The pomegranate (Punica granatum) is native from Iran to northern India. It is an attractive deciduous large shrub/small tree, up to 5m high. Frost and drought tolerant, they are hardy deciduous or semi-deciduous plants that perform well in Western Australia. Pomegranate fruit can be eaten fresh, used to make juice, preserves and add interest to salads. Pomegranate arils (fleshy seeds) and juice contain high levels of antioxidants resulting in the promotion of pomegranates as a health food in recent years. It’s got to be said however the fleshy seeds of pomegranates can be fiddly to try and eat.
If you have ever wondered how to grow pomegranates in Perth then look no further. A relatively simple fruit tree to grow there are a few tricks to successfully growing pomegranate in Perth, Western Australia but get these right and you will be laughing.
When to plant pomegranate trees in Perth:
Planting pomegranate is easy. They grow well in areas with cold winters and a hot, dry summer and autumn, making Perth and other parts of Western Australia ideal. Pomegranate trees can be propagated from seed sown in spring or from cuttings taken between spring and autumn. They need rain-free hot summers, free draining soil and once established will tolerate frosts up to -9 degrees.
Pomegranate varieties in Western Australia:
The most common varieties include the Wonderful and Elcite. Generally pomegranates are self-fertile so you only need one tree for fruit production.
- Wonderful pomegranates – A large, deep purple-red fruit. Flesh is deep crimson in colour, very sweet, juicy and of a delicious vinous flavour. Seeds not very hard. Good for juicing and eating out of hand. Plant is vigorous and productive.
- Elcite pomegranates – Large yellow skinned variety of Spanish origin, soft seeds. Not as attractive as the Wonderful but has a pleasant sweet flavour. The red juice surrounding the seed is highly prized for its antioxidant properties.
- Flore Pleno pomegranates – Hardy and adaptable ornamental variety of Pomegranate. Makes an ideal hedge that flowers all summer long.
- Mollar de Elche pomegranates – One of the most highly valued pomegranates in the world, thanks to its extraordinary flavour and high antioxidant, vitamin and mineral content. Elche comes from the Spanish city of the same name. Elche Pomegranates have to be picked at just the right time: Not too early because, once picked, pomegranates halt the ripening process immediately, and also not too late because they are then at risk of bursting.
How to grow pomegranates at home:
Growing pomegranate trees in Perth is pretty straight forward. Simply follow these easy steps;
- Choose a sunny spot with well drained soil. Enrich the soil with soil improver and plant fertiliser.
- Dig the planting hole twice as wide and to the same depth as the root-ball.
- If planting in winter, soak bare-rooted plants in a bucket of water for 30 minutes prior to planting. Remove from bucket, position in hole and backfill with soil, gently firming down. If planting a potted plant, remove the shrub from the container, gently tease the roots and cut away any circled or tangled roots, then position in hole and backfill.
- Mulch around the base with organic mulch like bark chips, sugarcane or pea straw, keeping it away from the trunk.
- Water deeply, once every 2-3 days, depending on weather conditions. Once established, water deeply once every week.
- Feed with soil improver and plant fertiliser every 6-7 weeks. When flowering and fruiting, feed fortnightly with citrus plant food.
Growing pomegranate in pots:
Pomegranates grow well in pots, particularly dwarf forms like ‘Nana’, which only grow to 1m.
- Choose a pot at least 400mm wide and as deep as possible. Position your pomegranate pot in full sun and protect from strong winds. Fill pot with quality potting mix.
- Remove the shrub from the container, gently tease the roots and cut away any circled or tangled roots.
- Position in pot, backfill with soil, gently firm down and water in well.
- Feed with soil improver and plant fertiliser every 6-8weeks. When flowering and fruiting, feed weekly with a citrus plant food.
How to prune a pomegranate tree:
Pomegranates are often multi-stemmed, and can require formative training to create a desired shape.
- Remove suckers to reveal roughly 5 of the strongest branches to create a solid framework.
- Pull in any branches growing outwards by tying them together and pushing out any central leaders.
- Inward or upright branches can be trained to form a goblet.
- Prune suckers (growth appearing from the soil or below the knobbly graft union on the trunk) regularly. They do not produce fruit and take energy away from the tree.
- Lightly prune after fruiting to help maintain shape and to remove any dead/diseased growth.
When to pick pomegranates:
Most pomegranate trees will produce their first crop in two to three years from planting. Pomegranates usually ripen between March – May, when the skin colours up you are ready to harvest. This can differ between varieties, so make sure you check the label. Choose the strongest coloured first as fruit will not continue to ripen once picked. Cut fruit from the stem with secateurs without bruising the skin. Ripe fruit on the tree can keep absorbing water and will split if left too long or if you get a burst of rain.
Storing pomegranates at home:
Pomegranates should be stored in a cool, dry, well-ventilated place, out of direct sunlight. Whole fruit can be refrigerated and will keep as long as 2 months. Fresh seeds or juice will keep in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Pomegranate arils can be frozen for later use.
Pomegranates care and common problems:
Rats love pomegranates; they eat out the entire inside, leaving the hard outside only remaining so you may need to control. Nets can also be needed to prevent bird damage.
Splitting fruit is a common problem when growing pomegranates – usually because the fruit has been left too long on the tree or there’s a surge of water just as the fruit ripens (either rain or from your watering).
Water well to establish new plants during the first couple of summers. Once established, pomegranates are very drought tolerant and require minimal watering during warmer months.
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