John R. Pyzner | 9/23/2005 3:10:18 AM
Small plant size, attractive flowers and unique fruits make the pomegranate an excellent landscape plant, according to LSU AgCenter horticulturist Dr. John Pyzner. It has been grown as a fruiting shrub or small tree in many of the old Louisiana gardens.
Pomegranates tolerate Louisiana’s humid climate, but they have thrived in the semi-arid climate of the Mediterranean and Middle East regions since ancient times.
The natural growth pattern of a pomegranate is a dense deciduous shrub 8-15 feet tall. The plants are sometimes pruned to single-trunk trees that grow 15-20 feet tall. The tree style requires frequent pruning of suckers from around the main trunk to maintain the form.
Pomegranates can withstand temperatures near 0 F when they are dormant. Before dormancy, however, they are very sensitive to early fall freezes. They also are vulnerable to late spring freezes when buds begin to swell. In areas where early or late freezes are a problem, pomegranates are best grown as a shrub.
Pyzner says pomegranates are tolerant of most growing conditions except wet soils. The best growing conditions for pomegranates are sunny locations with a well-drained, moist heavy loam soil. Plants can grow in partial shade, in sandy or clay soils, in drought conditions and in a broad soil pH range.
Pomegranates have very showy flowers in the spring. These flowers may be an inch or 2 in diameter. Most flowers are a dark orange to red. Flowers also can be white, yellow or pink.
Pyzner explains that flowers may have a single set of petals, or they may have multiple sets of petals that give flowers a carnation appearance.
Pomegranates are self-pollinating. Two types of flowers are frequently present. One type has a pistil and pollen and is capable of producing fruit. These flowers normally have a U-shaped base. The second type produces only pollen and will not set fruit. This type of flower usually has a V-shaped base. Humid conditions during blooming can prevent fruit set. Severe fruit drop is common on young plants 3-5 years old.
The fruit is 2-5 inches in diameter. It has a leathery rind that is usually yellow and overlaid with pink or red. The interior of the fruit is filled with seeds that are surrounded by white, pink or red juicy pulp. The juicy pulp is the edible part of the fruit. The fruit ripens in September and October.
Wonderful and Sweet are the two varieties of fruiting pomegranates most likely to be available. Pomegranate fruits more probably are used for decorations rather than consumption, since they are so unique and attractive and keep well at room temperatures.
A number of ornamental pomegranates are available. Nana is the most common variety. It is a dwarf that grows 2-4 feet tall and has individual orange-red flowers.
Other varieties are available, but they are more difficult to locate. They vary in flower color and plant size.
For related horticulture topics, click on the Lawn and Garden link at the LSU AgCenter Web site, www.lsuagcenter.com.