Growing pomegranates in East Texas

Pomegranates are not at all a typical fruit to see growing on East Texas land for sale, but their recent surge in popularity - due to the pomegranate's many nutritional benefits - have brought quite a few folks into the TAMU AgriLife office with questions about how and where to grow this unique fruit.

"The pomegranate is known for a variety of notable health benefits."

Pomegranates originate from the Middle East and central-western Asia, from Iran to the Himalayas. As such, they are widely referenced in ancient societal and religious materials across the world, ranging from the Christian Bible to certain Hindu texts. (A handful of people believe the fruit from the knowledge tree in the Biblical book of Genesis was a pomegranate, not an apple, but it's not like we'll ever know that for sure either way.)

Widely cultivated throughout the Mediterranean, the fruit was introduced to the Americas by Spanish missionaries during the 16th century. Texas, due to its proximity to Mexico and thus the rest of Latin America, was probably the first area of the U.S. to grow pomegranates. The "Wonderful" variety of pomegranates we often hear about today was named by a grower from Florida, who moved to California in 1896 and expanded his fruit business to the West Coast. 

Growing pomegranates in East TexasPomegranates don't naturally grow in East Texas, but it's entirely possible to plant the seeds that produce their bushes or trees.

To get started in your backyard, you'll only need one pomegranate, as they are self-pollinating. While pomegranates can grow on small trees, they more commonly emerge as the fruit of a bushy shrub. If you want more than one and space is limited, you can plant them as a hedge.

The leaves are deciduous, usually glossy and dark green. Also, the colorful, orange-red flowers and their tendency toward dense, bushy growth make the pomegranate an attractive ornamental for some striking country living decor.

This plant will produce lots of suckers near the soil, so frequent pruning is a must for the pomegranate tree or shrub. The pruning process must be started soon after planting to maintain a single trunk - otherwise so many suckers will have developed that it will be difficult to change.

Pomegranate is common to the tropics, subtropics and subtemperate regions and is well-adapted to areas with hot, dry summers. It is also considerably more cold-hardy than citrus plants, for example.

In a nutshell, the pomegranate works in practically any soil that has good internal drainage. (This means the plants may not grow well on heavy-clay soils.) They require minimal spraying or fertilization, and as such can be grown organically quite easily. The only real problem you may face is splitting fruit, which could be a particularly troublesome issue under any high-rainfall conditions. 

While Wonderful is the old standby for pomegranate seeds, don't be afraid to consider planting a newer variety. Some that should do well include Aperoski, Cloud, Kandahar Early, Russian #8, Russian #18 and Texas Pink.

You can plant seeds from a container any time of the year when soil moisture is available. Use a hole that's the same depth as but a little wider than the pot. Place the root ball in and backfill with the existing soil and water it well. Be sure to add a few inches of mulch to keep competing vegetation away at least three feet on each side. This will also keep moisture in and moderate soil temperatures. 

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Cary Sims is the County Extension Agent for agriculture and natural resources for Angelina County. Contact him via email: cw-sims@tamu.edu

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