The persimmon is a warm-climate tree known for its sweet flavor and orange fruit, which is high in vitamin C content. Persimmons typically are grown commercially and in backyard gardens in warmer states such as California, Texas and Florida. Though there are hundreds of cultivars, persimmons can be divided into a few common species that have their own set of characteristics and growing needs.
The common persimmon (Diospyros virginiana), also known as the American persimmon, is a tree native to the eastern United States. Cultivars include the Buhrman and the Delman. It is commonly grown as an ornamental but also is raised for its 3-inch-wide fruit. It thrives in USDA hardiness zones 4 through 8A, where it can reach a height of up to 60 feet. Oval green leaves 4 to 8 inches long cover the tree and turn a yellow or red color in the fall. In the spring, small white flowers dot the tree. When growing this persimmon, gardeners should provide it with well-drained and moist soil, though it can withstand some levels of drought and full sunlight. It is very hardy and has no serious pest problems, according to the University of Florida.
The Japanese persimmon (Diospyros kaki) is native to Japan and China and can grow in USDA hardiness zones 7 through 9A. It is the species typically chosen by those who want persimmon fruit. Popular cultivars include the Fuji and the California Maru. This species reaches only 30 feet in height, according to the University of Florida. Inconspicuous white flowers precede fruit that measure approximately 5 to 6 inches long. Green, 8-inch-long leaves turn a range of orange, yellow and red during the fall. The drought-tolerant tree prefers moist soil and needs full sunlight for proper growth and fruit development.
The Caucasian persimmon (Diospyros lotus) is related to the American persimmon but has smaller, cherry-size fruit. Given optimal growing conditions, it can grow taller than other persimmon species, reaching up to 80 feet. It is commonly grown on commercial persimmon farms as the understock tree onto which other types of persimmons, such as Japanese persimmons, are grafted. Because their fruit is smaller, the trees are rarely used as fruit trees but often are planted for ornamental purposes. Green, elliptical leaves measure 5 to 6 inches in length and are scattered with green-yellow flowers in the spring. They're hardy down to USDA zone 6 and prefer full sun or light shade and well-drained loam.