The pomegranate, thought to have originated in Persia, was called Pomuni granatum or ‘seeded apple’ in the Middle Ages.
The fruit adapts especially well to the cool winters and hot summers found in California or Arizona. Both temperature and humidity will affect growth; trees are typically 12 to 16 feet in height with stiff, spiny branches.
While trees will lose much of their vigor after 15 years, many will endure for decades longer—as there are 200-year-old pomegranate trees still existing in Europe today.
Types & Varieties
The most common variety of pomegranates found in the United States is the Wonderful, originating in Florida. It was cultivated in California as early as the 1890s, where it continues to thrive today.
The fruit is large, purplish-red with a thick skin and light to crimson flesh. Other varieties include Cloud, Early Foothill, Francis, Granada, Green Globe, King, and Utah Sweet.
Well-drained soil is best for growing pomegranates, and though drought-tolerant after established, sufficient irrigation is necessary for good fruit growth.
Pruning will help achieve a strong, balanced tree so plants should be cut back after reaching about 2 feet in height. Shoots will develop from each cutting and need to be distributed evenly around the stem. The fruit develops at the tips of new growth. Regular pruning is recommended to encourage new shoots.
Pomegranates are picked 6 to 7 months after flowering when ripe, as the fruit does not ripen off the tree and ethylene treatment is ineffective.
Fruit makes a metallic sound when tapped, indicating ripeness. Pomegranates should be clipped close to the base, not pulled off the tree. No stem on the fruit when harvesting lessens the likelihood of damage in handling and shipping. Pomegranates ship well when cushioned by paper or straw in wooden crates.