Whether grown shrubby or tall, the simple pomegranate tree is a rewarding fruit tree for the garden. It isn't fussy about soil and will happily grow in heavy clay, fill soil of unknown type, or very alkaline soil. Once the tree is established, it requires little care and is fairly pest resistant. It is a perfect fruit tree for USDA growing zones 7-10.
Some common backyard varieties include:
- Wonderful Pomegranate: This quintessential inland California backyard pomegranate tree has tart-sweet fruit and excellent garden habits. It is particularly fond of alkaline soil and water and doesn't mind being ignored for much of the year. Fruit starts to set in early spring, continuing to late spring, and ripens in September to October.
- Granada Pomegranate: A shorter season pomegranate, the Granada does better along the coast. The fruit looks much like the Wonderful variety, though it is sweeter. Fruit sets in early spring and ripens in August to September.
- Kashmir Pomegranate: This variety is best if you want to cook with the seeds (arils), which are firmer in texture and have a more sour taste. The pomegranate flavor is quite distinctive in cooking.
All pomegranate trees need some hours of chill below 40°F each winter. Wonderful will still produce with less than 150 hours, but expect a smaller crop in that case. Granada grown along the coast will produce with 150–200 hours of chill.
Pomegranate Information in a Nutshell
|Variety||Winter Chill Hours Needed||Fruit Ripens||Best Growing Area||Fruit Quality|
Inland, Zones 7-10
Sweet, Red, Large Fruit
Coastal, Zones 7-10
Sweet, Red, Medium Fruit
August - September
Coastal Zones 8-10 (frost sensitive)
Sweet, Pink, Large Fruit
September - October
Inland, Zones 8-10
Very sweet, Purple, Large Fruit
August - September
Inland, Zones 7-10
Soft, Sweet, High juice content
Inland, Zones 7-10
Hard seeds, Tart, Red, Medium fruit, Small tree
Don't Overwater Your Pomegranate Plants
The worst place to plant a pomegranate tree is in the middle of a lawn. It will get too much water and the wrong kind of fertilizer and will struggle to produce fruit.
Instead, find a spot where the tree will get sun all day, and where it can dry out between waterings.
If you've decided to grow a pomegranate tree, the best thing to do is to select a variety that does best in your zone. Since I live inland and in Southern California, I have had the best success with Wonderful. It truly lives up to its name, as it is planted in poor alkaline soil and gets watered with hard alkaline water. It has lived for the past several years in the midst of one of the worst droughts in our state's history, and yet continues to bear a reasonable crop each year.
How to Select a Tree
Pomegranate trees typically are sold as bare-root trees, potted trees, or as rooted cuttings. The cuttings are taken from hardwood and can be of varying sizes, but usually you need to wait a few years before the cutting is large enough to bear fruit. I have had good luck with buying 3–4' potted trees, which bear fruit as early as the next season. If you don't mind waiting and want to save money, go with rooted cuttings.
How to Plant
Plant your pomegranate tree when it is dormant. Do so in the winter months so that the roots have time to acclimate to your soil, when it is less stressful for the tree.
- Choose a good location: The most important consideration for planting your pomegranate tree is location. Select the sunniest spot in your yard, someplace that gets sun most of the day and that is somewhat protected from wind.
- Dig a hole: For a potted tree or rooted cutting, dig the planting hole large enough to accommodate the root ball. For a bare-root tree, dig the hole large enough so that the bare roots can fit without bending.
- Plant the tree or rooted cutting: Set the tree or cutting so that the soil line hits at the same place as it did in the pot. If planting a bare-root tree, set the soil line about 2" above the roots or (if you can tell from looking at the tree) at its previous soil line.
- Add a little manure: Before backfilling the planting hole, mix some manure or compost into the backfill soil, then fill the hole.
- Make a well and water: Build up the soil in a circle around the tree, estimating a ring about 36" in diameter. Water in well. Check over the next few days to make sure that the soil from the pot has not popped up above the garden soil, which can dry out the root ball. You want the soil from the pot to remain covered with your garden soil, but also take care not to bury the roots too deeply.
How to Care for Pomegranate Trees
Starting in February and continuing every 6–8 weeks through July, fertilize with a timed-release fertilizer for citrus, like Miracle Gro Shake 'n Feed Citrus, Avocado, and Mango (6-4-6). I've also had very good luck with Dr. Earth Fruit Tree Fertilizer.
Pomegranates don't seem to be too picky about fertilizer, as long as they get fed regularly from the start of the growing season. My pomegranates also seem to need iron at least twice during the growing season. I give them Ironite in accordance to package directions.
For new trees, water weekly, allowing the soil to dry out between waterings. After the tree is established, they are fairly drought tolerant. Though for best fruit production, it pays to water regularly.
Be careful not to overwater as fruit is ripening, from September to October for Wonderful pomegranates. Wonderful will experience a huge surge in fruit size in the last few weeks of ripening, and overwatering the trees will cause the fruit to split.
One of the most common problems with pomegranate trees is underproduction or no production of fruit. If you are seeing a flurry of blossoms but no fruit set, try feeding your trees nitrogen. For trees over two years old, feed 2–3 ounces of nitrogen, split the amount into two doses over a month, and water in well each time you feed. Try not to overdose your tree with nitrogen, as that can cause your tree to drop all of its leaves.
On the other hand, if you are seeing plenty of leaf and branch growth but few blossoms and fruit set, your tree may need more micronutrients to be able to utilize the fertilizer. The most common deficiency is in magnesium, zinc, and boron. Look for a foliar spray to best deliver these micronutrients.
Pruning and Rest
At the end of harvest, your pomegranate trees will drop its leaves and go into a dormant state. During dormancy, from about late November to January, it is safe to prune your tree.
Start by cutting away dead or broken branches, then open up the center to give it air. And finally, prune for shape and height. Mulch with dry leaves or commercial organic mulch, and allow the tree to rest until the next growing season begins.
Questions & Answers
Question: What do you recommend to start to grow pomegranate trees from a cutting?
Answer: I had success starting a cutting in a small pot, setting it in potting soil, and using root starter. I like Miracle-Gro Fast Root, but your mileage may vary.