The pomegranate (Punica granatum) is a native of Asia, originally ranging from Iran in the Middle East to the Himalayas and northern India. It's been grown widely since antiquity, and it came to North America in the late 18th century, where it does best in the warm, dry climates of the Southwest.
Pomegranate is a multi-stemmed small tree or shrub that usually reaches between 6 and 15 feet in height, and in ideal growing conditions it may get as tall as 20 or 30 feet. It has oblong, glossy green leaves that are about 3 or 4 inches long; the leaves are deciduous, but they will remain evergreen in tropical climates. Overall, the tree has an arching habit, with branches that grow upright when they're young and gradually bend over as they mature.
The pomegranate is hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 8 to 11; the ideal climate has a long, hot summer and a cool winter. Pomegranates are not extremely sensitive to cold and can survive temperatures as low as 15 degrees Fahrenheit, but late spring freezes can cause significant damage to new growth. In areas with cool winters, the tree's leaves will turn yellow and drop in the fall as the plant goes dormant. Dwarf varieties such as "Nana," when grown in containers, may be overwintered indoors in colder climates; keep the tree in a cool area with bright, indirect light and decrease watering frequency to encourage the plant's dormancy.
Flowers and Fruit
Under ideal conditions, pomegranate will flower throughout the summer, producing trumpet-shaped orange flowers that are about 2 inches long. Some varieties, such as "Chico," "Nana," "Nochi Shibari" and "Alba Plena," have been developed specifically for their flower production, and cultivar flower colors range from dark red to white. After the flowers come round, leathery-skinned edible fruit which ripen six to seven months after the beginning of flowering. The fruits are about the size of an orange but are not citrus fruits. Rather, the fruit is filled with clusters of seeds, each of which is surrounded by a pulpy, juicy sac. In cool or humid climates, pomegranate may produce little, if any, fruit.
Care in the Garden
Pomegranates like loamy soil that's rich in organic matter. Although the trees are extremely drought tolerant and don't do well in areas of high humidity, they do need regular watering to successfully produce fruit. The trees are also prone to sucker growth from the roots around the base of the plant. These suckers divert energy that could be used for flowering and fruit growth, so they should be removed promptly.
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