Pomegranates are not at all a typical fruit tree in East Texas landscapes, but recent popularity with it’s nutritional benefits have brought in quite a few folks with questions on how and where to grow it.
Pomegranates originate from the mid-east, from Iran east to the Himalayas in fact. Widely referenced in ancient texts, and readily found in the Bible, some believe the forbidden fruit in Genesis chapter 3 was a pomegranate and not an apple!
Widely cultivated throughout the Mediterranean, the fruit was introduced to the Americas by Spanish missionaries during the sixteenth century. Texas in fact was probably the first state, of what would later become the United States, to grow pomegranates.
The “Wonderful” variety of pomegranates that we still hear about today was named by a grower from Florida that moved to California in 1896 to expand his fruit business on the west coast.
In your back yard, you’ll only need one pomegranate as they are self-pollinating. While pomegranates can be trained as a small tree, it is more commonly grown as a bushy shrub. If you want more than one and space is limited, you can plant them as a hedge.
The leaves are deciduous, usually glossy and dark green. Its colorful, orange-red flowers and dense, bushy growth habit make pomegranate an attractive ornamental.
This plant will produce lots of suckers near the soil, so frequent pruning is a must for a tree-like form. Pruning must be started soon after planting to maintain a single trunk, otherwise too many suckers will have developed that it will be difficult to change. Unless there is a strong desire for a tree-form, the bushy, free-growing shrub develops naturally.
Pomegranate is common to the tropics, subtropics and subtemperate regions and is well adapted to areas with hot, dry summers. It is considerably more cold-hardy than citrus.
Basically, pomegranate is well-adapted to practically any soil that has good internal drainage. Be forewarned, they may not grow well on heavy clay soils. They require almost not pruning, spraying or fertilizing and, as such, can be grown organically quite easily.
The only real problem you may face is splitting fruit. Under some high rainfall conditions this could be a real issue.
While Wonderful was the old standby, consider planting a newer variety. Some that should do well include Aperoski, Cloud, Kandahar Early, Russian #8, Russian #18, and Texas Pink.
You can plant from a container anytime of the year that soil moisture is available. Plant in a hole the same depth but a little wider than the pot. Place the root ball in and backfill with the existing soil and water it in well. Be sure to add a few inches of mulch to keep competing vegetation away at least 3 feet on each side. The added mulch will also keep moisture in and moderate soil temperatures.
Cary Sims is the County Extension Agent for agriculture and natural resources for Angelina County. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org
Educational programs of the Texas AgriLife Extension Service are open to all people without regard to race, color, sex, disability, religion, age, or national origin.