Pomegranate Tree: How to Grow Pomegranate
I’ve always enjoyed growing my own produce. The feeling of being able to relish the fruits (literally!) of my labor is a feeling that I can never get enough of. One of my favorites is the pomegranate; its captivating reddish glow paired with its tarty sweet flavor is more than worth the effort put in.
If you’re planning to create your very own edible garden, then you might want to consider adding pomegranate trees to your list of orchard candidates. Not only do they bear delicious fruits for consumption, but they can also be vibrant additions to liven up your landscaping.
Famously known due to its pivotal role in the Greek mythological story between Hades and Persephone, the pomegranate (Punica granatum) is a deciduous shrub in the Lythraceae family that can grow between 5 to 10 meters (16 to 33 feet) tall. It is best known for its vivid red fruits that possess several notable health benefits. Depending on how you prune it, the pomegranate can grow as either a shrub or a tree.
In the culinary world, pomegranates are mostly used for making juices. It is also used as an ingredient for both sweet and savory dishes. Recipes for various soups, salads, side dishes, and desserts often make use of pomegranate to improve its texture, flavor, or color.
In terms of gardening and landscaping, pomegranate trees are usually grown as decorative indoor plants, columnar hedges, or as a small backyard orchard.
Facts About Pomegranate
The word pomegranate is derived from the Old French term pome grenate and Medieval Latin pomum granatum. Pome means “apple; fruit” and grenate means “having grains”.
The pomegranate tree has a long and rich history. Native to modern-day Iran and northern Indian Himalayas, it has been cultivated through the Mediterranean region of Asia, Europe, and Africa for several millennia. It holds many significant symbols in different ancient cultures such as in Egypt, Greece, Israel, India, and China. Pomegranates were among the first fruit-bearing trees to be domesticated in the eastern Mediterranean region, even as early as the fifth millennium BC.
Pomegranates are generally hardy plants that you can easily grow in the very comfort of your home. They can germinate pretty quickly, and you can even start planting indoors during winter so you can transfer it outside during spring.
Pomegranates thrive in sunny and warm areas. They also generally need to be watered regularly, although they can be sturdy enough to withstand drought conditions for extended periods. As with any other tree or shrub, the key to growing a healthy pomegranate tree is finding the right balance between several different factors such as soil, water, temperature, and sun exposure. I’ll be explaining the specific steps and elements to be considered when caring for pomegranates in more detail later.
The pomegranate is a versatile plant that is suitable for both indoor and outdoor gardening. Dwarf pomegranates are often raised as ornamental houseplants, while taller varieties can be a perfect choice if you're looking for fruitful hedges or shrubbery borders for your home.
The size of pomegranates can range from a petite shrub of 3 feet (1 meter) to a small tree of around 20 to 30 feet (6 to 9 meters). The average size of a common pomegranate shrub is 12 to 16 feet (3.7 to 5 meters). It has a horizontal reach of 12 to 20 feet (3.7 to 9 meters) at maturity. The pomegranate often has a rounded shape that can be trimmed and trained to grow upright by pruning.
Pomegranate trees have long stiff branches that are often spiny. Connected to these branches are bunches of five or more leaves. Pomegranate leaves are bright green, glossy, and leathery. They are either lance-shaped or oblong, with the size reaching about 3 inches (7.5cm) long.
Not only do pomegranates produce delicious, zesty fruits, but they also produce beautiful vibrant flowers that start blooming in May. The flowers are usually bright red or orange, but some rare variations yield pink blossoms. Sitting on the tips of branches in clusters of usually 1 to 5, the flowers are characterized by around 3 to 7 crinkled, scarlet petals that may sometimes be variegated with white. Some fruitless pomegranate varieties can bear flowers alone.
Pomegranates produce both male and female flower species on the same tree, which means that it is capable of self-pollinating its flowers, as well as helping nearby trees germinate. Cross-pollination is also possible with the aid of insects, which can boost its fruit yield.
The thing that’s associated the most with pomegranates is its fruit. The fruit features a smooth and leathery rind or skin that can range from yellow with hints of deep pink to a rich red color.
Nearly round with a diameter of 2.5 to 5 inches (6.25 to 12.5cm), the fruit is technically categorized as a berry that contains several seeds inside which are usually separated into different chambers. Each seed is protected by a fleshy, juicy covering called an aril. When eaten, the aril produces a flavorful tart taste that explodes in the mouth.
Pomegranate Tree Varieties
Pomegranates come in many different varieties. Soft ones produce sweeter fruits, while others contain a more sour taste. Some varieties have the signature red-orange skin, while others may have yellowish-green rinds.
Depending on how you want your plant to look or what you're going to use it for, you have the freedom to choose which kind of pomegranate tree is more suited for your garden. Below are some of the most common pomegranate tree varieties:
If you love sipping on some pomegranate juice, the Angel Red variety might be the most befitting candidate for you. Characterized by its large, striking red fruit with soft seeds, this variety of pomegranate is known to have a higher juice composition than any other type.
This variety of pomegranate is distinguished by its medium-sized fruit that has a light pink to red rind. Its crimson seeds boast of an intense flavor without any strong acidic taste. The Kashmir Blend variety is often used in cooking, especially when paired with proteins.
Known as one of the most popular pomegranate varieties, the Sienevyi has large fruits with soft juicy seeds. It has a pinkish-red exterior with deep purple arils. The most prominent feature of this variety is the sweet taste of its seeds, which is often likened to that of a watermelon.
How to Grow Pomegranate Tree
The placement of your pomegranate tree could play a pivotal role in its growth. Based on the size and specific light requirements of your chosen pomegranate variety, the appropriate location for planting may vary. Generally, pomegranate trees enjoy areas with plenty of light and warmth.
Pomegranate trees are happiest when they can freely bask in sunlight out in your yard, but they can also survive inside the walls of your home. Dwarf pomegranate shrubs are especially suitable for indoor gardening. If you’re planning to keep one as a decorative houseplant, place your ornamental pomegranate shrub in the toastiest room in your house and make sure not to over-water it.
Another important factor when choosing a location for your pomegranate is drainage. Pomegranates require well-drained soil, and they don’t do too well in spots where the ground may become wet and waterlogged.
Pomegranates can survive in a wide variety of soil types, but they grow best in well-draining, deep loamy soil. It may even be hardy enough to sustain in rock-strewn gravel or calcareous loam soil. But you might want to avoid heavy clay soils because excessive clay can hinder the proper drainage of water.
It can tolerate moderately acidic to slightly alkaline soils, but the most suitable pH range for pomegranate trees ranges from 5.5 to 7.2. If adjustment is necessary, you can lower the pH level of your soil by mixing in some form of sulfur or increase it by incorporating ground agricultural limestone.
Although it can subsist in shaded areas, pomegranate trees fare best when they're exposed to plenty of warmth and sunlight.
If you're aiming to ensure healthy fruit growth and productivity, then you will need to find a spot where your tree can get at least six hours of direct sun exposure daily. Growing pomegranate in shade may lead to slower maturity and small, dry fruits.
If your pomegranate is kept in a pot or container, then you can place it in different spots when seasons change to ascertain that it's always getting optimum sunlight. When it comes to indoor pomegranate trees, you can supplement the lack of natural bright light by using fluorescent bulbs or grow lights.
Pomegranate trees are usually drought-tolerant plants, but if you wish to harvest large healthy fruits, watering your plant regularly can help greatly with fruit production. On average, your pomegranate tree should get an estimated 50 to 60 inches (1.27 to 1.52 meters) of water yearly. This number can depend on your plant's size and sun exposure. Your tree will also need a bit more watering during fruiting and flowering seasons.
Watering your pomegranate tree every 7 to 10 days is sufficient, but if the weather forecast calls for heavy rains coming your way, you need to cut back to prevent over-watering. Excessive watering can lead to a higher yield, but the fruits produced will have the tendency to be softer which can adversely affect its postharvest quality. One important reminder is that pomegranates hate sitting in soggy soil, so make sure to keep the moisture levels balanced.
Trees cultivated in pots or containers may require more frequent watering since moisture in pots can evaporate faster compared to ground soil. Also, because its roots are trapped within the confines of the pot, they have no means to acquire additional moisture whenever they get thirsty.
Pomegranates can tolerate a wide range of climate conditions. Since the pomegranate tree originated from warm tropical regions, it is extremely heat-tolerant and flourishes in hot climates. The temperature range that's suitable for pomegranate growth is between 40° and 90° F (4° to 32° C), although it is also capable of withstanding temperatures as high as 118° F (48° C).
Warmth-loving as they are, pomegranate trees are mildly tolerant of the cold. It is hardy enough to brave frosty temperatures between 7 to 12° F (-11 to -14° C). It should be noted that even though they can survive in freezing conditions, prolonged exposure may cause injuries. If you live in an area with a cooler climate, you can still tend to pomegranates, albeit indoors.
More suited to dry, semi-arid climates, pomegranate trees do not favor areas with high humidity. While they can endure moderate humidity, too much of it can be detrimental to plant yield.
Air circulation is essential, especially in the spring planting season. If it becomes too humid, flowers may dry up and wilt or not bloom at all. Open areas with very little shade and have a small incline are encouraged since it offers natural air drainage.
Pomegranate trees are fairly capable of living in poor-quality soils, but having a moderate level of nutrients is good for fruit growth and yield. However, it is better to underestimate rather than overestimate the amount of fertilizer that you mix into your pomegranate tree’s soil because too much of it can negatively affect fruit production.
You can fertilize your pomegranates with ammonia sulfate or some other type of nitrogen fertilizer in small amounts during their first two springs. Fertilizer is usually not mandatory after that, but adding a fresh layer of mulch annually can benefit mature trees.
Pomegranates are pruned for a variety of reasons: to allow light to penetrate better, to remove branches that bear fruits of poor quality, or to maintain a specific form for aesthetics or easy harvesting.
If you’re pruning your pomegranate tree to enhance fruit production, you need to focus on shortening exterior branches to allow side shoots to form during the spring. New flowering and fruiting buds will form from these shoots.
On the other hand, if your primary purpose is ornamental, you should concentrate on snipping off weak, diseased, and awkward branches by clipping them to their base. Depending on whether you wish to have a multi-trunk shrub or a tall tree, you should limit the number of trunks from three to six. Any less than this could negatively impact its fruit yield.
Do the pruning at least once a year. The most opportune time to prune your pomegranate tree is during late winter, just before the buds break.
Many store-brought pomegranates are hybrids, which means that planting their seeds might not yield fruits that are exactly like the parent. Growing pomegranates using seeds can be done successfully, but unpredictable genetic variations may happen as it matures. If you want to have better control over the kind of fruit you want your tree to produce, propagating your plant through cuttings is the better option.
Start the process by creating 8- to 10-inch (20 to 25cm) long hardwood cuttings from your pomegranate tree using pruning shears. These should be taken from wood that is at least a year old and ¼ to ½ inch (0.6 to 1cm) in diameter. Cutting should be done during late winter.
Soak the carved tips of each cutting in commercial rooting hormone. You can plant the cuttings indoors first before relocating them outside during the spring. Transfer the new growths in a sunny area with loamy soil and start tending it as you normally would.
If you’re propagating multiple pomegranate trees at the same time, plant the cuttings at least 18 feet (5 meters) apart from each other. If you’re planning to raise them as shrubs, keep a distance of 3 feet (0.9 meters) between them.
Pomegranate Health Benefits
The rich red pomegranate fruit is much more than just a yummy, juicy snack that can be eaten whole or as part of a dish. It is also chock full of perks that can be beneficial to your overall health. Here are some of the reasons why pomegranates are good for you:
Packed with Nutrients
One of the most impressive features of the pomegranate is its remarkable nutritional profile. One serving (282 grams) of pomegranate contains the following nutrients:
%DV – Percent Daily Values
Pomegranates are packed with the vitamins and minerals that the body needs to stay healthy.
A study published by the Journal of Food Science and Technology has found that pomegranate seeds contain phenolic compounds that are highly potent antioxidants. Another study even concluded that commercial pomegranate juice has three times more antioxidant activity compared to green tea and red wine.
Antioxidants help our body by fighting against harmful free radicals that could bring ailments like heart disease and certain cancers into our system. You can get your healthy fix of antioxidants by snacking on a pomegranate fruit or drinking its juice.
Research has found that pomegranates exhibit significant anti-inflammatory activity in the gastrointestinal tract. Drinking pomegranate juice can reduce inflammation in the gut and boost digestion. It may be beneficial for people with ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, and other inflammatory bowel diseases.
Evidence also suggests that pomegranate can play an essential role in controlling inflammation found in colon cancer cells.
May Lower Blood Pressure
Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is a common but dangerous medical condition that could lead to several health complications such as stroke, heart disease, or even death.
In one clinical study, test subjects with hypertension were discovered to have substantially lower blood pressure after drinking 5 ounces (150ml) of pomegranate juice every day for two weeks. Similar research has yielded evidence that pomegranates can help stabilize systolic blood pressure, which is the top number that can be seen in blood pressure readings.
Fights Bacterial and Fungal Infections
Pomegranates have different plant compounds that can help eliminate harmful microorganisms found in the body. Findings show that the fruit possesses antifungal properties that could help mitigate the growth of Candida albicans, a pathogen that causes yeast infections.
It can also help protect against oral pathogens that can cause conditions like periodontitis, gingivitis, and denture stomatitis.
Pomegranate trees are hardy plants that are low maintenance and relatively easy to cultivate. If you’re looking for a fruit-bearing tree that can double as an eye-catching indoor or outdoor ornament, the pomegranate tree might be one of the best options for you. With its zesty red fruits and striking blossoms, the pomegranate is surely a feast for both the mouth and eyes.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Pomegranates an Antioxidant?
The short answer is yes, pomegranates can be a great source of antioxidants. One of its plant compounds called punicalagins shows highly potent antioxidant activity. Most of the pomegranate's antioxidant properties can be found in its skin, which is why pomegranate powder and extract are usually taken from the peel.
How Long Can a Pomegranate Tree Live?
Pomegranate trees are known to be long-living plants that can thrive in harsh conditions. In his book called "The Incredible Pomegranate," Richard Ashton details how there are documented instances of pomegranate trees living up to 300 years old.
Even though pomegranate trees can survive for many years, it has an economic life span of about 12 to 15 years. After that, the rate of fruit production may slowly decline along with the quality of growth.
How Long Does It Take for Pomegranate to Bear Fruit?
Pomegranates often start flowering and producing fruit a year into its growth, but they usually need 2 to 3 years to yield a full crop. It takes fruits 5 to 7 months to mature after flowers bloom. Depending on the size of your tree or shrub, it can produce an estimate of 8 pounds (3.6 kg) of fruits every year.