Pomegranate shrubs are one of the easiest fruits to keep since they are usually not affected by many pests or diseases. The fruits are full of antioxidants and thought to have many health benefits.
The scientific name assigned to this shrub is Punica granatum. It used to have its own family, Punicaceae, but studies have shown that it is part of the Lythraceae family.
The name used for this fruit shrub is pomegranate. It is sometimes misspelled as pomegranite.
Where to Grow
The optimal areas for this fruit are USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 7 to 10. It is thought to come from Iran initially.
Pomegranate shrubs may be grown in part shade as necessary but ideally should be placed somewhere with as much sun and warmth as possible.
Characteristics of Pomegranate Plants
The pomegranate can range from a dwarf shrub of three feet to a small tree of 20 to 30 feet. The average size of a standard pomegranate shrub is 12 to 16 feet tall with a round shape. If you want a short version, choose the 'Nana' variety.
The leaves are glossy and have a narrow, lance shape. In most places they are deciduous, but in the warmer climates, they may be evergreen.
The flowers are tube-shaped and more than one inch long. They are a brilliant scarlet red and are very attractive to hummingbirds. The flowers are self-pollinating, though fertility is improved through cross-pollination.
The pomegranate fruit is approximately 2.5 to five inches wide. It has a red, leathery rind. Each seed (aril) is encased in pulp and sectioned off by walls.
Harvest when the color has developed and makes 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 F.
The pomegranate shrub is somewhat drought tolerant and also salt tolerant. It is perfect for the sunniest and warmest locations in the yard that might scorch other plants. Pomegranate flowers can be used along with other annuals, perennials, shrubs, and trees that attract hummingbirds.
The pomegranate is a popular choice for bonsai. The bark is a red-brown color, and branches may have spines.
The pomegranate does best in well-drained soil, though it is able to thrive in a wide variety of soils from acid loam to alkaline soil.
The pomegranate shrub is drought tolerant, though irrigation is needed for proper fruit production, per the California Rare Fruit Growers (CRFG). Water every two to four weeks during the dry season when you are establishing new shrubs.
Fertilize in November and March for the first two years. Otherwise, not much fertilizer is usually needed in subsequent years.
Propagation is through cuttings taken in winter and air layering. Seeds may be used, but varieties may not stay true.
Pomegranates are prone to producing suckers, so remove them as they appear.
Pruning procedures per CRFG:
- Cut the pomegranate back once it is two feet high.
- Allow four to five shoots to develop about one inch above the ground.
- For the first three years keep shortening the branches to encourage shoot development. Fruit only develops where there is new growth.
- After three years, just prune away dead, damaged, or diseased branches.
Pests & Diseases
- Pomegranate shrubs are one of the easier fruits to work with since they are not usually affected by many pests or diseases.
- Possible pests may include pomegranate butterfly, thrips, scale, mealy bugs, and whiteflies. Deer will sometimes eat the leaves, and occasionally gophers will chew on the roots.
- Diseases include leaf spot, fruit spot, twig dieback, dry rot, and soft rot.
Pomegranates in Mythology
- Some believe that the fruit in the Garden of Eden was really a pomegranate.
- In Greek mythology, Persephone was kidnapped and taken to the Underworld to be Hades' (God of Underworld) bride. She was rescued and allowed to leave on condition that she had not eaten anything down there. However, she had eaten part of a pomegranate while she was down there, so she spent eternity living among the mortal for half of the year and the Underworld for the other half.