How to grow pomegranates

I’ve partnered with Kellogg Garden to bring you this post about how to grow pomegranates.

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.  

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.

How to grow pomegranates
Pomegranate leaves turn yellow before they 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. 

Disclaimer: this post contains affiliate links. See my disclosure policy for more information.

11 of your top "How to Grow Pomegranates" questions answered:

1. Is a pomegranate a bush or a tree?

How to grow pomegranates

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. 

How to grow pomegranates

Prune as trees by selectively removing suckers and training it into a multi-trunked tree. 

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. 
How to grow pomegranates
How to grow pomegranates

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. 
How to grow pomegranates

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. 
How to grow pomegranates

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.

How to grow pomegranates

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.

How to grow pomegranates

7. How can I tell when a pomegranate is ready to harvest?

Different varieties of pomegranates begin to be ready beginning in August through November

  • 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. 
How to grow pomegranates

8. 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.

How to grow pomegranates

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. 
How to grow pomegranates
Pomegranate fruit beginning to split
How to grow pomegranates

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.
How to grow pomegranates

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.
How to grow pomegranates
Eggs of leaf-footed bug
How to grow pomegranates
Leaf-footed bug nymph
How to grow pomegranates
Adult leaf-footed bug

Egg and adult photos by Debbie Roos, NC Cooperative Extension. Used with permission.

How to grow pomegranates
Pomegranate eaten by bird
How to grow pomegranates
How to grow pomegranates

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16 Comments on How to Grow Pomegranates

  1. I have a pomagranate, not sure if tree or bush or what variety. It is approximately 4yrs old and has 2 small orangish balls low on it and that’s all. Is this normal?

  2. Hello, hope you are doing well!
    We are pretty new to Arizona and we have a pomegranate tree in our back yard. Don’t know how to take care of it.
    It gets watered everyday in the morning (might be every 2 days, as it’s set on automatic. So I am not 100%, but I believe it’s every day).
    I had fertilized it couple of times this year.
    First 2 times was nitrogen based fertilizer for helping to bloom.
    Then yellow leaves stayed showing up inside the tree.
    So I got citrus fertilizer that had other minerals in it and fertilized it at the end of May.
    However the tree is struggling even more now.
    Not sure if it has anything to do with over 100 degree weather? The tree is mostly in the sun and gets shade in the afternoon.
    Do you have any suggestions?

    Thank you so much!!

    • Welcome to Arizona! Pomegranate trees love the heat and grow well in our climate. Sounds like the watering may be part of the problem. Fruit trees – all trees actually benefit from deep water less often. Deep watering less often encourages the roots to go deep and strong. Frequent shallow watering encourages the roots to stay close to the surface, they don’t have to go far to get water. Try to lengthen the amount of time you water, but aim to water no more than once a week in the hottest, driest times of the year, and much less often during the cooler parts of the year. Once every 2 weeks or once a month during the winter (if we get a good drenching rain, then you can skip that watering.) Try to water to a depth of about 3 feet for trees, 2 feet for perennial bushes and shrubs, and 1 foot for annual plants.
      During the hottest months of the year, it’s best not to fertilize. Pomegranates are happy with a good covering of compost each year, just as they are leafing out. This adds organic matter to the soil and feeds them as well.
      Hope this information helps. Please let me know if you have other questions. Thanks for commenting.

  3. we live in Scottsdale, we brought this plant from my house in California and my plant is doing great, i have so many Pomegranate fruit on the tree, but some of them started to open, they are still small. What can I do?
    Elvira Ashmun

    • Once they split, you probably need to harvest them. Be sure it’s getting enough deep watering. The tree may be adjusting to the higher temps here.

  4. Hello, thank you for all the information about the pomegranate tree. I have a question that I can’t find anywhere online. I live in Surprise, Arizona and I want to plant my pomegranate tree on my western facing fence. Will it survive the afternoon sun and the reflected heat from the wall. Thank you for your time.

    • Yes. Pomegranates do fine in full sun, even reflected sun. They are a tough plant. Wait to plant until temps cool a bit in the fall and it should be fine.

  5. I have had this pomegranate tree for about 25 years and it has stopped producing. Do they quit producing after a certain amount of time? Is there an age where they stop?

    • Wow! 25 years, that’s great. I wasn’t sure about the answer to your question. A quick google search seemed to say that although the trees can live for up to 200 years, most of the fruit production occurs in the first 15 or so years. That may be what has happened with your tree.

  6. Pom trivia: Pomegranates were on the Priests robes & all over the Temple,in Jerusalem. EVERY Pom has a 6 STAR of DAVID stem! Every one!

  7. Hello! I pruned my pomegranate tree in the winter in the place we rent. However, I feel like a few years prior no one pruned it, so it’s was a big mess. I removed a lot of big and small branches, but was afraid to over prune it. So I did the best I could.
    Now being spring in AZ, the tree just grew so much and have some much bloom, all the branches are down to the ground from the weight. I tried propping the branches up, but it’s barely helping.
    Can I still prune some branches away, when it’s blooming? Also, we will have way too many fruit if I won’t do anything about it. The branches won’t be able to handle it.
    Looking for suggestions.
    Thank you!

    • You can prune pomegranates at any time. Pomegranates often self-thin, but it sounds like you may have to do some thinning so the branches don’t break. I would wait and see how much fruit actually sets and then thin the fruit to a smaller amount on each branch.

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