image by Photo by Baka Tanuki/flickr.com
Pomegranate trees are beautiful landscape plants, with the added benefit of healthy fruit that is full of antioxidants. These evergreen trees normally grow 12 to 16 feet tall, but may reach 20 to 30 feet. They have been known to live for over 200 years.
Pomegranates thrive in subtropical regions with hot, dry summers. Fruit development is encouraged by cool winter temperatures. The tree is cold-hardy down to 10 to 18 degrees F, depending on the variety, and can grow as far north as Utah and Washington D.C. , but will not produce fruit in these cold locations.
Choose a well-drained location with full sun. Pomegranate trees withstand drought well and prefer semi-arid conditions. Allow room for development of the tree to your desired size. These trees can be grown as small trees or pruned to grow as a hedges. For best fruit production, plan to grow two or more trees in a given area, to encourage cross-pollination.
Pomegranate trees prefer well-drained soil. They tolerate a wide range of pH levels, from calcareous, alkaline soil to acidic loam.
Grow pomegranate trees from seeds if fruit development is not required. They grow well when planted in loose soil, but may not grow true to seed. Seedlings grown from hybrid seeds may be sterile.
Propagate more pomegranate trees from cuttings. Take a 12-to-20-inch-long cutting from mature, one-year-old wood. Remove the leaves and treat the cut end with rooting hormone. Place two thirds of the cutting into the soil or other rooting medium, and keep it moist until roots develop. Trees grown from cuttings will produce fruit within three years in suitable climates. Trees can also be obtained from reputable nurseries.
If you buy a tree from a nursery, when you're ready to plant it, dig a hole larger than the planting container. Remove the plant from the container and loosen the roots if they appear compacted or balled. Place the tree into the hole so that the top of the container soil is at ground level. Fill the hole back with the displaced soil and tamp it down.
Water the tree thoroughly immediately after planting and every two to three days during the first few weeks. Gradually increase the time between watering. Water established trees once every week or so, depending on rainfall.
Remove any vegetation within a foot or two of the tree. Apply organic mulch to conserve moisture and help control weeds and grass.
Fertilize lightly once new growth appears. Apply 1/3 to 1/2 cup of ammonium sulfate in February, May and September during the first year. Apply 2/3 to 1 cup during the second and third year. After the third year, fertilizer is not needed, but an annual application of organic compost is beneficial.
Prune the plants back to 24 to 30 inches once they have begun branching out. Remove the lower branches to establish a main stem. Remove suckers. Continue pruning branches yearly during the first three years to discourage fruiting and encourage a strong plant. After the third year, prune only suckers and dead branches. Pruning is required to maintain a strong tree form; otherwise, a bushy shrub will develop.
Harvest pomegranates in the fall when the fruit has reached its full color and has a metallic sound when tapped. The seeds will be fully colored and juicy. Fruits left on the tree too long will crack open.
Trees grown from seeds may drop fruit or flowers during the first few years. This is normal and will stop when the seedling reaches maturity.