Pomegranates are ruggedly attractive trees deeply rooted in human history. Long grown in the Middle East and other hot, dry climates, they have been grown successfully for centuries in California, Florida and throughout the South after being introduced to the New World by Spanish missionaries. Pomegranates are newly popular these days, thanks to the fruit's healthful levels of antioxidants. Young trees may flower during the first year after being transplanted into permanent ground and produce one or two fruits, though more commonly plants take two or three years to fruit -- and five or six years to achieve substantial production.
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Pomegranates are cold hardy from zones 8 to 10. They die back to the ground below -12.2 degrees Celsius but will re-sprout vigorously. Though people think of pomegranates as trees and often grow them that way, the plants themselves naturally grow multiple trunks, more like shrubs -- which happens to be the best way to grow them for maximum yield. Multiple-trunk plants survive where single-trunk trees perish; simply cut back freeze-damaged branches, then train vigorous suckers to replace them. Pomegranates, which often reach 12 to 20 feet tall, grow best in full sun and soils ranging from slightly acidic to slightly alkaline. They will survive poor soils and drought but produce best in rich, loamy, well-drained ground with irrigation. Regular watering also minimises fruit drop and fruit splitting. For ample fruit production, fertilise in both spring and midsummer with 0.454kg. of 10-10-10 or similar fertiliser for every 3 feet of plant height.
Pomegranates are self-fruitful, meaning that a tree can provide its own pollen. Insects and hummingbirds are primary pomegranate pollen vectors. Cross-pollination -- fertilisation with pollen from other trees -- is the reason trees grown from seed may not produce fruit of the exact type or quality as the mother tree. Pomegranate bloom begins in spring and continues into summer -- sometimes fall -- either continuously or in several growth waves or flushes, dependent on variety. Most flowers come in early spring and these blooms produce the largest fruits. Trees are typically several years old before they produce enough fruits for harvest, and these first fruits will usually be small and mature late.
Pomegranates fruit best in hot, dry climates, with diminished fruit production where humidity is high. Freeze damage to new growth and fruit buds also limits production. Provide basic tree care and prune lightly each year to encourage an open, vaselike form for optimal fruiting. Pomegranates bloom on new wood, so prune in winter before new growth begins. Remove unneeded stems and suckers as well as dead, damaged or crossing branches.
Flowers without Fruits
Even in areas where they aren't likely to produce quality fruits, pomegranates make intriguing ornamental shrubs or small trees. Hummingbirds love pomegranate flowers, so include these plants as part of your hummer garden plan. The cultivar Granada is the hardiest variety for both flowers and fruit. Compact cultivars including State Fair and Nana are also cold hardy and suitable for containers and small yards.
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- Clemson University Extension; Pomegranate; Cory Tanner; May 2009
- Texas Agrilife Extension - Home Fruit Production; Pomegranate; Julian W. Sauls; December 1998
- University of Georgia Extension; Pomegranate Production; Dan MacLean, et al.; January 2011
- Purdue University Extension; Fruits of Warm Climates - Pomegranate; Julia F. Morton; June 2011