Pomegranates (Punica granatum) are a popular fruit know for health benefits associated with its juice.

Pomegranates are not only grown for their edible fruits, but also for their ornamental features. The precise origin of pomegranates is unknown, but they are considered native in the near-Middle East to the Himalayas. Pomegranates flower and grow well in most of South Carolina, but tend to fruit poorly in humid climates compared to the warm, but arid regions where they are well adapted.
Pomegranates are a deciduous shrub or small tree that grows 12 to 20 feet tall with the same spread. They can sucker from the base, and if not removed routinely the plant will become too dense. Stems are thorny and slender with reddish-brown bark that turns gray with age. Leaves can be alternate, opposite, or whorled on the stem and are 1-3 inches long by 1/3 to 3/4 inches wide. Leaves are glossy, dark green, and a bit leathery. Leaves will turn yellow in the fall and can linger on the stem until early winter.
Most of the time, pomegranates will bear fruit well three years after they have been planted. They will flower sporadically the first year and may only bear one to two fruits. Although they are considered long-lived plants, their vigor will decline after about 15 years. Pomegranates will grow at a moderate pace.
Pomegranates have an attractive flower that lasts from late May until fall. Flowers are 1-2 inches wide, with 5-7 crepe paper-like petals. Flowers can range in colors from scarlet-red to orange, yellow, white, or a variegated depending on the cultivar. Typically, double-flowering cultivars produce few, if any fruit. Fruits are generally 2-3 inches in diameter, although may be up to 5 inches. The fruit mature from green to different shades of red, depending on the cultivar, and resemble a Christmas ornament. Fruits ripen in early fall, around August-October.
Pomegranate plants are well suited as a shrub border and make the perfect backdrop for small shrubs and perennials. They also make good screens when placed in groups. Compact forms do well in large containers.
Pomegranate grow best in full sun, but will flower and fruit sporadically in partial shade. They prefer a soil pH of 5.5 to 7.0 and need good soil drainage. Once established they are fairly drought tolerant and require minimal fertilization if fruit production is not desired. Fertilize plants in March and July with 1 pound 10-10-10 for every three feet of plant height to aid in fruiting.
Pomegranates flower on new growth and pruning should be done before new growth begins in the spring.
Pomegranates need minimal pruning besides removing suckers and dead wood. Fruits are produced on 2-3-year-old stems.
Light annual pruning will encourage new fruiting spurs to develop, but heavy pruning will reduce fruiting.
Pomegranates plants are typically trouble free. Fruit and leaf spots are common in SC due to our high humidity, but do not require treatment. Deer tend to browse the foliage occasionally. Failure to set fruit is the most common problem with pomegranates due to the lack of pollination and inadequate sunlight. Plant two or more pomegranates plants to increase cross-pollination and fruit set.
Below are recommended cultivars of pomegranates for South Carolina. Standard cultivars are greater than 6 feet tall include: ‘Ambrosia’, Angel Red®, ‘Wonderful’, ‘Pleniflora’, ‘Early Wonderful’, Eversweet’, ‘Flavescens’, ‘Granada’, ‘Eight Ball’, and ‘Utah Sweet. Compact cultivars are less than 6 feet tall include: ‘State Fair’ and ‘Nana’. The Russian series of pomegranates have high cold tolerance and include: ‘Afganski’ (R26), ‘Salavatski’, and ‘Surh-Anor’ (R33).
For more information on pomegranates, please visit the Home and Garden Information Center website at hgic.clemson.edu.
Tune in on Tuesday nights to watch “Making it Grow” at 7 p.m. on SCETV or mig.org. E-mail Outen at callenb@clemson.edu.
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