Common, or American persimmons (Diospyros virginiana) were common in small town yards in the 19th century, contributing fruit for puddings, candies and cakes. Their irregular growth habit is attractive, and they grow to medium height. Pruning these interesting trees is a necessity if their habit of dropping fruit all winter long or on passing pedestrians is to be kept under control. Timing is the key to pruning the persimmon tree—and persistence—beginning after it has established itself in your yard.
Prune persimmons to maintain shape and to keep it from self-seeding or creating a nuisance. Persimmons grown in dry locations, tend to have shrubby form and should be trained to a single trunk. The tree’s favored habitat is wet soil where it may grow to 40 to 60 feet. Trees grown as specimens can grow beyond 60 feet with a 35-foot spread. Persimmon trees grow very slowly, so pruning for shape is a gradual process.
Take no more than 25 percent of the length of a branch when pruning. Persimmon wood is hard; it is a member of the ebony group. Prune to keep branches from hanging down to the ground when full of fruit or hanging over places where people walk, recreate or park their vehicles.
Do your pruning after all the fruit has dropped from the tree, generally in late winter before spring growth begins. Pruning should occur during dormancy. Persimmon fruit persists past the fall of leaves and into winter.
Use sharp, clean tools, and keep large branches from shattering from their own weight. When removing lower branches to “raise the crown," for example, make a cut upward first, several inches out from the “collar," the thick bark around a joint between trunk and branch. Then cut downward from above all the way through the branch. Cut closer to the collar but not through it to make a raised, flat cut. The collar will close over the cut if it is not damaged.
Train trees that you grow for their fruit with the “espalier” method, trimming out branches on the front and back of the tree and using a trellis to train remaining branches to grow out horizontally from the tree, like an apple tree. This maximizes light and fruit production but does not make for a very attractive specimen.