Posted by Brent Wilson on 8/31/2016 to Fruit Gardening
Whether grown as a shrub or tree, to allow your newly planted pomegranate to establish itself without disruptions, it should not be pruned at all during the first year after planting. The second year, when your pomegranate is more established, you can start pruning or training.
Before you start pruning your pomegranate, you want to decide how it will be used in the landscape or garden. No matter how you intend to use it, pomegranate are pretty in three seasons, you'll enjoy its shiny leaves and crinkly orange flowers in spring, and then its uniquely shaped rosy-red fruits in summer and fall.
In its natural environment, the pomegranate is a shrub, and the best method of training is to leave it a multiple-trunk shrub. That being said, pomegranates can be grown as a single- or multi-trunk tree in the warmer regions of the United States.
There is a dispute in the commercial pomegranate growing world as to whether a pomegranate should be grown as a single-trunk tree or a multi-trunk shrub. In warmer regions, some commercial growers use the single-trunk method and think that it's the best. In most of the rest of the commercial pomegranate growing world, pomegranate are grown as a multi-trunk shrub.
To make matters a little more confusing, some of the multiple trunk growers say 3 trunks is best and some say as many as 6 is best. But they all agree that the number of trunks must be limited to a small number, because if you let the plants go they will become a hedge-type plant and you will see little fruit.
That being said, the single-trunk method will work for anyone when more cold-resistant varieties are selected, such as the Russian 26 Pomegranate, or when growing less cold-hardy varieties in areas that do not stand any chance of a hard freeze that will kill the plants back to the ground. When growing less cold hardy varieties in cooler winter areas, multi-trunk shrubs are the best way to be somewhat assured of fruit production.
Pomegranate Pruning Instructions
When to Prune
All heavy pruning should be done during the dormant winter season. Light pruning, to open up the plant and remove suckers can be done in mid to late summer.
How To Prune
Pruning Pomegranate As A Shrub
When growing pomegranate as a shrub, for best fruit production over the long term, you'll want at least 3 to 6 trunks to form the bush. If your newly planted pomegranate has less than this allow a few more suckers/shoots to emerge from the base of the plant until there are 3 or 6 trunks. Thereafter, continue to remove other suckers as they emerge by cutting them off at ground level. You might have to remove suckers several times a year during the growing season to keep your plant to 3 or 6 trunks. If you let a pomegranate sucker freely it will put all its energy into growing branches and foliage and the result will be less fruit.
When pruning your pomegranate as a shrub, 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. For shrubs, 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.
Pruning Pomegranate As A Tree
If you want to train your Pomegranate into a single- or multi-stem tree wait until the plants are 2 to 3 years old and at least 3 to 4 feet in height. To start, you'll need to select 1 to 3 shoots you want to keep that will be the main trunk(s) of your tree. Remove all other shoots by cutting them off at the ground. Sometimes a trunk may die back or get injured. If this happens, remove the old trunk and allow a sucker/shoot to grow and replace it.
TIP: When pruning for best production, when your plant gets older, remember this: the more light and air the blooms get the better the fruit set and fruit production will be. So, when pruning the growth from the older 3-6 trunks, open up the middle of the plant and remove overlapping secondary limbs. Most of the fruit will be set on the outside of the shrub on the previous seasons growth spurs from the older trunks. But keep in mind that pruning too heavy can and often will reduce yields.
Harvest & Storage of Pomegranate Fruits
When To Pick Pomegranate Fruits
Depending on the region and environmental factors, Pomegranate fruits can begin ripening from August to the middle of October. The fruits do not all ripen at the same time and must be picked over at least twice, usually a week or two apart. Also, the fruit are not all of the same size when they become ripe.
So, when to pick? It's best to pick the fruit right before they are fully mature or they will try to crack open. Try to cut the fruit as close to full ripening time as possible because the fruit do not ripen once off the tree, although they get a little sweeter in storage. To determine whether or not the fruits are ripe and ready for picking you can tap them with your finger. When they give a metallic sound when tapped they should be ready to pick.
How To Pick Pomegranate Fruits
Actually, you don't want to pick or pull the fruits from the bush or tree. Instead you want to cut them off with a sharp pair of bypass hand pruners or a sharp knife. If you pull the fruit off you will most likely cause damage to the fruit, which then won't store as well. So, just get some pruners and cut the fruit off the stem. It's best to cut the stem as close to fruit as possible so that if you are storing the fruit together the stems won't rub on other fruit in the package or container.
Storing Pomegranate Fruits
Regarding storage life, Pomegranate are similar to apples. Fruit can be stored for up to 3 months and be edible for longer than that. For fruit to keep the longest, it is best to maintain a 40 - 45 degrees F temperature with a relative humidity of 85%. Keep in mind that only clean undamaged fruit should be stored.
If you are storing fruit at home, the crisper of your refrigerator will keep the fruit in good condition for an extended time. If you don't have room to store all the fruit consider juicing and concentrating it or make it into syrup. That way you have less to store and the juice concentrate can be reconstituted when needed or used in recipes.
Plant Long & Prosper!
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