Once You Start Growing Pomegranates,
You'll Never Look Back!

I started growing pomegranates (Punica granatum) when we bought our first home in southern California.

My father-in-law gave us a rooted cutting from his pomegranate tree, and ended up growing to eight feet tall, loaded with rich red fruit and bright orange-red flowers.

Pomegranates make sense to grow: they're never as good in the store as off the tree. Fresh pomegranates can be terribly expensive, so you'll save money by growing pomegranates. You'll never have to buy pomegranate juice again!

Plus the plant itself is beautiful, easy to care for, and useful in many ways.

Handy facts:

  • Originated: Iran, northern India, northern Africa, Mediterranean areas of Europe and Asia
  • Plant type: Deciduous shrub/small tree with thorns
  • Plant size: 2 to 20 feet tall, 2 to 15 feet wide, depending on variety. (most are 6-12 feet tall)
  • Plant shape: Round (takes on a weeping/fountain shaped aspect when heavy with fruit)
  • Edible parts: The pomegranate "fruit" (technically a berry) has a hard inedible rind with hundreds of juicy edible "seeds" inside called arils (more like juice sacks surrounding the actual seeds)
  • Fruit color: orange-red to red -- seeds range from white to ruby red to purple-red
  • Fruit size/shape: Round, 2-6 inches in diameter
  • Fruit ripens: Mid-summer to early fall
  • Flower color(s): Orange-red with orange-yellow centers (the pomegranate flower can be white, pink, or varigated, depending on the variety)
  • Flower size/shape: 2-3 inches in diameter and length, trumpet-shaped
  • Leaf size: 1-2 inches long, 1/2 inch wide
  • Leaf color(s): green
  • Leaf type: glossy oval with smooth edges
  • Prefers: Full sun, hot summers, irrigation during fruit set
  • Tolerates: Partial shade, drought, high winds (high winds during flower set may reduce production), poor/sandy/clay/acidic/alkaline/salty soil
  • Dislikes: High humidity, wetlands, full shade
  • USDA zones: Most pomegranates thrive in zones 8-13; when dormant can tolerate temperatures down to 15F (-9C) but can be damaged or killed by frosts that occur after new growth occurs. Hardy pomegranate tree varieties exist (for example, "Wonderful") which can survive down to zone 7.
  • Uses: Flowering bush/shrub/tree, privacy hedge, fruit tree, barrier hedge, espalier. Dwarf pomegranate varieties ("Nana" is a popular dwarf pomegranate tree) are good for foundation plantings, potagers, bonsai, topiary, and container gardening.

Tips for growing pomegranates

Pomegranate seeds sprout easily, but if you don't want to wait 3 to 4 years for the fruit, it's best to buy pomegranate trees. Check with your local nursery, or one of the many online plant nurseries to find a variety that will grow in your climate.

If you would like to try growing a pomegranate hedge, check the final height and width of the variety you're considering to make sure it will look right once it's grown. (Take a look here for more tips on growing edible garden hedges.)

When you're ready to plant your pomegranate, pick the sunniest spot you have, and avoid putting it somewhere that gets boggy.

Most pomegranates don't need overly rich soil -- compost or garden soil is fine. Remove any flowers or fruit that are on the new plant so it puts its effort into growing strong roots.

Watch out for thorns!

It's best to water your pomegranate plant once a day until it starts growing new leaves (about a week or two) which is a signal that it has settled in. Then give it a deep watering once a week (or less if it rains). You don't want the soil to become waterlogged, but if it doesn't get enough water when it's flowering, it may not set fruit. This is mostly a problem in desert or drought-stricken areas.

Keep the area around your growing pomegranates weeded -- it will save you a lot of sorrow later on. Trying to pull tall established weeds around a thickly growing pomegranate bush full of thorns is not fun. (Trust me!)

Pruning pomegranates

How you prune your pomegranate depends on what you want to do with it. The main thing to keep in mind is to do most of your pruning after the plant has gone dormant for the winter, and not to prune too much at a time.

If you want to make your pomegranate look more tree-like, remove all the bottom branches except the one going straight up. If you want it to keep its usual round bush-like form, very little pruning is necessary. Just remove any stragglers and dead wood.

For hedges, bonsai or topiary, prune as needed to get the shape you want, and no further. Since pomegranates form fruit on their second-year wood, be careful of cutting the plant back too far, or you may end up without any fruit the next year.

How to eat a pomegranate

Pomegranates are ripe when they turn pink, orange or red, depending on the variety. If they start splitting, generally they're ready, but you can pick one and see at any time.

I generally grab the stem with one hand (watch for thorns!) and the fruit with the other hand, then twist the pomegranate off the stem, but you can use clippers to cut them off as well.

(The rind and juice stains, so be careful of your clothing...)

You open pomegranates by cutting them in half, or by peeling the rind off with your fingernails to get at the inner sections with their lovely gem-like juicy pomegranate seeds inside.

Pure heaven! The taste makes growing pomegranates well worth it.


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