How To Take Care Of A Jujube Tree?

Jujube trees are easy to grow fruit trees originating in China. They are hardy and need only a minimal amount of care once established. The fruits are delicious fresh off the tree or dried when they become similar to dates, which is why they are often called Chinese Dates. Read on to discover how to take care of a Jujube tree of your own.

How Do You Look After Jujube Trees?

How Do You Look After Jujube Trees

Jujube trees love heat and well-drained soil. For optimum fruit set, they should receive full sun and temperatures above 86°F when flowering. Cross-pollination will also produce larger, more abundant fruits.

Soil type

Although Jujube trees grow best in well-drained, humus rich, slightly sandy soil, they are very tolerant, and providing the ground doesn’t stay waterlogged, they will generally do well.

pH

Jujubes like their soil slightly acidic, around 5.5 to 6.5 on the pH scale. Again, they will tolerate a pH a little out of these ranges without much problem.

Improving the soil

To improve the soil before planting your jujube tree, mix it with 50% mature compost or well rotted manure and ensure you blend it well in. Don’t add any chemical fertilizers. Clean sand at a rate of 10% can also be added unless your soil is heavy clay or is already sandy. 

Planting

When planting, be careful not to bury the root ball too deep, and that the uppermost roots are positioned just below the soil. Try not to disturb the root ball too much as this can cause shock to the plant.

As you put the soil mixture back in the hole, be sure to eliminate any air pockets around the roots and tamp the soil down gently as you go.

Watering

Water well and create a water basin of 36 inches diameter around the young tree to help retain the moisture near the roots while the tree is young and growing. 

Water the tree twice weekly except in winter, depending on weather conditions. It’s best to ensure the soil isn’t too wet before re-watering. If it is, wait a couple of days anc check again. 

You can water the tree less once it has become well established with a deep root system. 

Mulching

In spring, add a four to six-inch layer of organic mulch around the tree, leaving a 3-inch gap from the trunk. This is to allow air to penetrate and prevent mold.

The mulch used can be straw, aged wood chippings, grass clippings or other organic matter. It will help keep the roots protected from the heat, retain moisture and suppress weeds.

Fertilizer

You can add a 10:10:10 fertilizer in early spring if desired, but this isn’t usually necessary unless the soil is very poor.

Pruning

Pruning will be required to keep the tree healthy, growing in a good shape, and from becoming too tall.

How To Water A Jujube Tree?

Although once established jujube trees are highly drought-tolerant, they do require careful watering when young. 

Depending on your soil type, water deeply twice a week in well-drained soil or once a week if you have clay soil. 

To deep water effectively, you need a very gentle water pressure and for the water to run for 40 to 50 minutes around the base of the tree. Slow and steady is what’s needed here.

Adjust the frequency of watering according to weather conditions. Always check to see how moist the soil is before watering, as overwatering or underwatering can affect the tree’s health.

To test the soil, make a small hole with your forefinger and feel how wet the ground is. It should be just damp but not wet to the touch.

How Much Water Does A Jujube Tree Need?

How Much Water Does A Jujube Tree Need

For best growth and prolific fruit production, Jujube requires a minimum of one inch of water per week.

If insufficient water is given, then the fruit will likely drop from the tree prematurely.

Equally, over watering can cause the roots to start rotting and cause the leaves to fall off and the tree to die.

What Fertilizer For A Jujube Tree?

Jujube trees don’t require a lot by way of fertilizer, particularly once they are well established. 

In their early years, the addition of some organic fertilizer by way of regular mulching with well-rotted compost or manure applied in early spring and midsummer can be beneficial.

If the soil in your area is especially poor, you may opt to give chemical fertilizers too. Check that these contain not just nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus but also zinc, iron, magnesium, manganese, copper, molybdenum, and boron, as these are also needed by the plant. 

You will find that additional minerals are generally included in a high-quality fruit tree fertilizer.

Slow-release fertilizers are best. These are usually in the form of granules or sticks. 

Follow the application rate as shown on the packaging and apply annually in early spring. Again if the soil is very sandy with few nutrients you can also apply them in early summer, and mid-summer. 

Don’t apply any fertilizer after the end of July, as this can cause new growth that will be killed off when winter sets in, particularly in colder climates.

What Herbicides To Use On A Jujube Tree?

When a fruit tree is young, it requires extra help to ensure it can grow big and strong. Ensuring that competing weeds don’t grow around the base of the tree and take up valuable nutrients and water from the soil.

It can seem like a good idea to use a herbicide to kill any weeds that take up residence, but the problem with herbicides is that they can kill more than the weeds; they can kill or at least severely damage your young tree too. 

Why Weeds Are Not Good For Your Young Jujube Tree

  • They compete for water and nutrients in the soil
  • They harbor insects
  • Shelter rodents
  • Can spread disease to your tree

Why Herbicides Are Not The Best Solution For Eliminating Weeds

There are different types of herbicides – pre-emergent and post-emergent. Pre-emergent herbicide is applied before any weeds begin to grow, while post-emergent, not surprisingly, is applied once you notice weeds growing.

Then there are residual and non-residual. Residual herbicide stays in the soil for a long time and continues to kill weeds, while non-residual only kills the weeds to which it was applied before breaking down.

Post-emergent and non-residual herbicides are safer but less powerful.

If you want to use a commercial herbicide, choose one that is meant for use with fruit trees. 

To be extra safe, protect your tree with specialist latex barrier paint applied to the first two to three feet of the trunk. This will reduce the chance of damage to your tree when applying the herbicide.

Alternatives To Chemical Herbicides

Mulching with an organic mulch such as wood chippings, bark, or grass clippings is the best natural strategy for keeping weeds under control. It will suppress their growth, while also helping retain moisture around the roots. Another bonus is as it breaks down it feeds the tree some essential nutrients.

Remember when mulching to leave a gap of about two inches between the tree trunk and the mulch.

How To Pollinate A Jujube Tree?

Although most Jujube trees are self-pollinating, meaning they don’t require pollen from another Jujube tree to pollinate them, this is not true of all. 

The Lang Jujube needs a pollinator. Regardless, all trees benefit from cross-pollination. Fruit will be larger and more abundant, and who doesn’t want that?

There is a theory that suggests jujube trees have flowers that change their sexual activity at different times of the day. Some flowers will be receptive to pollination in the morning before switching to shedding pollen in the afternoon. Others will do the opposite, and so self-pollination and cross-pollination is possible.

Chico, Dragon’s Cla, and Shui Men are more receptive in the morning, while Lang, Li, and Tsao are more receptive in the afternoon.

Flowering usually occurs over an eight-week period in early to mid-summer, so fruit sets at different times.

The pollen is sticky, so it cannot be transferred from flower to flower by the wind. It takes an insect pollinator to do the job. The pollen itself isn’t particularly viable for most varieties, which is why there is such an abundance of flowers.

Several factors can also have an effect on the fruit set, including stress caused by cold temperatures (or too hot temperatures), insufficient sunlight, too much or too little moisture at the roots, or high winds.

A lot of the fruit that does set will eventually drop off the plant before reaching maturity.

The fruit set may be improved by cutting the end off of the current year’s shoots before flowering.

How To Air Layer A Jujube Tree?

If you’ve never heard of air layering, don’t worry, you’re certainly not alone. Basically, air layering is a method by which to propagate new Jujube trees by forcing an existing one to form roots at a designated point along one of its branches. 

When the roots are fully formed, the branch can be cut off and planted. Genetically it will be a carbon copy of the original parent tree. It’s rather like cloning.

Air layering can be done at any time of year, but for best results, it’s best to do it when the tree is actively growing in spring and early summer.

How To Air Layer

  1. Choose a young branch that is no thicker than your forefinger. 
  1. About 12 inches from where the branch is joined to the tree, make a cut just through the bark with a clean, sharp knife all the way around the branch, next, make another identical cut about two inches further along the branch.
  1. Now make a horizontal cut along the branch that joins both the first two circular cuts together and peel off the bark from that section.
  1. Once you have removed the bark, make sure all of the green cambium layer is also removed, so all you have is clean wood. Do this by scraping the blade of the knife over the area several times.
  1. A small, disposable plastic water bottle is ideal for this next part. Cut the top off the bottle just below the screw top. Then cut a circular hole in the base large enough for the branch to fit in snugly. Now slit the bottle in half lengthways from top to bottom and bend it open in half.
  1. Apply rooting hormone powder or liquid to the area where you have removed the bark on the branch.
  1. Fill the two sides of the bottle with soil, damp potting mix works well. Now clamp it around the branch over the area where you have removed the bark.
  1. Secure the bottle in place with zip ties, so it is firmly held in position.
  1. Cover the bottle with Aluminum foil sealing off the ends as much as possible. You don’t want the water in the soil to evaporate.
  1. Check weekly to ensure that the soil has not dried out and carefully re-moisten if required.
  1. Once you can see the bottle filled with roots, you can remove it. Be very careful when doing this as they are extremely delicate and will break off easily.
  1. Finally, cut the new tree off below the new roots and plant it up.

In this video, you can see an easy way of air layering a jujube tree to create a new one:

When Do Jujube Trees Leaf Out?

Jujube trees are one of the last fruit trees to leaf out. Typically this happens in late spring, but it will depend, to some extent, on the cultivar of Jujube tree that you have, as some are earlier than others.

The leaves themselves are small, oval, and slightly shiny and can tolerate full sun without much fear of burning.

Conclusion

Jujube trees are hardy and take little care once they have become established. All you need to do is give them a good pruning from time to time to keep them in check.

Young trees require a little more attention, and careful watering will be necessary until the roots are well developed.

Once the tree is self-reliant, it will be very drought tolerant and needs very little to nothing by way of feeding. Mulching, however, is a good idea, as it has so many positive benefits for the tree.

Jujube fruit has a bit of an exotic feel as they are rarely found in stores. Because the tree grows so well in many parts of the United States, it’s easy to make these delicious fruits an autumn staple for your family by growing a tree in your yard.

Learn more about growing Jujube trees and many other interesting topics on our website.

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