Pomegranates.

Pomegranate

Punica granatum

Origin:

Iran to North India.

Climate:

The pomegranate grows well in areas with cold winters and a hot, dry summer and autumn. It will tolerate temperatures below freezing and also high temperatures, although fruit may be subject to sunburn. The tree has some drought tolerance and good tolerance for salt.

Plant Description:

The pomegranate is deciduous. It is grown as a small tree or bush 3 to 4 m high, but can reach 6 m high.  Leaves are small and elongated and the shoots are slightly spiky. The double flowers are red.

Relatives:

There was only one other species in the genus, the Socotra pomegranate (protopunica) but this has now been reassigned to the Lythraceae Family, which includes loosestrife, henna and crape myrtle.

Soils:

Pomegranates can be grown in a wide range of soils providing these are well drained and not acidic. Water requirements are moderate - up to 800 mm per year. The pomegranate has good tolerance to salty water.

Propagation:

Varieties are mainly propagated in July from 20-30cm long hardwood cuttings of one year old wood.  Seedlings will probably give poor results.

Cultivars:

There are many named varieties. Wonderful is the traditional main variety in Australia and the USA. Gulosha Rosavaya and Gulosha Azerbaijani have larger arils and better eating quality, with a good sweet-sour balance. Elche is also available, but skin colour is poor.

Flowering and Pollination:

Flowers are borne in late spring on new wood on short branches known as spurs. These can bear fruit for 3 to 4 years. Flowers are self or cross pollinated, usually by bees and other insects.  Cross pollination improves fruit quality and yield, and fruit size is correlated with seed number.  Some cvs will set fruit parthenocarpically ie pollination is required for fruit set but the seeds are soft and lack viable embryos.

Cultivation:

Good watering is needed during fruit development.

Wind Tolerance

They are reasonably tolerant to wind and storms

Pruning:

For the first three years, select 3 to 4 main branches and tip prune to increase the number of new shoots.  After annual harvest from 3 years onwards, pruning involves skirting, removal of dead branches and water sprouts, maintenance of light penetration, promotion of annual flower bud formation and ease of harvesting. Remove suckers from the base of the tree.

The Fruit:

The fruit is a berry, 6 to 12 cm in diameter with a leathery, red, husk. It contains many seeds which are surrounded by soft, juicy, red arils which are edible. The interior is separated by pithy, membranous walls. The fruit has a permanent, prominent, calyx at its distal end. Some varieties have white, pink or purple arils.  The juice surrounding the seeds has about 15% total soluble solids.  Commercially prepared juices have 3 times the antioxidant levels of red wine or green tea.

Fruit Production and Harvesting:

Trees take 3 years to commence bearing. Clip the fruit from March to June in Perth. Split fruit, associated with a rapid increase in hydration during maturation, can also be harvested and have good fruit quality. Yields are moderate. Fruit does not ripen off the tree (non-climacteric).

Fruit Uses:

Fruit is usually eaten fresh or made into juice, but also has culinary uses. The arils have excellent quality with an exquisite after-taste. The soft seeds may also be eaten. It may be laborious and tedious to extract the arils from the pithy partitions which are bitter, but practice makes perfect. The pomegranate is very useful in fruit salads. The fruit has a good storage life at 4°C.

Pests and Diseases:

Twisting of the leaves and terminal shoots may be due to aphids feeding. Fruit rots can be damaging to parts of the fruit, especially with the Gulosha varieties.

Comments:

The pomegranate is only a small commercial crop in Western Australia. However, it's a good one for Perth home gardens although separating the edible arils can be messy. The pomegranate is also a hardy ornamental with attractive autumn foliage. Pomegranates grow well from Carnarvon to the South Coast of Western Australia.