The pomegranate tree (Punica granatum) is a self pollinating fruit tree native to the Mediterranean and northern India that was introduced in the mid to late 1700’s. There are different types of the trees that can be more cold hardy for U.S. growing zones 6-11 (such as the Russian Red) and others are grown in more of a tropical setting (such as the Wonderful pomegranate) for zones 8-11. They can also be successfully container grown for the colder areas of the country. Maturing to a manageable height of anywhere between 8-12 feet tall and 6-10 feet wide, these are sought after for their delicious fruit most commonly used in cocktails, desserts, cooking, juices and smoothies.
Choosing a location: Pomegranates need full sun and loamy soil to perform best although they are quite adaptable to different soil types providing there is good drainage. Try to allow a good 20 feet of space from other trees and structures for the tree to grow unless you plan on keeping it a shorter height through pruning.
Planting directions (in ground): Spring is typically the best time to plant your new tree. Pomegranates love sunshine and need it to reliably produce their fruit so be sure your location has LOTS of sun. They do not care for areas susceptible to heavy winds.
1) Make your hole twice the size of the root ball and just as deep. If there is a large amount of clay in the native soil try to amend with sand and perlite to improve the drainage.
2) Carefully remove the tree from its pot and gently comb the sides of the root ball with your hands to free up the roots a bit. You can also use your garden hose to rinse off some off the excess soil around the root ball.
3) Position the tree into the hole and keep straight as you begin to backfill the hole tamping down with your hands to prevent air pockets from forming around the root system.
4) Water the planting area well (but do not over saturate the soil) and then spread a 2-3 inch layer of mulch to help conserve moisture.
Planting directions (potted): If you have successfully cared for a potted citrus tree before then the pomegranate will be quite easy to grow.
1) Select a pot that will be large enough to grow the tree and be sure it has multiple holes in the bottom (a ten gallon container is a good pot to start with). Proper drainage is essential for your pomegranate’s survival.
2) Place the tree into the container and begin to fill in around the roots. Your soil should be loose, loamy and rich in organic material. Do not cover the trunk of the tree with soil.
3) Water your tree and tamp down on the soil eliminating any air pockets that may have developed while potting the tree.
4) Place your tree in a location indoors where it will receive full sun which in turn will give you the best fruiting results.
Watering: Pomegranates have a good tolerance to drought conditions but will perform best in a somewhat moist soil but overly saturated soil will lead to serious issues. Flower/fruit drop and root rot are the results of the tree receiving an excessive amount of moisture. Typically you should only water your tree once every 7-8 days but in the warmer seasons you may need to provide a little more. Provide 6-7 gallons of water per session but be careful not to water too much in a single setting if you haven’t kept up with the normal 7-8 day regimen, it may shock the tree. It’s better to provide small amounts of water more frequently. A weekly deep watering of the potted pomegranate tree will be sufficient. You may need to provide a little more in the hotter season.
Pruning: Avoid doing any trimming of the tree in its first year of growth. When ready to prune be sure to do so after the threat of any frosts/freezes have passed and before the tree is about to start growing. Dead, undesirable or weak branches should be removed to direct nutrients to the proper areas of the tree. By shortening larger branches you can encourage more flowering. Remove dead/damaged limbs from the potted pomegranate in late winter. “Suckers” can be removed at anytime.
Fertilizing: Do not fertilize your tree for the first year of growth. In the second year, if your pomegranate is performing poorly then fertilizer may be needed to supplement the right nutrients to the tree. Apply 2 ounces of nitrogen in the spring and then an additional ounce each following year. When the tree is about five years old, apply 6-8 ounces of nitrogen in the late winter before leaves begin to emerge. Take care not to over fertilize or it will stunt your bloom production with the excessive nitrogen.
Fertilize your potted pomegranate tree regularly during the growing season. Using a half strength liquid 8-8-8 formula, feed the tree once every two weeks during the growing season. Be sure to follow the instructions on the label for the correct application. Potted trees tend to become zinc deficient which can be identified by a yellowing of the leaves. Spraying the foliage with a diluted zinc solution can fix this issue. Compost or manure can also be beneficial but take care not to use anything with an excessive amount of nitrogen. Although this will encourage a good foliage, it will deter flower production.