Pomegranate tree losing leaves

Yellow Leaves on Pomegranate Fruit Tree

Pomegranate image by Mariyan Gochev from Fotolia.com

Spanish explorers brought pomegranate trees to the southwestern United States in 1769 and they’ve thrived in Arizona, California and some parts of Texas since. The shrubs grow 16 to 20 feet high and produce large fruits covered with a rust-colored, leathery skin. The fruit contains hundreds of juicy, acrid-tasting seeds covered by pulp and a soft membrane. Pomegranates are eaten fresh or used for juice or cooking. Diseases and pests are uncommon, but are more likely in humid climates.


The female whitefly lays eggs on the undersides of the leaves. The larva hatch and feed off the sap of the leaves, excreting a thick, sticky substance called honeydew. Sooty mold develops on the honeydew, causing yellowing leaves and stunted growth. Spray the pomegranate tree every eight to 10 days until symptoms subside with Triazophos 40 EC, according to package directions.


Yellowish green aphids also live on the underside of the leaves and cause yellow patches to develop. Hang yellow sticky traps among the developing fruits. Spray the undersides of the leaves with a nozzle hose attachment. Spray dimethoate or malathion according to package directions every 15 days.

Alkaline Soils

Pomegranates may have difficulty obtaining iron, magnesium or zinc from the alkaline soil found throughout Arizona, causing leaves to develop chlorosis, turn yellow and drop. If you see no signs of insect infestation, the problem might be a nutrient deficiency. Iron deficiencies affect the youngest, outer leaves first. Apply iron chlorate fertilizer to the soil as directed. Zinc and magnesium deficiencies affect older, inner leaves first. Apply a balanced, acid fertilizer. Amend the soil with compost or moistened peat moss to lower the pH level.

Proper Irrigation

Pomegranates are drought tolerant and prefer semi-arid conditions, but benefit from a watering every two to four weeks during dry conditions. Trees younger than three years old, especially, need watering and may show signs of drought stress, such as yellow leaves, stunted growth and decreased fruit production.

Cold Temperatures

Pomegranates grow outdoors as far north as Utah and Nevada, but rarely produce fruit. They thrive in dry, warm climates and sustain considerable damage when temperatures dip below 12 degrees Fahrenheit. Cold temperatures may cause yellow leaves or damage to the wood of the tree.

Bob Morris Leaf yellowing and drop can be a temporary problem with many fruit trees, including this dwarf pomegranite tree, and involve water issues.

Q: A combination of overwatering and this heat caused my 9-year-old dwarf pomegranate leaves to yellow and drop on about a third of the plant. I turned off the water and hand watered it with small amounts of water. The only thing I did differently was to give the plants a small dose of Miracle-Gro in the spring. Any suggestions?

A: Pomegranate is remarkably resilient in our climate if it’s not watered too often. Avoid watering these plants daily. Give it plenty of water when you irrigate and then hold off until the next irrigation. They can handle some slightly dry soils. Water newly planted, spring trees every other day when temperatures are above 110 degrees.

Leaf yellowing and drop can be a temporary problem with many fruit trees and involve water issues. Give the plant time to respond if these branches are still supple and bend easily.

If these branches have dried and appeared dead, cut them off just above healthy growth. I have removed damaged parts during the summer months and the plant regrew without problems.

Use wood chip mulch on the soil surface to help preserve soil moisture during the heat. This gives the tree one extra day between waterings.

I am giving new plants about 5 gallons, 3-year-old trees about 10 gallons, 5-year-old trees about 15 gallons and trees older than 8 years old 20 to 30 gallons depending on their size. A dwarf 9-year-old tree is going to be in the range of 10 to 15 gallons each time you water.

I have had no problems with yellowing or loss of leaves during the summer, but some of the 20+ varieties I have grown experienced winter cold damage. Some varieties of pomegranates, particularly those with Russian names, showed some winter cold damage, but they recovered.

Older, more common varieties and sold for many years in the American market sailed through cold winters down to 10 F.

Q: My fiddle leaf fig houseplant has brown spots on some of the leaves. I’m watering it every other week. I thought it might be a fungal issue so I applied liquid copper, but that didn’t make any difference.

A: Fiddle leaf fig in the wild starts its life as an epiphyte, similar to orchids. Eventually, they root into tropical soils and live their life as a small understory tree, strangling the mother tree. This means it likes filtered and indirect light and can tolerate short periods of time surviving in dry soils.

Brown spots on leaves can be a disease problem, particularly if they are closely associated with leaf veins. Plant diseases on houseplants are not common in desert environments because of our low interior humidity.

Insects feeding on these plants are a bigger problem. Inspect the plant for spider mites, scale insects, mealy bugs and fungus gnats living in the soil. They can cause problems similar to diseases.

Plant diseases are closely associated with the health of the plant. To improve its health and ability to ward off diseases, make sure it gets adequate light, water and fertilizer. Staking this plant so it stands upright in a container indicates it has not been getting enough light in the past.

Lack of light is a common problem for houseplants because of our dark interiors. Larger houseplants slowly decline, beginning around six months after they are plunged into dark interiors.

Smaller plants decline more quickly. If they are large plants, they have enough stored food to live for several months before they decline.

This plant requires placement near a bright window but not in direct sunlight. Once a month turn the plant so that different sides of the plant receive light.

When temperatures are pleasant outside, place this tree in a sheltered area on the north or east side of the home under a tree. During this time, it can start building up food reserves for that long, dark haul inside the home during summer months. Never place it in direct sunlight, which damages the leaves and causes them to drop.

Don’t water on a schedule unless you are confident this schedule fits the needs of the plant. Water can be withheld until the soil is quite dry.

Instead, lift or tip the container to judge its water content. Water is heavy. Potting soil containing water is much heavier than dry soil.

Use a pencil. Sticking the pointed end of a pencil in the potting soil can help judge the moisture content. Pencils slide into moist soil much easier than dry soils.

Use a soil moisture meter. It costs about $10 at any nursery or garden center. They help judge relative amounts of water but not exact amounts of water. Soil moisture meters tell you if the soil is dry enough to water or if it’s still wet and should not be watered.

Avoid using straight tap water. Our tap water has lots of salts in it. Instead, use distilled or reverse osmosis water blended with tap water at least 1:1. Give it enough water so that one-quarter of the applied water comes out the bottom. This helps remove salts.

Add fertilizer based on the growth of the plant. If the plant is growing rapidly, temperatures are warm and there is plenty of light, water and fertilize more often. Add a small amount of fertilizer to the irrigation water every third or fourth watering.

Repot interior plants every three to four years. This means gently lifting the plant from its container and shaving off a 1- to 2-inch layer of soil from the root ball on all sides. Use a sharp, sanitized knife. Disinfect the container and repot the plant using new potting soil.

Q: We planted two magnolias in 2014. They are a few yards apart and receive the same treatment: some acid and a bit of iron once a year along with some fertilizer. One is thick and lush, with tons of beautiful blooms. The other is taller, less lush and its flowers sometimes get red markings on the tips. The red part is dry and rough in comparison to the soft and silky white part.

A: I have not seen this before on magnolia flowers in the Mojave Desert. First, let’s agree this tree is not supposed to grow here. That being said, there are a number of magnolias planted in Las Vegas, and some are doing quite well considering it is the desert. The best trees are protected from the wind, planted in lawns and located on the north or east sides of buildings.

I think you are seeing damage to the flower petals because of excessive drying of the tips. When magnolia flowers are damaged, the petals always turn a reddish-brown color. This damage could be because of high temperatures and high winds when the flowers were opening, petals were starting to get exposed, but still tight in the flower bud.

The location of this damage seems to be all on the tips of the petals, the parts exposed. I think you will see less of this when they are opening while temperatures are cooler and less wind when the flower buds are expanding. You might see less damage to flowers if there was less wind and the scrawny tree had more foliage.

Try vertical mulching around the scrawny tree. Vertical mulching is using a posthole digger to make vertical holes 18 to 24 inches from the trunk and about 2 feet deep. Backfill these holes with compost or a mixture of soil taken from the hole half and half with compost.

If they are surrounded by rock mulch, rake it back and put a 3- to 4-inch layer of woodchip mulch around the trees in a 6-foot diameter circle.

Fertilize the trees next January with compost mixed with iron instead of mineral fertilizer.

Bob Morris is a horticulture expert and professor emeritus for the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Visit his blog at xtremehorticulture.blogspot.com. Send questions to [email protected]


Pomegranates get a lot of attention as a “super-fruit,” lauded for their health benefits. Truthfully, pomegranates can do some “wonderful” (the name of a popular variety) things for your health; research has shown that they have antioxidant, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and anti-carcinogenic properties. As an added bonus pomegranates (Punica granatum L.) have a fun appearance and a delicious flavor.

When you cut open a pomegranate you’ll find the fruit filled with arils, the edible part of the fruits. These arils are juice-filled orbs which also contain the pomegranate seeds. Pomegranate arils range from very sweet to tart/tangy depending on the variety. The juice is either consumed fresh or made into a syrup (grenadine), wine, sorbet, or jelly. Arils can also be enjoyed fresh on their own, added to salads, or worked into a variety of other dishes. Pomegranates are rich in antioxidants, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamins B6, B9, and C, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and zinc!

The word “pomegranate” derives from Latin and means “seeded apple.” Native to Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the Himalayan region, pomegranates have a long history of cultivation. There were extensive cultivations in Spain which moved with the missionaries into Mexico and California in the 1500s. While pomegranates come from areas of the world that have drier summers than we have in Florida, these trees have been grown as a dooryard plants here for decades. Pomegranate plants have been discovered in the Panhandle that are 80 to 100 years old. The exact origin of these decades-old plants is unknown.


Pomegranates can be grown as an attractive deciduous shrub or as a tree in Florida landscapes. The shrubs are dense and bushy and will grow to between 6 and 12 feet tall. When trained to grow as a tree, your pomegranate may reach 20 feet tall.

Pomegranates have glossy, dark green leaves and slender thorny branches. Pomegranate flowers have crinkled petals and can range in color from pale pink to bright orange-red. The fruits have a smooth, leathery skin and are shaped like a slightly flattened sphere; they range in color from pinkish-yellow to purplish-red.

Pomegranates in North Florida mature from July to November, but may produce fruit year-round in South Florida. Some varieties are best for use as ornamentals while others are grown for eating. The University of Florida is collaborating with pomegranate growers in experimental trials to identify cultivars suited for Florida. The preliminary results show ‘Girkanets’, ‘Kazake’, ‘Wonderful’, ‘Al-sirin-nar’, and ‘Medovyi Vahsha’ varieties perform well. Additionally, ‘Christine’ and ‘Salavatski’ are popular home garden cultivars.

Planting and Care

For best growth and fruit production, pomegranates need deep, slightly acidic, moist soil. Plants need irrigating every 7 to 10 days when there isn’t significant rainfall. It’s important to maintain adequate soil moisture in late summer and early fall to reduce potential fruit splitting.

These plants naturally grow into a multi-trunk bushy shrub with many suckers growing in the root and crown area. If you prefer, you can encourage your plant to grow into a tree form by pruning off the suckers and allowing only one trunk to develop. It’s best to remove suckers from around the main trunks regularly. When you plant your tree, let it grow the first year without pruning. During the second year, select four to six strong sprouts that will make up the main structure of the tree. Remove any excessive branches and sprouts frequently during the growing season. During the first two years of growth prune your plant to produce stocky, compact framework.

Pomegranate trees are self-pollinating, which means you only need to plant one tree in order to get fruit. You tree will produce more fruit if it is planted in full sun rather than in a shady area.

Leaf blotch and fruit spot are the diseases often observed on Florida pomegranate trees. Leaf blotch will appear as small, circular to angular dark reddish-brown to black areas on the leaves. Infected leaves are pale green and fall prematurely. Fruit spot looks like small, conspicuous, dark brown spots that are initially circular and become angular. These diseases can be controlled with a fungicide (conventional or organic). Check the label to be sure it is approved for use on pomegranates and safe to use on edible fruits.

UF/IFAS Resources

  • Growing Pomegranates in Florida: Establishment Costs and Production Practices
  • Florida Plant ID: Pomegranate
  • The Pomegranate
  • Why Grow Pomegranates?

Breaking news

MAKSYM NARODENKO/123RF Pomegranates are orange-sized, with a thick skin that protects the rich pink-red arils of sweet, juicy pulp containing the seeds.

Pomegranates are popular among foodies, with the juice-filled arils from the red fruit often used as a garnish in fancy restaurants. Hailing from the region from Iran to northern India, they’ve been cultivated in the Mediterranean for centuries. The trees can be very long lived – some for more than 200 years.

Pomegranates (Punica granatum) are a small-growing, deciduous shrub or tree with narrow leaves and frilly red-orange flowers. The fruit are orange-sized, with a thick skin that protects the rich pink-red arils of sweet, juicy pulp containing the seeds.

Pomegranates require a long, hot summer for the fruit to ripen sufficiently and be sweet and juicy. It should ripen six to seven months after flowering, which inches into our cooler part of the year.
Research in Turkey has shown that pomegranates require 2800-3300 growing-degree days (GDDs). Statistics NZ advises that GDDs range from 400 in Invercargill in the coolest summers, through to 2600 in Whangarei in the warmest. Therefore, only during the warmest summers in the warmest regions will pomegranates have the possibility of their fruit ripening to full sweetness and juiciness.

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Planting in the warmest spot in the garden against a heat-reflecting wall will assist fruit development, though. Growing in a tunnelhouse or glasshouse to increase the temperature in the later part of summer would also be beneficial.
Anyway, slightly immature fruit is still entirely edible – just not as sweet. And with climate change, we may even be able to grow full-flavoured juicy pomegranates in Southland in a few decades time!
Pomegranate trees are very hardy in a range of soil conditions, thriving in poor and heavy soil. And being deciduous, they’re cold hardy to around -12°C.
Trees should be planted in a site sheltered from wind. The flowers require only 100-200 hours of winter chilling to form, which even the warmest of Northland winters would provide. Consistent soil moisture is necessary from flowering time through to harvest, so keep watered if rainfall isn’t regular (irregular watering can result in split fruit).

Pruning & pests
Reaching around 3m in height, pomegranate trees can be grown as a large bush or trained with a clear trunk to form a tree shape. When young, the plants are a little bit scruffy with a multitude of leggy stems. These can be left if you’re growing the plant as a bush, or trained up a bamboo cane to form a tree.

MAARTEN HOLL Juice-filled arils from pomegranates are popular with foodies. Here they are used to garnish salmon and creme fraiche flatbreads.

Once established, very little pruning is required, just the removal of any dead growth and suckers/sprouts from the base of the trunk (if growing as a tree). Pruning should be done in winter, as the fruit is mainly produced on new-season’s growth.

Feed with a general fruit tree fertiliser several times each summer, and apply mulch around the base to help retain soil moisture.

Pomegranates aren’t susceptible to any significant pests or diseases. In humid conditions, the skin of the fruit can crack but that’s usually only cosmetic, so not a problem for the home gardener.

Pomegranates are self-fertile, meaning bees do the pollination work. It’s not necessary to have more than one variety.

The most commonly available variety is ‘Wonderful’, which is commercially grown and has deep orange to red-coloured fruit with pink-red sweet and juicy arils.

‘Eversweet’ is available from Incredible Edibles – it has large, red fruit with clear arils and sweet juice. Originally from Afghanistan, it’s cold hardy.

Don’t be misled by the dwarf ‘Nana’ variety. It’s more of an ornamental than an edible pomegranate, growing to just 1m with golf-ball-sized fruit. But it’s an attractive shrub nonetheless.

Most pomegranate plants found for sale here are grown from cuttings. These are usually taken as hardwood cuttings (in winter) around 15-20cm long and about a pencil thickness.

Taking cuttings from suckers is usually quite successful. Dip in rooting hormone and poke into a tray of sand, perlite or light potting mix (basically anything except a heavy medium). Place in a warm environment, ideally with mist to keep the media moist. Roots should develop in four to six weeks. Transplant into a small pot and leave for a few months before repotting into a larger one. Plant out into the ground the following winter.

Pomegranate seeds germinate easily, but the resulting plants can be variable, so planting from seed isn’t recommended.

Pomegranates usually start producing fruit two or three years after planting, though any really significant cropping begins after five years. In the first few years of growth, it can be a bit tricky to evaluate when the fruit is ready to pick until you develop an eye for judging maturity.

Pomegranates stop ripening once picked, but can become overripe on the tree, splitting and losing flavour. Size rather than colour determines the optimal harvest time, as colour can vary by variety from light orange to deep red. Look for fruit that’s the size of an orange. Tap it and listen for a metallic sound, which indicates it’s ripe. Never pull the fruit off the tree – use snips or secateurs to cut the thick stems.

Pomegranates can be stored for several months in the fridge, so if you’re lucky enough to “suffer” a glut, you don’t need to worry about the fruit going off before you can use it.

Eating & drinking
Each pomegranate contains between 500 and 1000 seeds (or more correctly, the pink-red orbs that contain the seeds), which can be used in a variety of sweet and savoury dishes. These arils are most easily removed from the tough white membrane by cutting the fruit in half and plunging it into a bowl of water. Scoop out the arils underwater and they’ll rise to the top, leaving the membrane behind.

Try the arils in Moroccan-style couscous dishes, tabbouleh or rice salads. They go beautifully with ingredients such as orange zest, pistachios, almonds, sultanas, coriander and mint.

Use them to garnish your porridge, yoghurt or fruit salad for breakfast, or make your champagne extra fancy by adding pomegranate juice and a few whole seeds.

NZ Gardener

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The Best Pomegranates for Home and Garden

March 29, 2017 1:41 pm

By: Maureen Gilmer

‘Wonderful’ is a popular orchard variety pomegranate that also grows well in home gardens.

Since antiquity, the bright red seeds of the pomegranate (Punica granatum) have been likened to rubies. The fleshy seeds are a sign of the nutritional treasure hidden inside the fruit’s tough, leathery rind. The covering of these Middle Eastern fruits protects them from birds and dehydration, unlike fully exposed stone fruits and berries.

The pomegranate tree has changed little since the earliest biblical references, making it a paleo fruit. They provided vital nutrition for the Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, and North African people who traditionally grew them in wall gardens that protected the foliage from drying winds and cool weather. This is key to growing pomegranates because a lack of heat or too much wind will limit fruiting. Untimely rains in the fruit’s late-summer and fall ripening season can also cause rinds to crack open prematurely, spoiling the contents.

Growing Pomegranates

Bright foliage and coral blossoms make pomegranates a beautiful early color source for gardens.

Pomegranates may be deciduous, semi-evergreen, or evergreen, depending on the climate and variety. In the American Southwest, they are deciduous. What makes them so great in gardens is that the small trees or large shrubs are both ornamental and edible. The flowers are vivid coral red, offering early visual interest. As fruits ripen later in the season, they offer more visual interest.

Today’s pomegranate trees come in a huge range of sizes, with smaller trees for city yards or larger trees with abnormally large fruits for orchards or spacious landscape plantings. So long as the local climate is within the cold tolerance range (USDA Hardiness Zones 8-11) and summers are not humid and rainy, pomegranates should thrive.

Just because pomegranates grow well in poor, dry, rocky soils doesn’t mean they don’t benefit from organically fortified soil. Commercial growers know that to achieve the largest juiciest fruits regular moisture and nutrition are needed. If the soil drains well, a pomegranate will appreciate added soil amendment. The best choice is to blend Black Gold Garden Compost into the soil at planting time. This helps young potted trees transition from potting soil to native soil.

Pomegranates crack open on the tree when there is too much summer rain.

The addition of a balanced NPK fertilizer has also been shown to increase fruit yields and decrease fruit cracking. As temperatures rise, mulch the young pomegranate with more compost to keep roots cool and moist as you deeply water them over the first summer.

Each “ruby” inside the fruit has a tart, sweet, juicy outer flesh that envelopes a BB-sized seed Seeds are typically hard, but breeding has reduced seed size. The seeds of some new varieties are nearly non-existent, so only the flesh develops. These types are preferred for eating out of hand, so be aware of fruit quality when choosing a variety.

Pomegranate Varieties

The very ancient pomegranates grown by the Spanish in the California missions did not have attractive fruit. New varieties are different. Twentieth-century breeding has yielded dozens of excellent improved selections with varying fruit and seed color, tree sizes, and tolerance to cool coastal growing conditions.

Choosing the right variety may be as simple as selecting the universally popular heirloom variety ‘Wonderful’ (1898), or picking the right-sized variety for your landscape or patio.

Top Varieties of Pomegranates for Western Gardens

‘Wonderful’: The most commonly grown commercial variety preferred by those who grow for juice.

‘Ambrosia’: Identical to ‘Wonderful’ except its fruit is three times larger.

‘Sweet’: Preferred for cooler summer climates and container culture.

‘Eversweet’: An early seedless variety ideal for short growing seasons further north or at higher elevations of foothills.

‘Pink Satin’: A super sweet, semi-seedless variety for eating out of hand.

‘Red Silk’: A dwarf selection (6′) perfect for small city gardens or for containers on the patio, conservatory, courtyard, or greenhouse.

‘Kashmir Blend’: Fruits have a complex flavor favored by connoisseurs and chefs.

Healthy, ripe pomegranates look colorful and beautiful on the branch.

With so many pomegranate varieties emerging from around the world, consider it a jumping-off point to find the optimal fit for your yard. Before you take the plunge, inquire at a local garden center or with a local extension agent for the varieties best suited to your climate to ensure plentiful fruiting.

The American Southwest is an optimal location to grow pomegranates as both decorative garden or productive home orchard plants. Reach back into the Old World to cultivate this ancient crop now updated to become the arid zone’s favorite edible tree, second only to the date palm.

About Maureen Gilmer

Maureen Gilmer is celebrating her 40th year in California horticulture and photojournalism as the most widely published professional in the state. She is the author of 21 books on gardening, design and the environment, is a widely published photographer, and syndicated with Tribune Content Agency. She is the weekly horticultural columnist for the Desert Sun newspaper in Palm Springs and contributes to Desert Magazine, specializing on arid zone plants and practices for a changing climate. She works and lives in the remote high desert for firsthand observations of native species. Her latest book is The Colorful Dry Garden published by Sasquatch Books. When not writing or photographing she is out exploring the desert on her Arabian horse. She lives in Morongo Valley with her husband Jim and two rescue pit bulls. When not writing or photographing she is usually out riding her quarter horse.

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