By Amy Grant
Growing pomegranate trees can be rewarding to the home gardener when optimal conditions are met. However, it can also be alarming when all your efforts result in your pomegranate not bearing fruit. Let’s take a look at some common reasons for no fruit and how to get a pomegranate to set fruit.
The pomegranate, an ancient fruit, is getting a bit of resurgence in popularity due to the recent discovery of its high amounts of antioxidant. The pomegranate has been widely cultivated for thousands of years in the Mediterranean, Middle East and Asia, and has been written about in the Old Testament and the Talmud of Babylonia.
A symbol of fertility in ancient Egypt, the pomegranate is well suited to these arid climates, disliking humid conditions and overly cold temperatures. Today, the pomegranate is grown for harvest in the drier areas of California, Arizona and Texas.
Punic granatum (from the French name pomme grenate, meaning “seedy apple”) is an apt name for the pomegranate fruit. The pomegranate fruit contains over half its weight in seeds and, like an apple, has a long storage life (about 7 months when properly stored). Under its red leathery skin, the seed is surrounded by sweet tart pulp and juice.
The seeds are separated by a tough white membrane referred to as the “rag.” The pomegranate seeds can be eaten after separating from the rag or pressed to extract the delicious juice, which is commonly used in grenadine mixed with other juices or drunk on its own. But what happens when there are no pomegranates on trees and, thus, no seeds or juice to extract?
This deciduous bush typically grows from 12 to 20 feet tall and nearly the same in spread. Some patience is required when growing a pomegranate tree, as it takes five to seven months for fruit to become mature and the tree itself needs 2-3 years before it bears more than a couple of fruits.
In addition, the pomegranate tree loses its vigor after 15 years or so, although some cultivars may live hundreds of years. The fruit of the pomegranate is harvested from October to January.
How to Get a Pomegranate to Set Fruit
Some pomegranate trees are strictly ornamental and may be grown for their striking flowers, which bloom from late May until fall. Five to seven crepe-like flowers hang in a cluster from their urn-shaped calyx and range from brilliant red to orange or white. Attractive to hummingbirds, the blooms may be single or double flowering; however, the double cultivars rarely produce fruit.
When fruit production is the desired goal, make sure you are planting a fruit bearing cultivar. Plant in USDA Zones 8-10. Fertilize the pomegranate tree in March and July with a balanced fertilizer (10-10-10) in the amount of one pound per three feet of plant height, and maintain an evenly moist soil.
Reasons for No Fruit
Once established, the pomegranate tree is a low maintenance plant; however, there are a couple of things to watch for with a pomegranate not bearing fruit.
To set fruit, the drought tolerant pomegranate requires additional irrigation and fertilizer. They appreciate a soil pH of 5.5-7 and as is common with most plants, will benefit from a layer of organic mulch. To achieve higher production levels of pomegranate fruiting, plant in full sun.
Pomegranate trees tend to sucker and divert energy away from fruit production, resulting in no pomegranates on trees. Prune lightly on a regular basis, but do not cut back too severely, which can affect fruit outcomes.
As mentioned, the pomegranate tree is most vigorous in warm, dry climates. In USDA Zone 7, the bush will generally survive the winter, but damage may occur when ground temperatures drop below 10 degrees Fahrenheit.
Pollination is another possible reason for a pomegranate not bearing fruit. Plant two or more pomegranate trees to encourage cross-pollination and be sure to plant in full sunlight to foster fruit setting.