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Growing Pomegranates: Punica granatum

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Now placed in the Lythraceae (Crepe Myrtle) family, the Punica genus has only two species, the most well known being Punica granatum, Pomegranate. Hundreds of cultivars are grown throughout the world.

Form: A many-branched shrub often pruned into a small tree.
Lifespan: Up to 300 years with best fruit production in the first 25-35 years.
Leaf retention: Deciduous.
Growth rate: Slow to Moderate.
Mature Size: 6-15' high, depending on cultivar.
Flowers: Bisexual flowers (called female), "male" flowers (with atrophied female parts) and intermediate flowers form on the same plant, often next to one another.
Male flowers do not usually display petals. Male flowers can make up to 60-70% of the total flowers on a plant, depending on climate, cultivar, and season. The plant seems to use this ratio to conserve energy when conditions for fruiting are marginal. Intermediate flowers are sometimes fertile and usually need cross-pollination from another plant.
Bisexual flowers are showy, trumpet shaped, with ruffled petals, about 2" long, often double, produced over a long period, usually orange-red, lacking fragrance, and produce fruit when pollinated. Some ornamental cultivars produce no fruit but have large flowers available in many colors, including white.
Male flowers and any other unpollinated flowers will typically drop off after bloom. Other reasons for flower drop can be cold temperature, drought, insect infestation or fungal disease.
Bloom: Winter into spring, or spring through summer, depending on local climate.
Self-fruitful: Self-pollinating, but cross-pollination from another cultivar often increases fruit set.
Years before fruiting: Can start in second year, but best production occurs after 5-6 years.
Fruit: Shiny, reddish, apple-sized, spherical, with a cylindrical cap on the blossom end. Each seed is encased in a sack (aril) containing juicy pulp. The juice, pulp and seeds are edible. The juice and pulp are usually red, but in some cultivars are pink or white, possibly non-staining, and sweeter.
Temperature affects the color of the pulp surrounding the seeds in some cultivars, which will be clear or have a light color in hot weather and become darker red when temperatures turn cold.
Months for fruit to ripen: 5-7. Depending on the cultivar, fruit are often considered ripe when (1) the first cold weather snap occurs, usually in November, (2) when the fruit surface changes from being smooth round to slightly bumpy, or (3) tapping on the fruit produces a metallic sound. Harvest fruit as soon as it becomes ripe.
Storage after harvest: Refrigerated fruit can last up to 7 months.
Leaves: Shiny, dark green, lance-shaped, about 3" long.
Stems: Branches may have spines. Red-brown bark.
Roots: Shallow, non-invasive.
Cultivars of note for hot climates:
'Angel Red' large vivid red fruit, highest juice content, soft edible seeds, best for juicing, prolific, ripens late summer, 150 chill hours
'Eversweet' large red fruit, virtually seedless, clear arils, clear, very sweet, non-staining juice, ripens late summer through fall, 150 chill hours
'Parfianka' large red fruit, very small edible seeds, sweet red juice, excellent flavor, considered one of the best tasting overall, ripens mid-fall, 100 to 200 chill hours
'Pink Satin' medium-sized, pink to dark red fruit, medium to large edible seeds, light-colored non-staining juice, sweet fruit-punch flavor, vigorous, ripens mid-fall, 150-200 chill hours
'Sweet' a sweeter version of 'Wonderful', tiny, soft, edible seeds, suitable for container growing and espalier, ripens late summer, 100 chill hours
'Wonderful' medium to large purple-red fruit with a tangy flavor, medium-hard seeds, vigorous, ripens mid-fall, this productive plant is grown commercially, 150 chill hours.
Wildlife: Attracts butterflies, bees, hummingbirds. May be browsed by deer. Birds often peck at ripening fruit, which should be covered by individual cloth bags or by bird netting over the entire plant.
Toxic / Danger: All parts are mildly poisonous except for edible fruit. Possible spines on branches.
Origin: Iran to the Himalayas. Usage dates back over 3000 years.

Cultivation and Uses
USDA hardiness zones: 8-11.
Chill hours: 100-200.
Heat tolerant: Yes.
Sun: Full sun.
Drought tolerant: Yes.
Water once established: Once or twice a month when not fruiting. During fruiting, to avoid split fruit, water twice a week, a light to moderate amount, compensating for rain. Most split fruit is caused by inconsistent watering. Overwatering can cause the development of molds which may also increase the likelihood of fruit splitting.
Soil: Well-drained, pH 5.6-7.8 (acidic to slightly alkaline), best in pH 6.1-7.5 (slightly acidic to neutral).
Fertilize: In February, spread composted manure evenly under the canopy and at least 6" away from the trunk. Water immediately.
Mulch: Mulch thickly to reduce water loss and shield roots from summer heat.
First Year Care: Do not over water to avoid root rot. Do not fertilize.
Prune: Remove suckers from roots as they appear. For the first three years, in winter, shorten the branches to encourage new shoot development. Most cultivars can be cut on top to any height desired. Most cultivars can be pruned into a single- or multi-trunk tree, a shrub, or a hedge.
Litter: Moderate from leaves, flowers, fruits.
Propagation: Seed, cuttings.
Uses: Fruit, ornamental.

Formerly placed in its own family (Punicaceae). The bottom two pictures show a non-fruiting, ornamental flower and its shrub.

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Pomegranate: Punica granatum - flowers

Pomegranate: Punica granatum - fruit

Pomegranate: Punica granatum - large flower

Pomegranate: Punica granatum

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