Jujube Trees are easy to grow and thrive in hot, dry climates. They are drought tolerant and like full sun and slightly sandy soil. They don’t suffer from many diseases and are very hardy, with the Chinese varieties also being cold tolerant. In this article, we’re going to look at how to grow a Jujube tree.
What You'll Learn Today
- Why Grow A Jujube Tree?
- How Easy Is It To Grow A Jujube Fruit Tree?
- How Long Does It Take To Grow A Jujube Tree?
- How To Grow A Jujube Tree From Seed?
- How To Grow A Jujube Tree From Cuttings?
- How To Graft A Jujube Tree?
- Which Variety Of Jujube Tree Grows Better In Zone 8?
Why Grow A Jujube Tree?
We all know that fruit can be good for us, and that’s just as true for the Jujube. This little powerhouse is packed full of powerful antioxidants and essential vitamins. Together they may be beneficial for strengthening your immune system, fighting aging, and keeping debilitating diseases from taking a foothold.
But incredibly, they have also been found to have a calming effect that can help counteract stress – I need some Jujubes!
Many fruit trees don’t do so well in dry arid conditions. Not so the Jujube. It thrives in sandy, fast-draining soils and can take a lot of heat. In fact, the more sun, the better for this amazingly hardy, drought-tolerant tree.
Best of all, you get the most incredibly delicious fruits you can either eat fresh-picked straight off the branch or which you can dry like dates to enjoy over the winter.
There sure is a lot to love about the Jujube tree!
How Easy Is It To Grow A Jujube Fruit Tree?
Jujube fruit trees are easy to grow, providing you give them the best growing conditions. What do they need?
- Full sun
- Well draining, sandy soil
- Plenty of summer heat
- Short, cold winters
- Enough, but not too much water
Jujube trees don’t like living in the shade, and if you don’t give them enough solar rays, they simply won’t fruit very well. Finding a spot with full sun for as many hours of the day as possible is best for your Jujube tree.
Forget about planting a Jujube in heavy clay as most likely the tree won’t live long. Their roots like to be kept very slightly damp but never really wet. Sandy soils that are also rich in humus are the best. You can help this by working some good quality compost into the soil.
You can indeed grow Jujube trees in cold climates too. The problem is, that although the tree will survive, it will probably never give you any fruit. For big harvests, Jujube trees need heat.
It isn’t all about the high temperatures, however, as a bit of winter cold is also best for these trees to function optimally. Like most fruit trees, they need some winter downtime, as they are deciduous, and like to get a bit of sleep in before the spring.
Although Jujube trees are pretty drought tolerant. They will produce larger, juicier, more abundant fruits if they are watered regularly. Ideally, their root system wants to be kept slightly moist, but not wet.
They don’t have much need for fertilizers, and just some mulching with organic matter will do an excellent job of feeding your Jujube tree once it’s a few years old.
Pruning is necessary if you want to keep your Jujube tree down to a manageable height. Most grow to around 30 to 40 feet if left to their own devices.
Dead, damaged, or diseased branches should also be removed. The best time of year to prune is when fruiting has finished.
What Zone Does A Jujube Tree Grow?
Jujube trees will grow well in USDA zones 6 through 11, although, as I’ve mentioned previously, they do really love the heat but also need a little winter chill time if they are to produce the best possible fruit.
The optimal zones for growing Jujube trees are 8 or 9.
How Long Does It Take To Grow A Jujube Tree?
Due to the precocious nature of Jujube trees, they grow very fast. It’s pretty usual for them to flower in the first year they are grafted, and many cultivars often produce their first fruit in their second year.
It is recommended to remove much of this fruit however as it can slow the development of the tree. Just leave a few remaining so you can try them.
By year four or five, they can give a substantial yield, which is a lot faster than many other fruit trees.
It isn’t uncommon for a bare root Jujube, which is reduced to around two feet in height when planted in early spring, to grow to about nine feet in height by the end of its first summer.
If this growth is again reduced to seven feet, it may grow to fourteen feet the following year.
A fully grown Jujube tree can be 40 feet tall, depending on the cultivar and growing conditions. It is usual, however, for them to be kept smaller than this with pruning, to make harvesting easier.
How To Grow A Jujube Tree From Seed?
Depending on the cultivar, Jujube fruits may have a single stone, two stones, or no stones inside at all. The stones contain seeds in the form of kernels, which can be germinated to grow new trees.
To grow a Jujube tree from a seed, collect fruits when they are fully ripe in fall and remove the stones. Place these into water to soak for a few hours, as this helps loosen the pulp.
Dry them off with a paper towel, and remove the kernels by using a hammer and hitting the stone on its narrow edge. The stone should split in half, and the seed can easily be removed.
Jujube kernels don’t usually require stratification to germinate. However, you may have more success if you place them into a bag of damp sand and pop it in the refrigerator over winter (three or four months) before planting, as this will improve germination rates.
Sow your stratified seed in early spring in a good quality potting mix. They should be placed 10 to 15 cm apart in rows that are at a distance of 40 to 50 cm.
The correct depth to plant the seeds is 2cm. The seed tray can be covered with plastic wrap with some holes made in it to increase the germination rate.
The soil should be misted daily to keep it slightly damp.
Once the seeds begin to germinate, allow them to grow four to six inches before re-potting into larger pots to grow on.
When the young seedling has reached more than two feet in height, it can be planted outside, but it should be introduced to this environment gradually over a week to avoid shock.
Note that Jujube trees grown from seeds are not identical to their parent tree. They can be very useful for use as rootstock for grafting.
How To Grow A Jujube Tree From Cuttings?
Jujube trees will readily root from cuttings. Use the current year’s growth and select some healthy young branches with plenty of leaves on them.
Using a pair of sharp pruners that have been sterilized with rubbing alcohol, make a clean, angled cut of approximately 45°, ensuring that your cutting is at least one and a half feet in length.
Many people have success by simply planting their cuttings directly into damp soil.
Still, to increase your chances, it’s better to scrape back the bark and cambium layer from one side at the angled base of your cutting to a height of around two to three inches. Apply rooting hormone, either the powder or liquid form, and then plant into damp soil.
The soil should be kept damp but not wet, to encourage root growth.
You can expect your cutting to have grown some roots and new leaves the following spring.
How To Graft A Jujube Tree?
Jujube trees have an unusual structure which means the tertiary branches are not usually substantial enough to make good scion wood cuttings.
It is necessary to use shoots growing directly from the primary branches, and there are usually between five to eight nodes that may be used to make a graft.
If you wish to use a shoot as a scion wood graft, select one between one and three years old.
It’s best to graft scions as soon as possible after cutting, but they can be kept for a few weeks if they are wrapped in a damp paper towel and kept refrigerated.
Tools Needed For Grafting Jujube Trees
When you’re dealing with Jujube trees, you’ll need your tools to be incredibly sharp and strong. Jujube wood is several times harder than that of most other fruit trees.
The method you choose to graft your Jujube will depend on the size and availability of good scions and your rootstock. Wedge grafting and bud grafting are the most popular methods, along with bark and whip grafting.
You will need:
- A small, sharp knife
- Sharp, strong hand pruners
- A mallet or hammer
- Grafting tape
- Grafting wax, if required
The Type Of Graft Wood To Collect, And When
Greenwood grafts can be cut and used throughout the summer and early fall when the tree is still actively growing.
Dormant scions should be collected in late winter before any new growth begins.
For bark or whip and tongue grafts, again, scions should be gathered in late winter.
This type of graft is made when active growth is in progress. A bud chip is removed from the tree you wish to make a graft of and a matching chip is removed from the rootstock tree you are going to graft onto.
It’s important that the cambium layer, just below the bark, matches up well between the surfaces of the graft.
The graft is then bound with grafting tape to keep it tightly pressed together.
It will usually take around four weeks for the graft to heal over, but it is often safest to keep it wrapped until the following spring before checking to see if it has taken.
Wedge or Cleft Grafting
A wedge graft is made when the tree is dormant in late winter or early spring.
Choose a scion that has a very similar diameter to the rootstock for best results.
The scion has a wedge shape cut into it at the base. The top of the rootstock is then cut off, and a cut is made into it so that the wedge shape of the scion slots into it perfectly.
The wedge of the scion must be slipped carefully into the rootstock so that the cambium layer of each matches as precisely as possible.
The join is then wrapped with grafting tape so the entire graft is covered. It’s important that the graft doesn’t dry out before it has time to heal.
A few weeks after the new buds have broken in the spring is the best time to do a bark graft.
Jujube trees have thin bark but very dense wood. You need to debark an area of around an inch and a half to two inches in length.
It is often necessary to make several cuts in order to expose a smooth section of clean wood on the scions surface. Always cut away from you to prevent cutting yourself.
Now turn the scion over and just cut a tiny bit off the opposite side at the bottom, so the cambium layer is exposed.
Next, cut the top off of the rootstock, then make a single horizontal cut with the tip of your blade, slicing through the bark layer. Now peel the bark back away from the wood on each side of the slit you made and slide the scion down in between it.
Make sure to tape the entire graft thoroughly, so that all parts of the graft are completely covered to prevent it from drying out. Paraffin tape can be used on the exposed ends of the scion.
In this video, you can see how to bark graft and whip graft a Jujube tree:
You can do a whip graft when the wood is dormant. It’s very important for whip grafts, that both the scion and the rootstock are the same diameter. Smaller diameter grafts seem to have more success than large ones, as the healing time is faster.
At the bottom of the scion, make downward slices with your knife, exposing about two inches of wood in a smooth, clean cut. It will take several cuts to achieve this. Always cut away from you.
Next, match up the scion to the rootstock and cut off the rootstock where the diameter most closely matches that of your scion. Make a matching cut in the rootstock that is the same as the one you have in your scion, just the other way up.
Now ¼ of the way up in the wood you have exposed on your scion, make a vertical slit up through it. Be very careful doing this, as the knife can easily slip!
Compare this to your rootstock and make a matching slit in that.
Now slide your scion and rootstock together so that the two opposing slits slip into one another.
You want the cambium layers from the rootstock and scion to match as closely as possible.
Now wrap the graft with tape, so it is completely covered. Put paraffin tape over the exposed cuts on your scion.
Remove any suckers that begin to grow from the rootstock following grafting.
Keep the grafted plant well watered and give some slow-release NPK fertilizer to give the tree a boost. Remember to keep fertilizer away from the trunk of the tree as it can burn.
Ensure you remove any weeds from around the tree, as these will compete for moisture and food.
Once your new growth has actively started sprouting from the scion, you can remove the grafting tape.
The success of your grafts depends on how well you matched the two pieces together and that they were done at the optimum time of year. If a graft dries out before it has healed, it will not take.
Which Variety Of Jujube Tree Grows Better In Zone 8?
Any Jujube tree will grow happily in zone 8. You need to decide what type of Jujube you want to grow.
There is a wide variety of cultivars available. Some have much larger fruits but are less sweet to eat fresh, straight from the tree. These are excellent for drying and eating as a preserved fruit.
Others are smaller but far sweeter when harvested and eaten fresh.
Another consideration is when you want your fruits to be ready to harvest, as some cultivars ripen earlier than others.
Let’s take a look at a few different varieties you may like to consider.
Large Fruit Types
Li and Li 2
These two Li Jujube are similar, but the Li 2 is an improved variety of the Li. They produce large, elongated fruits and abundant crops. The fruits often don’t have any seed development.
These are a good type to grow if you only want to have one tree, as cross-pollination doesn’t seem to benefit them as much as other cultivars. They are good for drying.
The Shanxi Li is larger than Li but can be more difficult to find. The fruits are very large and crisp. This type usually produces a seed and still crops abundantly with no cross-pollination required. It is usually a smaller tree, being semi-dwarf.
Shui Men (Shumen)
This vigorous plant grows medium to large, elongated fruits that are good both fresh and dried. A cross-pollinator is advised for this variety.
Sihong Jujube is very productive and has cylindrical fruits that are good fresh, or dried. It has a vigorous growth habit and will require pruning early on to keep it in check. This sweet variety is good when eaten fresh, and will develop fine wrinkles on its skin when dried, making it look very date-like.
If you’re looking for a small, cold-hardy Jujube, then Winter Delight is the one for you. It has large, oval fruits which are sweet and crisp, and it fruits early.
Chico (GI 7-62)
The Chico Jujube is the size and shape of a large crabapple. It is very sweet with a powerful tart, after kick. This is a very productive tree and is much loved by insects.
This is a semi-dwarf variety with an attractive zig-zag, upright growth habit. Suitable for training against a wall.
Care must be taken if buying this variety grafted onto wild Jujube rootstock, as this can send up root sprouts that are extremely spiny and bear sour, tiny fruits.
These root sprouts multiply quickly and can make the tree a real tangle that is hard to manage.
Small Fruit Types
This spiny Jujube tree has fairly small fruits, but they are incredibly sweet and delicious when eaten fresh. They often don’t contain a seed. Cross-pollination is recommended.
A very sweet, yet tart variety, Honey Jar is fairly small and benefits from being cross-pollinated as this makes the fruits larger. It is a smaller tree and highly productive.
You know fruit is sweet when the ants love it as much as you do. Ants do love this Jujube and can be something of a pest with almost all varieties. A vigorous, tall-growing cultivar that will need cutting back following each harvest to keep it from reaching for the sky.
Kitaiski 60 (Russian 2)
A very early fruiting, cold-hardy variety with teardrop-shaped, very sweet fruits.
Jujube is one of the easiest hot climate fruits to grow. They love dry desert heat, yet the Chinese varieties also manage to tolerate cold well too.
Indian Jujube trees need a more tropical environment and are not cold hardy. They also don’t produce such tasty fruits as the Chinese cultivars.
If you’re looking for a fruit tree that is very tolerant and easy to grow or that really enjoys the heat, then the Jujube is the ideal tree for you.
The wide range of varieties allows you to choose the best type for your needs, from small trees to tall ones that give fruits suitable for eating freshly picked or once they have been dried.
Discover more about growing and caring for Jujube trees and a wide variety of other fruits on our blog.