Persimmon trees grow well in USDA plant hardiness zones four to nine. These fruit trees are native to Asia and North America. In the United States, they grow wild between Connecticut and Iowa in the North, and between Florida and Texas in the South. Wild persimmon trees are even found in northeastern Mexico. The largest persimmon trees are located in the Mississippi River Valley. Persimmon trees prefer moist fertile soils, river bottomland and disturbed areas.
Persimmon trees reach 35 to 60 feet tall and spread 20 to 35 feet wide. Planted trees should be spaced 15 to 20 feet apart. In fertile soil, persimmons need even more room to grow. One spacing method is to plant the trees close as seedlings and then thin them to proper spacing after five or 10 years.
Persimmon trees have thick, dark gray bark that develops scales that flake off. The green leaves are oval and 3 to 7 inches long with shiny tops. The spring flowers are yellowish white and 3/4 inches wide. These fruit trees require 30 inches of rainfall or irrigation per year.
Persimmon trees adapt to most types of soil including heavy clay. The most important soil property is good drainage. These trees need full sun for good, vigorous growth. Shade causes poor growth and fruit drop. Protect the trees from strong winds that break branches and damage fruit. Wind causes premature defoliation, which affects next year's fruit production.
Cultivated persimmon trees are normally grafted onto rootstock. Persimmon trees develop suckers growing from the roots. These suckers will create naturalized groves of persimmon trees. These trees also grow long taproots.
Persimmon trees are dioecious, which mean only the female trees produce fruit. Persimmons are classified as juicy berries and are 3 1/2 inches across. Persimmons have pale yellow, orange or red skins and orange insides. They taste very bitter until they are ripe. Ripeness is signaled by wrinkly skin.
The dark brown wood is strong, hard and heavy, but produces an inferior grade of lumber. The wood is used for specialty items like golf club heads, bowls, candlesticks, piano keys and furniture. The fruit attracts opossums, raccoons, skunks, foxes, deer and songbirds to the landscape.