Pomegranates are an ancient fruit that has enjoyed a renewed popularity due to their many health benefits. Other than being good for you, they make an attractive shrub or tree that is quite ornamental in the garden. They are generally hardy and easy to grow and bear delicious fruits in late summer and fall. Here you’ll discover more about how to grow a pomegranate tree in your yard.
What You'll Learn Today
- Where Do Pomegranate Trees Grow?
- How To Plant A Pomegranate Tree?
- When To Plant Pomegranate Tree?
- How To Grow A Pomegranate Tree From Seed?
- How To Grow A Pomegranate Tree From Cuttings?
- How To Graft A Pomegranate Tree?
- How Long Does It Take For A Pomegranate Tree To Grow?
Where Do Pomegranate Trees Grow?
The exact origin of the pomegranate tree is not completely understood, but it is believed they came from Persia, which today we know as southern Iran.
The trees spread outwards and were easy to find in Afghanistan, Persia, India, and China to the east, Arabia, and the Mediterranean to the west.
Today they are grown anywhere with a hot dry summer and cool winter. In the United States, they can be found in zones 7 through 11 depending on the cultivar.
How To Plant A Pomegranate Tree?
Although all pomegranate varieties love a hot, dry summer climate, there are some which are more cold tolerant than others when it comes to wintertime.
When purchasing a pomegranate tree, ensure that it’s a variety capable of tolerating the lowest winter temperatures encountered when you live. Some are more frost-sensitive than others.
One advantage to pomegranate trees is their ability to grow in a wide variety of soils, but they do enjoy a fertile, rich loam that has plenty of humus. This provides good drainage but also retains some moisture and plenty of accessible minerals.
In the wild, you’ll find pomegranate trees growing almost anywhere, even on steep, rocky hillsides. Although they may survive in sandy soils that leach water and nutrients quickly, in soils of this type you’ll need to provide more fertilizer if you want the best fruit production.
Poor soils can be improved with the addition of well-rotted compost or horse manure that has a high level of organic matter.
If the soil is heavy clay, as well as adding organic matter, think about the position of the tree, avoid planting it where water will accumulate, and instead choose a site that will be naturally more free draining, such as the top of a slope.
You can also plant your young tree in a mound above the hole that you have dug and added organic matter into. This is because there is a danger that the clay soil that surrounds the hole will still prevent water from escaping and act like a bucket drowning the roots of your tree.
You can test how well your soil drains. In the late afternoon, dig a 12-inch square hole in the area where you want to plant your tree. Fill the hole with water and the following morning fill it with water again. Time how long it takes for the water to disappear.
Good draining soil should see the water gone in two to three hours. If it takes more than 10 hours then the soil has poor drainage and water saturation could be a problem for the roots of your tree. If it takes less than two hours then the soil is fast draining, and you may need to water and feed your tree more frequently.
In this video, you can see how to perform a drainage test and some ideas for improving your soil:
As well as being able to tolerate a wider range of soil types than many other fruit trees, pomegranates are also more able to cope with different pH levels. They grow best in soil that ranges from 5.5 to 7.2 but will grow in 4.5 to 8.2.
It’s a good idea to test your soil pH so you know if it is more acid or alkaline. On the pH scale which goes from 1 to 14, 1 is the most acidic, 14 is the most alkaline, and 7 is neutral.
Inexpensive pH test kits can be purchased at garden stores or online and if you need to increase pH to make it more alkaline then adding limestone pellets will be beneficial. To lower pH to a more acid level, you can add Sulfur or compost.
Most pomegranate trees thrive best in full sun and require a minimum of six hours of sunlight exposure a day.
If you live somewhere where the sun can be particularly strong, then providing light shade during the hottest parts of a summer day can prevent the plant and fruits from becoming scalded, particularly with young trees.
Planting Your Pomegranate Tree In The Ground
If you’re planting a bare rooted tree, soak the roots for a few hours before planting. Don’t leave the tree in water for more than eight hours or you may kill it. Don’t soak trees that have soil around their roots.
Dig your hole. Ideally, it should be at least three times wider than the root ball of the tree and only slightly deeper.
Put the soil you dig from the hole into a wheelbarrow or onto a tarp so it is easy to return later and doesn’t create a mess. The wider you dig the hole the better, as this allows you to add compost or soil conditioners.
If your tree is in a container, take a firm grasp of the trunk at the base of the tree and gently ease it out. If it’s stuck, cut the container away. If you find the tree is root bound, gently separate the roots at the sides and bottom to loosen them.
Place the tree into the center of your hole, ensuring that the place on the trunk where it was in the ground originally is still at ground level. To get this perfect you may need to put some soil back into the hole. Remember the soil will settle a little too.
Once you have the tree perfectly positioned, start to backfill the hole. You may need someone to hold the tree in place to start with.
If your soil is good, just add a few handfuls of slow-release pelleted fertilizer dispersed into the soil that you are going to replace around the tree.
If soil is heavy, make the hole as wide as possible and add lots of organic matter such as compost, planting mix, or soil conditioner to improve drainage and soil quality.
If the soil is sandy add organic compost, or good quality topsoil so that more nutrients and moisture can be retained around the roots.
Ensure there are no air pockets left and tamp down the soil lightly as you go.
When you have half-filled the hole, soak the soil before continuing.
If you are planting your tree above ground level due to having heavy clay soil, taper the soil gently back down to ground level around the tree.
In well-draining soil, you can add a catch basin or dam around the tree to hold water for longer.
Do this by creating a mound of soil of about two to three inches high and wide around the tree at a distance of around two to three feet from the trunk.
This will collect rainwater or applied water and help the roots to become better established. It should naturally erode after the first couple of seasons.
Water the tree deeply and if you like finish off with some root stimulator to help get the roots off to a good start.
Add a good layer of mulch, such as bark or organic compost around the tree. Don’t use fresh wood chippings for this job, as they need to age for around a year before they can safely be used.
Leave a slight gap around the trunk to prevent it from staying too damp and damaging the bark.
Planting Your Pomegranate Tree In A Pot
Dwarf pomegranate trees are good for planting in large pots as this makes the most of their decorative qualities and fruit.
When selecting a pot, ensure that it is large enough to allow several years of tree growth. It should be double the width of the root ball of your young tree.
Remember that strong winds can often blow pots over, so choosing something that is substantial and of a square shape should make it more wind resistant.
Select a color that will go with your tree’s foliage, flowers, and fruits and blend in well with the style of your home.
Ensure there are some drainage holes in the bottom of your pot to allow water to escape. Allowing the roots to stand in wet conditions for a long time will cause them to rot and can also expose the tree to deadly diseases.
A wide range of pots can usually be found at your local garden store.
- Step 1 – Put some stones or brick in the bottom of the pot and cover these with some porous landscape fabric. This helps to prevent the drainage holes from becoming blocked.
- Step 2 – Take the tree out of the container it came in by grasping the trunk as low down as possible and very gently pulling up. If it won’t come out easily, cut the pot away from the root ball instead.
- Step 3 – Gently loosen the roots at the side and bottom of the root ball with your fingers.
- Step 4 – Place several handfuls of potting mix into the bottom of the new pot. Place the plant on top and position it so that the top of the root ball is just an inch below the top of the container. You may need to add more potting mix in the bottom to achieve this.
- Step 5 – Backfill the pot with the potting mix ensuring you don’t leave any air gaps. Tamp down the soil as you go. Fill it to the top edge of the root ball and firm down all the way around.
- Step 6 – Water well until the water is running from the drainage holes below the pot. You may find the potting mix settles and you need to top it up with some more.
- Step 7 – If you like, apply a layer of bark chips around the tree to maintain moisture and make it more attractive.
When To Plant Pomegranate Tree?
If you live in an area where the winter temperature rarely goes below freezing, it is best to plant your young pomegranate trees in the fall so their root systems can start to become established over winter.
If you live where it can drop below freezing more often, then wait until spring to plant. If planting in spring, check to see when the last frost date is in your area and wait until it has passed.
Young trees can become stunted and grow poorly if they are subject to very cold weather after planting. It weakens them and may leave them more vulnerable to pests and disease.
How To Grow A Pomegranate Tree From Seed?
Pomegranate seeds are easy to germinate. Unlike most other fruits their seeds do not require stratification before they will germinate. Stratification is a period of time when the seeds are kept cold to mimic winter.
1. Simply take some seeds from ripe pomegranate fruit, and remove the fleshy red pulp that surrounds the seeds called the arils.
2. Plant them into deep containers to allow the long taproot to grow down. A good homemade option is a quart-size milk carton with the top cut off and some drainage holes made in the bottom.
3. Use a quality seedling mix in the container and place a seed in the center of each, covering it with ½ an inch of the soil.
4. Water well.
5. Place somewhere nice and warm but out of direct sunlight.
6. The seeds should germinate after a month to two months. The cooler it is, the longer germination will take. Using an electric heat pad made especially for plants will speed things up.
7. Keep the soil slightly moist, but not wet.
8. Once the seedling sprouts move into a sunny spot such as a windowsill and as before, keep the soil moist.
9. When the seedling has grown sufficiently, it can be transplanted into a larger pot and gradually acclimatized to being outside, providing the weather is warm.
The main disadvantage to growing pomegranates from seeds is that the plant you get will not be the same as the parent. This means you won’t know if it will be fruitful or not.
How To Grow A Pomegranate Tree From Cuttings?
Cuttings are a good way of growing a new pomegranate tree that has identical qualities to its parent plant. Propagation of pomegranate cuttings is not too difficult to achieve and you could grow a whole orchard!
1. Prune off some quarter to half-inch wide suckers from the previous year’s growth of a well-established pomegranate tree using a clean, sharp set of pruning shears.
2. Reduce the length of the suckers to around eight to ten inches, ensuring there are several nodes on the suckers where new leaf growth can occur. The cut at the base should be made at a 45° angle and the one at the top can be flat. This helps you to ensure you plant them the right way up.
3. On one side of your cutting gently scrape off just the top layer of bark on the long side of the cutting to approximately one inch up.
4. Soak the cuttings in water for half an hour.
5. Dip the cuttings into rooting hormone powder or liquid.
6. Plant the cuttings into a pot with a good quality potting compost to a depth of three inches.
7. Keep the soil continually damp but not wet until the cuttings have grown roots. This can take several months.
8. Alternatively you can plant them directly in the ground where you want them to grow in springtime. If choosing this option ensure you allow sufficient space around the cuttings so they have room to grow.
For shrubs, the distance between each should be three to nine feet apart, or for trees 18 feet away from any other plant.
As with potted cuttings, the top few inches of soil should be kept moist at all times.
9. Use a slow-release fertilizer of a ratio around 8:8:8 in early spring after the last frost. Do this each spring until the young tree has become established in around three years’ time.
10. If you want to grow a tree rather than a bush, choose a central branch to be the trunk and twist off suckers as soon as they appear. Twisting them off when very young helps the wound heal more easily and will discourage them from growing back.
How To Graft A Pomegranate Tree?
As I mentioned earlier, although pomegranate trees are easy to grow from seeds, they won’t grow true and don’t take on the same qualities as their parent tree.
However, it is possible to graft a better-known variety of pomegranate onto a seedling, thus ensuring you continue to get the same qualities as the tree you are grafting from.
You will require:
- A small, sharp, straight-bladed knife
- A pomegranate seedling to use as the rootstock
- Grafting tape
- Whips (think branches) cut from the tree you would like to grow a replica of
Choose small branches (scions or whips) that are a quarter to a half-inch in diameter. Find a section that has two or three good buds on it and make a clean, 45° angle cut.
A sharp clean cut keeps the cambium layer just below the bark intact. The cambium layer is where the bark grows from and this layer from both the scion and sapling must join together so they merge to become one tree.
Reduce the length of the scion to around 3 or 4 inches, maintaining the best buds.
Create a tongue in the center of the scion and then cut a matching grove in the understock (sapling) for it to slot into. The two pieces need to be of the same diameter for this to work.
The surfaces must match as closely as possible as the cambium layer from each has to be touching when the two are slotted together.
Once your two pieces are fitting closely together, they need to be tightly bound with grafting tape. This is the best material to use to fix the graft together, as over time it disintegrates, once your graft has become established. If the graft is not wrapped, then it will dry out or could allow disease to enter.
The best time to graft is early spring just as new growth begins.
How Long Does It Take For A Pomegranate Tree To Grow?
It takes a young pomegranate tree grown from a graft or cutting two to three years before it will bear its first fruits. Seed-grown trees may take much longer.
Your tree will grow at a rate of between 13” to 24“ per year, depending on the cultivar, soil, health, water, and weather conditions.
It will reach a mature height of 12 to 20 feet with a similar width, again depending upon the cultivar and other factors already mentioned.
Pomegranates are quite easy to grow from seeds or by using cuttings. You can even graft a better cultivar onto rootstock that grows well in your area. The hardier rootstock can cope well with your climate, but you’ll get the benefit of the fruits provided by the grafted-on variety.
Good care in the early years will ensure your young pomegranate tree grows into a strong, healthy specimen that will give you wonderful fruits for many years to come.
To learn more about pomegranate trees or a huge variety of other plant and animal topics take a look at the other articles available on our website.