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Pomegranate Growing Profile

Punica granatum

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Pomegranate fruit on the shrub

Use pruners to remove the pomegranate from the plant.

Image by jonny.hunter under a Flickr Creative Commons Attribution License
Pomegranate flower

Hummingbirds favor the scarlet pomegranate flowers.

Image by lars hammar under a Flickr Creative Commons Attribution License
PomegranateTreeFlickrAloisStaudacher.jpg

The pomegranate can sometimes grow large enough to be a small tree.

Image by Alois Staudacher under a Flickr Creative Commons Attribution License

Overview of the Pomegranate Shrub:

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.

Latin Name:

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.

Common Names:

The name used for this fruit shrub is pomegranate. It is sometimes misspelled as pomegranite.

USDA Hardiness Zones:

The optimal areas for this fruit are Zones 7-10. It is thought to come from Iran initially.

Size & Shape:

The pomegranate can range from a dwarf shrub of 3' to a small tree of 20-30'. The average size of a standard pomegranate shrub is 12-16' tall with a round shape. If you want a short version, choose the 'Nana' variety.

Exposure:

Pomegranate shrubs may be grown in part shade as necessary, but ideally should be placed somewhere with as much sun and warmth as possible.

Foliage/ Flowers/Fruit:

The leaves are glossy and have a narrow, lance shape. In most places they are deciduous, but in the warmer climates may be evergreen.

The flowers are tube shaped and over 1" 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 2.5-5" 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 around 32-40F.

Design Tips:

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.

Growing Tips:

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. Water every 2-4 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.

Maintenance/Pruning:

Pomegranates are prone to producing suckers, so remove them as they appear.

Pruning procedures:

  1. Cut the pomegranate back once it is 2' high.
  2. Allow 4-5 shoots to develop about 1' above ground.
  3. For the first three years keep shortening the branches to encourage shoot development. Fruit only develops where there is new growth.
  4. After 3 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 white flies. 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.

Additional Pomegranate Facts:

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.

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