In most places, they are deciduous, but in warmer climates, they may be evergreen. They are also attractive ornamentally, with glossy leaves and scarlet red, tube-shaped flowers that are attractive to hummingbirds and other pollinators. The pomegranate is a popular choice for bonsai. The bark is a red-brown color, and branches may have spines.
Somewhat drought tolerant, a pomegranate tree is perfect for the sunniest and warmest locations in the yard that might scorch other plants. Young trees should be planted in the spring after any danger of late frost has passed. They usually take two to three years to bear fruit.
|Botanical Name||Punica granatum|
|Plant Type||Shrub, small tree|
|Size||From 3 ft. dwarf forms to 30 ft tall trees|
|Sun Exposure||Full sun|
|Soil Type||Grows in most types, but must be well-drained|
|Soil pH||Acidic, neutral, alkaline (5.5 to 7)|
|Hardiness Zones||7-10 (USDA)|
|Native Area||Iran to northern India|
How to Plant Pomegranate Trees
When planting, make sure the soil is loose and not too wet. The spacing will depend on how you plan to use your pomegranate tree. Some growers use them as a spreading shrub hedge, and they can be spaced around 6 to 9 feet apart. For those being used for fruit production, it is better to space them around 15 feet apart.
Pomegranate Tree Care
Pomegranate shrubs may be grown in part shade but ideally should be placed somewhere with as much sun and warmth as possible. For a good harvest, your tree should get at least six hours of full sun per day.
The pomegranate needs well-drained soil, though it is able to thrive in a wide variety of soils from acid loam (preferred) to poor quality alkaline types.
The pomegranate tree is drought tolerant, though irrigation is needed for proper fruit production. Water deeply every two to four weeks during the dry season when you are establishing new trees.
Be careful, however, not to overwater. Excess water and soggy conditions can lead to a poor harvest. The fruit will also be more prone to splitting, increasing the chances of problems with pests and fungal diseases.
Temperature and Humidity
The optimal growing areas for this fruit are USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 7 to 10. They appreciate cool winters and hot, dry summers. They thrive when growing season temperatures are above 85 degrees Fahrenheit.
Pomegranate trees are more cold tolerant than citrus trees, but the levels vary depending on the cultivar. Some can cope with winter temperatures as low as 10 degrees Fahrenheit. However, when they dip this low, it would be prudent to grow them in containers so they can be moved into a garage or other sheltered location to minimize the chance of frost damage occurring.
Fertilize in November and March for the first two years. Otherwise, not much fertilizer is usually needed in subsequent years. In fact, over-fertilization can result in a poor harvest.
Pomegranate Tree Varieties
There are many cultivars to choose from, including some that are more cold hardy. Some of the popular types include:
- 'Nana': A dwarf form that is cold hardy to zone 7 and typically grows to just 4 feet tall
- 'Sweet': Produces fruit earlier than some cultivars and, as the name suggests, has a very sweet flavor and usually provides a prolific harvest
- 'Wonderful': The most popular cultivar grown in the U.S.; produces large, flavorful, red fruits in abundance late in the season
It takes around three years for a pomegranate tree to produce a proper harvest. You'll know the fruits are ready to be picked when the color has developed, they have a matte rather than glossy sheen, they change from a round to a more hexagonal shape, and they make a metallic sound when tapped. Use a pair of pruning shears to cut the stem above the fruit instead of pulling it off. They can be stored for a long time if kept between 32 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
Pomegranates are prone to producing suckers, so remove them as they appear. If you choose not to prune your pomegranate tree, it will develop a wider spreading bushy, shrub-like form. Regular pruning of branches in the first few years especially will help to encourage healthy new shoot development and a more abundant harvest.
After the tree is established, it may be enough only to prune away any dead, damaged, or diseased branches. It is a good idea to thin out the fruits growing on the branches. This will ensure the pomegranates can grow to full size and reduces the chance of a limb breaking because of excess weight.
Propagating Pomegranate Trees
Propagation is best done through hardwood cuttings taken in winter as those grown from seeds may not stay true to type.
Common Pests and Diseases
Pomegranate shrubs are one of the easier fruits to work with since they are not usually affected by many pests or diseases.
Possible occasional pests include pomegranate butterfly, thrips, scale, mealy bugs, and whiteflies. Diseases are rare in well-maintained trees but include leaf spot, fruit spot, twig dieback, dry rot, and soft rot.