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Pomegranate

Pomegranate Shrub
Photo Credit
Maxpro
Botanical Name
Punica granatum
Plant Type
Sun Exposure
Soil pH
Flower Color
Hardiness Zone

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Learn how to plant, grow, and care for pomegranates.

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Grow pomegranate plants for their colorful fruit filled with juicy edible seeds, which are not only flavorful but high in nutrition. Want to try something new? Learn how to plant, grow, and harvest pomegranates.

About Pomegranates

Heat-loving and drought-tolerant pomegranates (Punica granatum) are multi-stemmed shrubs or small trees. Most varieties reach about ten feet tall and wide, but they can be kept smaller with pruning. 

Pomegranate plants are considered easy to grow. Pomegranates don’t require another variety as a pollinator buddy but will usually bear a heavier crop if they have a nearby pomegranate friend.

They thrive in the warmer portions of the United States, like Arizona, California, and Texas (zones 8 to 10). However, they can be grown anywhere where they are hardy. For those of us who have colder weather, they can be grown in containers quite successfully. 

Colorful orange-red flowers appear in the spring and summer, and the fruit appears in late summer. We eat the seeds of this fruit, unlike an apple or an orange. Technically, we’re after the fleshy covering of the seeds called an aril. 

The taste of a pomegranate is a balance of tart and sweet and is often described as being similar to a tart cherry or cranberry. The fruit can be enjoyed fresh, but it is also often made into a juice or drink.

These fruits have been studied for their health benefits, including the potential to reduce inflammation, lower the stress hormone cortisol, and even reduce blood pressure.

Pomegranate seeds. Credit: OZMedia

While the pomegranates in the grocery store are often bright red, pomegranates aren’t all red when ripe, and the arils inside can be different colors too. Depending on the variety, ripe fruits may be yellow, pink, red, or burgundy. 

Planting

Pomegranates love full sun–the more, the better. Choose a location with 8 hours of sunshine each day. They thrive in the hot afternoon sun that many other plants dislike and will produce heavier fruit crops when given all the sunlight they want. These fruit trees aren’t picky about the soil type or pH, but they want excellent drainage. 

When To Plant Pomegranates

Like many fruiting shrubs and trees, pomegranates are available as bare root or potted stock. While potted stock can be planted in spring or fall, bare root stock should be planted in early spring while it is still dormant.

Plant bare root pomegranates soon after receiving them. If you can’t plant them immediately, store them in a cool, dark location to keep them dormant, and don’t let the roots dry out. 

Bare root plants can be planted in spring as soon as the soil can be worked; no need to wait for frosts to be over. Potted nursery stock should be planted out after the last spring frosts have passed. They’ll need to be hardened off before planting.

How To Plant a Pomegranate

Planting methods for bare root and potted nursery stock are similar, but for bare root plants, soak the roots in a bucket of water for 12 hours before planting to ensure they are hydrated. 

Water containerized nursery stock before planting as well. The plants will emerge from their pots more easily, with less transplant shock. 

  • Dig the hole twice as wide and the same depth as the root ball. The hole should have sloping sides like a bowl, not vertical sides like a soup can.
     
  • Loosen the soil in the hole. Either dig and refill it or use a garden fork to work it. Hard, compact soil at the hole’s edge can hinder the root growth of new plants. 
     
  • Lightly water the soil in the hole before planting.
     
  • For potted stock, cut any circling or girdling roots. Use a trowel or soil knife to loosen up rootbound plants by scoring the edges of the rootball. 
     
  • Spread the roots out evenly and avoid circling them around the base of the hole. Don’t leave them in a clump. Bare root plant roots sometimes need encouragement to lay out. Extra long roots may be pruned rather than allowing them to coil in the bottom.
     
  • Backfill the hole with the native soil you removed. Pause halfway and water, then continue adding soil. Firm the soil around the roots to avoid air pockets. 
     
  • Use extra soil to form a ring of soil, about a foot in diameter and an inch high, around the plant to keep water from running away. Give it a good drink. 
     
  • Apply a thick layer of mulch to keep the soil moist. Don’t allow the mulch to contact the trunk(s). Keep it a finger-width clear.
Pomegranate orchard. Credit: Emma Grimberg
Growing

Once established, water pomegranates deeply but not frequently. They tolerate some dry periods, and a few thorough waterings, instead of many shallow ones, will encourage the roots to grow down and out.

These trees are scrappy and tough and will grow and produce well with little attention. The only fertilizer needed is a 2 to 3-inch thick layer of compost applied in spring as they leaf out. 

Standard fruit tree pruning practices apply well to pomegranates. Pruning is best done in late winter while the tree is still dormant before buds leaf out. 

  • Remove any dead or broken branches first. 
     
  • Remove crossing branches.
     
  • Strive for an open, airy shape, allowing air to flow through the crown.
     
  • Prune for size or shape if desired. For instance, to keep your pomegranate shorter for easy harvest or confined to one spot in your garden instead of reaching full size.  
     
  • Some pomegranates are extra ambitious and will try to grow more fruit than the branches can support. Thin the fruit on young branches to prevent the weight from breaking them later in the season. 
Harvesting

Pomegranate fruit starts ripening near the end of August; late-maturing varieties can ripen from October or early November.

To know when a pomegranate is ripe, first, you need to know what ripe looks like for that variety. Not all pomegranates turn deep red, and waiting for a lighter-colored variety to turn red won’t happen. 

Pomegranates are ripe when:

  • Fruits lose some shininess.
     
  • Ridges inside the fruit become more visible from the outside.
     
  • Small cracks start to form.

Pomegranates may pull free easily or must be clipped to avoid damage to the fruit. If the birds have started hanging out on your pomegranate tree, check your fruit–they know when it’s ripe, and they’ve been watching it more closely than you have.

Pomegranates and pom juice. Credit: AfricaStudios

Gardening Products

Wit and Wisdom
  • Clean up and dispose of or compost all fallen fruit each year. Many pests, like leaf-footed bugs, will shelter or nest in windfall fruit at the tree’s base and return the following year.
     
  • Pomegranate trees can live up to 200 years. Here are some more fun facts about pomegranates
Pests/Diseases
  • Leaf-footed bugs 
     

About The Author

Andy Wilcox

Andy Wilcox is a flower farmer and master gardener with a passion for soil health, small producers, forestry, and horticulture. Read More from Andy Wilcox

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