The Pomegranate, as well as the fig, are often considered some of the oldest cultivated fruits. Believed to be native to the Middle East, the Pomegranate is a fruit with an interesting history and has been grown in South Carolina for centuries. The Pomegranate, Punica granatum, is a wonderful small, deciduous tree that grows between twelve and twenty feet tall and can get just as wide depending on the part of the state it is grown.
The Pomegranate is a relatively low maintenance plant that thrives in most soils if the soil is well-drained. Plant in full sun for the best results, but it can tolerate some shade if fruit is not of concern. The Pomegranate has surprisingly good drought and salt tolerance and should be considered fruit along the coast. Pomegranates can be susceptible to severe cold, which may damage or kill it to the ground if temperatures drop below ten degrees Fahrenheit. The Russian cultivar series has the best cold tolerance and is one of the recommended types for the state.
When fruit is desired, like most fruit plants, more care is required to avoid fruit drop. As mentioned previously, full sun is needed for the tree to produce an abundance of fruit. And with the full sun, supplemental water may be required, especially during periods of drought. Be sure to mulch appropriately to reduce the water needs and prevent drying out between irrigation applications. Be sure to fertilize based on a soil test for the best fruiting.
Pomegranates are considered small trees, but it does grow similar to many shrubs. Thinning the inner foliage and removing suckers are recommended to allow light and air flow through the canopy. It is best to train the Pomegranate to grow with three to six main trunks. The best time to prune is late winter or early spring since it blooms on new growth. Be sure not to prune too heavily as this will reduce the fruiting for the season.
It starts to bloom if conditions are right in late May and may continue well into the fall. Many Pomegranates are not only in bloom but are sizing up fruit right now throughout the Lowcountry. The bright red flowers not only turn into wonderful fruit but are highly attractive to a variety of pollinators, including the hummingbird. There are double-flowering cultivars, but these are grown mostly as ornamentals as the plants rarely produce fruit.
Pomegranates generally have few major issues and tend to survive for many seasons producing fruit. There are foliar and fruit diseases that can occur, but this does not normally reduce fruit quality and can be kept under some control through proper sanitation and pruning practices. It is recommended, but not necessary, to have at least two or more plants for cross-pollination. Cross-pollination, as with many of the fruit plants, does help improve the number of fruits and does help increase the pollination of the flowers.
For more information, see HGIC 1359, Pomegranate.