Do you enjoy a nice ripe persimmon from time to time? It’s the perfect breakfast meal when accompanied by some fresh yogurt and a bit of granola. Cut them in half and eat them like you would a honeydew, sliced in winter salads or eaten alone, the persimmon is a delicious fruit, and you can grow it in your garden.
The persimmon tree is easy to grow, and it’s a great choice for beginner gardeners. The tree grows slowly, taking seven to ten years to start bearing fruit. After the fruit ripens, the texture of the flesh is somewhat custard-like, with a sweet flavor similar to honey, and it’s a breakfast staple for many Americans.
The persimmon is a deciduous tree featuring green-blue foliage that turns orange and yellow in the autumn for a spectacular visual display in the garden. The tree is tolerant of most soil conditions, provided it has good drainage. Best of all, pests and diseases seem to leave the tree alone.
There are dozens of varieties of persimmon, and they suit growing in USDA Zones four through nine. When selecting your persimmon variety, the Asian types need a mild winter, while the hybrid American versions of the tree are suitable for growing in colder climates.
Gardeners need to wait until the fruit is almost mushy before eating. If you pick and eat your persimmons when they are firm, it leaves a bit of a sour/bitter aftertaste in the fruit. Waiting until the fruit fully ripens ensures you get a sweet and tasty persimmon for breakfast.
Typically, Asian persimmon varieties are mostly non-astringent, and you can eat them when the fruit is still firm. However, letting the fruit often makes it taste even sweeter.
Plant your persimmon trees in the full sunlight. These trees need at least eight hours of light a day to fruit in the summer.
Make sure the soil drains well. Persimmons enjoy growing in nutrient-rich soils, so you’ll need to make amendments to the soil using compost and peat moss to improve draining and nutrient levels in the ground before planting.
When planting, consider the final height and spread of the tree and how it will impact the dynamics of your garden.
Gardeners should plant their ball and burlap, as well as bare-root persimmon trees, in the spring before the tree emerges from dormancy. You can plant persimmon trees in containers between the spring to autumn months and avoid planting when the weather gets dry and hot.
The persimmon tree grows a long taproot, and damage to the taproot when planting can stunt growth to the tree. Plant the tree in an area of the yard that gets full sun with protection from the wind.
Dig a hole for your persimmon tree that’s half as deep as the length of the roots and twice the width. Place the tree in the home at the right depth and backfill the hole with soil. After filling the hole, tamp down the ground to remove large air pockets around the roots.
Before planting, drive a tree stake into the hole to help you support the plant in its first few years of growth. After finishing your planting task, water the soil deeply. We recommend spreading bark chips around the base of the tree to limit evaporation, keeping the soil moist at all times.
Secure your tree to the stake, but leave it loose, so the trunk has room to grow. You can fertilize the persimmon tree right after planting. Spread a granular fertilizer around the tree base, but make sure you keep it around 6-feet from the base. This strategy causes the roots to stretch out towards the nutrients.
Persimmon trees prefer fertilizer formulations high in phosphorous. If you’re growing more than one persimmon tree, space them 20 to 30-feet apart, depending on the cultivar.
After you finish fertilizing the tree, start mulching around the base with nutrient-rich organic mulch. The mulch helps to keep moisture in the soil, limiting evaporation.
Cover the mulch with a layer of bark chips and water. Every time you water the plant, the mulch breaks down, sending more nutrients into the soil.
Growing Persimmons in Containers
It’s possible to grow your persimmons in containers. However, we advise against it. Persimmons grow a long taproot, and it may experience cramping inside the pot, stunting the growth and fruit production of the tree later in the lifecycle.
Still, if you plan on growing in containers, choose one that’s 18-inches wide and at least as deep. When potting the tree, use an organic potting mix to give the tree the nutrients it needs to survive. After planting, water deeply, and don’t let the soil dry out. If you’re planting in containers, add a layer of gravel to the bottom of the pot to improve drainage in the ground.
In the week of planting, fertilize your persimmon tree using a liquid fertilizer, diluted to half strength.
The persimmon tree likes fertilizers that are high in phosphorous and potassium.
You can repot your persimmon after two years, transferring it to a 24-inch wide pot. However, when transplanting, make sure you take care not to damage the taproot. Prune the tree annually to prevent it from getting out of control.
Pollinating Persimmon Trees
Check the pollination requirements when choosing your persimmon cultivar. Some varieties require cross-pollination, meaning you’ll need both a male and female tree growing in your yard if you want the tree to fruit.
Most of the Asian varieties self-pollinate. However, they bear better quality fruit if they experience cross-pollination. The American persimmon comes in male, female, or bisexual varieties, with some self-pollinating, while others require cross-pollination to fruit.
Typically, the Asian persimmon varieties produce yields of one to two bushels per year. The American types are robust, offering harvests of up to three bushels per year.
Pruning and Training
Gardeners will get the best results from their persimmon trees by training them to a modified or central leader. You’ll need to leave six to eight scaffolding branches around the trunk, and it’s important for gardeners to develop a string crotch in the tree to bear the weight of the branches and fruit.
The persimmon starts fruiting on seasonal wood, meaning that the branches the tree grows this year are the ones that will provide the fruit. Fruiting also occurs on year-old branches; going back any further reduces the quality of the fruit.
Prune the old branches and space the fruit-producing branches evenly along the length of the trunk. Prune away the deadwood and the suckers. Try to keep your persimmon tree as short as possible as it’s challenging to pick fruit from the top of tall trees.
Head back the taller branches, and the new shoots grow under the cut limb. It’s best to prune the tree in the wintertime during its dormancy period. Thin out the fruit on branches as it can get heavy and break the branch.
Harvesting and Storing Persimmons
The persimmon tree starts bearing fruit around two to three years after planting. However, it may take several seasons for the tree to start producing edible fruits. Typically, it takes seven years or longer for the persimmon to reach full fruiting capacity.
As mentioned, hard persimmons are typically not good for eating. The soft, mushy fruits are the best for your breakfast treat. Gardeners can pick their astringent persimmons when they feel soft to touch, and the skin yields easily under slight pressure from your fingertips.
When the fruit is ripe, the skin almost appears translucent. When persimmons are ripe, they fall to the ground. Therefore, setting up a tarp to catch the falling fruit prevents it from landing on the ground to become food for insects and other pests.
Harvest your ripe persimmons using shears to cut the stalk away from the tree. Leave some stem on the fruit to improve its storage life. Most persimmons will ripen off the tree, and you can accelerate the process by leaving them in a fruit bag to ripen.
Pests and Diseases Affecting Persimmons
The persimmon tree doesn’t have many pests or diseases, and it’s easy for gardeners to maintain and look after the tree throughout its lifecycle. However, there are a few specific pests gardeners need to look out for during the growing season.
The persimmon twig girdler is a horned beetle species that enjoy feasting on the tree branches and stems. The bug can severely damage trees to the point of severing branches. If you notice signs of insect infestation from the twig girdler, you’ll need to cut away the stems and dispose of them in the trash as the plant material likely contains eggs.
Persimmons also have to deal with scale, and raccoons enjoy stealing and eating your fruit. To remove insects or keep them away from your tree, spray it with diluted neem oil after every rain. The pests can’t stand the taste and smell of neem, and they’ll vacate your property to find other feeding grounds.