In this post, I answer common questions about how to grow pomegranates successfully, including how to plant and care for pomegranates, how to eat pomegranates, and questions about typical problems with pomegranates such as dried out or rotten fruit, and what to do about leaf-footed bugs.
I’ve partnered with Kellogg Garden to bring you this post about how to grow pomegranates.
One of the oldest cultivated fruits, there are literary references to pomegranates dating back to Old Testament times and beyond. Pomegranate fruit has leather-like smooth skin that ranges from pink and green to red and brown surrounding the arils.
Arils are the edible part of the fruit and are surrounded by sweet, juicy pulp. Even without the nutritious fruit, pomegranates are a beautiful tree that provide shiny green foliage, crimson blossoms, and stunning yellow foliage each year just before the leaves fall.
Heat-loving and drought-tolerant pomegranate trees are especially suited to growing in warm arid regions such as parts of Arizona and California. Learn how to grow a pomegranate tree and enjoy it for years.
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11 of your top “How to Grow Pomegranates” questions answered:
1. Is a pomegranate a bush or a tree?
Typically pomegranates are grown as a tree, but they can be grown as a large bush by allowing suckers to grow, and keeping it pruned for size.
Prune as trees by selectively removing suckers and training it into a multi-trunked tree. [/right]Either way you choose to grow them, pomegranates (Punica granatum) are deciduous with a height and spread of 12 to 20 feet. Dwarf varieties can be grown in large containers.
2. What type of pomegranate should I plant?
Choose a type suited for your climate (some do well in cooler zones), and choose dwarf varieties for containers if you want to move them to protected locations for the winter.
- Balegal – Large fruits with pale pink skin; sweet flavored flesh, hardy to zone 7.
- Crab – Medium to large fruit with bronze skin; tart but rich flavor; productive.
- Early Wonderful – Large fruits with thin red skin; tart flavor; very productive.
- Granada – Medium fruit with crimson skin; semi-sweet; matures early; hardy to zone 7.
- Sweet – Medium fruit with pink skin; green skin with red flush; very sweet; productive; bears at a young age.
- Utah Sweet – Medium-sized fruit with pink skin; sweet flavor and soft seeds; pink flowers.
- Wonderful – Large fruits with red skin; tangy, flavorful, soft seeds; large red flowers; productive. This variety grows well in the low desert of Arizona.
3. How do you plant pomegranates?
- It’s best to plant trees in the spring or fall in warm places like Arizona.
- Pomegranates need plenty of sun to thrive and produce fruit. Look for an area that gets at least 6 hours of direct sun.
- Good drainage is crucial for pomegranate trees, but they tolerate almost any soil, even poor or alkaline ones.
- Plant pomegranates in a hole as deep as the nursery pot and twice as wide.
- In cooler climates, grow pomegranates near a south-facing wall or in a large container that can be moved to a protected location during cold weather.
4. How do you care for pomegranates?
Pomegranate trees are generally easy to care for, requiring minimal maintenance once planted.
- Water newly-planted trees more often until established. Water pomegranates deeply during the heat of the summer.
- Fertilize pomegranates just as they leaf out (around February) with a large covering of compost (preferred) or use an organic fertilizer 2-3 times per year.
- For the first 3 years, it is recommended to shorten shoots to encourage a strong, sturdy plant.
- Pruning pomegranate trees is not necessary. However, if desired you can prune pomegranates for size, to remove crossing branches and suckers, or to train against a wall or trellis.
- The best time to prune pomegranate trees is after they have dropped all their leaves, just before they begin to leaf out in the spring. Pomegranate trees can also be pruned lightly throughout the year.
- Thin pomegranate fruit to 1 fruit about every 6 inches. Thinning the fruit promotes large fruit and prevents limb damage from heavy fruit.
5. It’s spring and my pomegranate tree still doesn’t have leaves; is it dead?
Be patient. Pomegranate trees are often slow to leaf out each spring. However, if you had temperatures lower than 10 °F, your pomegranate tree may have experienced frost damage. Wait until late spring to see if one or more of the trunks are damaged. Remove dead wood.
6. I had plenty of blossoms but no fruit; what is wrong with my pomegranate tree?
Pomegranate trees begin to yield fruit about 3 years after planting. More mature plants hold onto the flowers and fruits better (less drop). Conditions that adversely affect yield in older trees include excess watering, poor drainage, over-fertilization, and not enough sunlight.
Cross-pollination is not required with pomegranate trees, but planting more than 1 tree (even the same type) can increase fruit set.
7. How can I tell when a pomegranate is ready to harvest?
- Learn when the typical time and color of ripeness is for your type of tree.
- The color of the rind and arils are good indicators that pomegranates are ready to pick.
- As the pomegranate ripens it changes from being perfectly round to more hexagonal in shape as seeds swell.
- The stem and blossom ends of the fruit begin to flatten.
- The fruit’s skin changes from a glossy sheen to more of a matte or rough finish.
- Ripe fruits easily twist off the stem. (it’s best to cut fruit off the tree)
- Still not sure? Try one to see if it’s ripe.
- If fruit begins to split – it’s time to harvest!
- Ripe fruits left on the tree will often fall – telling you it’s time to harvest!
- Listen for a metallic sound when you tap the fruit to help determine readiness.
- Once fruits ripen on tree, do not leave on the tree as they may begin to split.
What’s the best way to eat a pomegranate?
Here is my favorite method:
To quickly harvest pomegranate seeds: cut the pomegranate in half, score each ridge on the outside rind, and hold it in your hand (peel side up) over a bowl of water. Hit the rind with a flat wooden spoon – the seeds should fall into the bowl and leave just a few seeds in the rind.
Looking for a great way to use your freshly harvested pomegranate arils? This Pomegranate Jalapeño Cream Cheese Dip is a family favorite.
9. Why is my pomegranate fruit splitting?
- Fruit that is left on the tree too long can begin to split.
- Splitting fruit can also be caused by fluctuations in soil moisture. Mulch pomegranate trees well to help keep soil evenly moist.
- Water on nearly-ripe fruits can cause splitting.
10. Why does my pomegranate fruit look rotten inside?
- Pomegranates are susceptible to Alternaria fruit rot and Aspergillus fruit rot; both cause the fruit to rot as fungus can grow inside fruits after rainfall.
- Leaf-footed bugs can carry a fungal yeast that may cause arils to darken and wither.
- Be diligent about removal of old fruit, cracked fruit, and dead branches to reduce the incidence of the fungus.
- Avoid overwatering and water stress which can cause cracked fruit and allow entrance for the disease.
11. What can I do about leaf-footed bugs on my pomegranate tree?
Leaf-footed bugs have piercing/sucking mouthparts that suck juices from ripe fruit. These pests can damage entire crops if not controlled. If they are a problem for your tree, the following tips may help:
- Learn to identify all stages of leaf-footed bugs: eggs, nymph, and adult.
- Examine plants early in the season and often (daily or several times a week) for all stages of the bug. Remove and destroy all forms of leaf-footed bugs. Early detection and elimination is key in controlling them.
- For best results, look for the pests in the morning since the bugs are less likely to fly away.
- Look for their rope-like eggs under leaves.
- Neem oil or insecticidal soap can help, but only at the young nymph stage.
- Remove overwintering locations for leaf-footed bugs such as woodpiles, weeds, debris, and hollowed out pomegranates left on the tree or on the ground.