Pomegranates grow naturally as a bushy shrub or as a small tree-if trained, they may grow 15 to 20 feet high. The tree is deciduous in interior and desert regions, but in coastal areas may lose only a portion of its leaves in winter. The tree is quite resistant to cold when dormant , withstanding temperatures down to 10°F. However, it is very sensitive to frost before it reaches full dormancy in late fall and after buds have begun to swell in early spring. The main trunk near the ground, particularly on the south and west sides of the tree, is sometimes damaged by frost during these periods. Bark damage may be reduced by painting trunks white to minimize temperature fluctuation during cold nights and warm days when the trunk is exposed to direct sunlight.
Where Pomegranates May be Planted
In North and South America the pomegranate is found growing from the southern United States to Chile and Argentina, probably reaching its highest quality in the arid regions of California, Arizona and northern Mexico.
In California, the most satisfactory areas for growing pomegranates are in interior valleys where hot dry summers mature fruit with good color and flavor. The tree grows well in a wide range of climatic conditions. Although mild summers limit commercial fruit production, the pomegranate is well adapted as an ornamental shrub in cool coastal areas.
The pomegranate is more adaptable to a wider range of soils than are most fruit trees. It does best on deep loam, but satisfactory orchards grow on sandy as well as adobe-clay soils. The tree tolerates mild alkali conditions and areas of slow drainage, but yield, fruit quality and tree growth are unsatisfactory on soils having much alkali or poor drainage.
Wonderful is by far the most widely planted commercial pomegranate variety in California. Its fruit is large and deep purple -red with a glossy appearance. The kernels and juice are deep crimson with good flavor; seeds are small and tender and the rind is of medium thickness. It is also a good dooryard tree for eating fresh and processing for juice. The fruit matures in late September and October.
Granada is a patented early-maturing variety widely grown in Tulare County. The deep crimson-colored fruit, which matures about the middle of August, is smaller than Wonderful, but because of its early maturity it commands a premium price on the market.
Ruby Red is another variety of very limited commercial importance. The fruit is about the same size as Wonderful, and while its crimson-purple color develops early, juice tests show that it matures at the same time as Wonderful. Ruby Red matures at the same time on the tree, thus allowing one picking which reduces that splitting problem. It does not store as well as Wonderful.
Foothill Early is a recent patented introduction planted in central California. The fruit is similar to Wonderful but matures 1 to 2 weeks earlier.
Spanish Sweet or Papershell is still grown to a limited extent as a dooryard tree, but is no longer a commercially marketed variety. The fruit is large and pale pink with a sweet flavor.