- Ask Mr. Smarty Plants
- Understanding The American Persimmon
- Understanding Persimmon Production
- When to Scout for Persimmons
- Encourage Fruit Production
- Persimmon Tree Care
- Pruning a Young Persimmon Tree
- How to prune a Jiro persimmon with lots of water sprouts
- Perspectives on Persimmons
- Persimmon (Diospyros)
- Persimmon Tree Not Fruiting: Reasons A Persimmon Tree Has No Flowers Or Fruit
- Help, My Persimmon Tree is Not Bearing Fruit!
- Persimmon Tree Has No Flowers
- Reasons for No Fruit on a Persimmon Tree
- Fertility Enchancement
- Sex Change
- Soft, Sweet and Tempting
- Persimmon Varieties
- Planting Persimmon
- Caring for Persimmons
- Persimmon Problems and Solutions
- Companions for Persimmons
- Harvesting and Storing Persimmon
Ask Mr. Smarty Plants
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Most plants are hermaphroditic: Each individual has male and female organs. An exception is the persimmon tree, which belongs to a small group of plants that are dioecious — that is, one sex or the other. Females need pollen from male trees to produce fruit.
Now, researchers from California and Japan have discovered how sex is determined in a tree called the Caucasian persimmon, or Diospyros lotus.
They analyzed the DNA sequences of the male and female trees in an orchard in Japan and identified a gene, MeGI, that is a neutering agent in female trees by repressing pollen production. Male trees, they found, carry a gene, OGI, that counters the effect of MeGI and allows production of pollen, said Luca Comai, a plant biologist at the University of California, Davis, and an author of the study, which appears in Science.
The discovery could help scientists manipulate and improve hybrid species, Dr. Comai said.
“To make hybrids, you have to prevent plants from self-pollinating,” he said. “What better way than to make one plant a male and one a female?”
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About J. Wayne Fears
The Common Persimmon
Early in my career, I was bowhunting with Fred Bear on a remote private farm. We were scouting along a grown up fencerow, looking for a cut in the fence where the landowner told us a nice 9-point buck was known to cross. Our conversation came to an abrupt halt when Fred suddenly stopped and looked up. “Here is what I have been looking for,” he stated. I looked up to see a tree loaded with persimmons.
Fred selected a thicket to build a ground blind where the woods came up to the fence. Sure enough, within a couple of days he had the 9-pointer, and I had a new appreciation for the soft mast we call persimmons. Deer love this fruit when it ripens and falls to the ground in the autumn. It is usually available under the tree for a month or more, as only a few persimmons fall at a time.
|The mature female common persimmon tree in full sunlight can produce a lot of food for deer.|
Although deer browse the leaves and twigs of the common persimmon, the tree’s greatest benefit to deer and other wildlife comes from its orange, oval fruit. This colorful fruit is about the diameter of a quarter and is high in carbohydrates, starches, iron, potassium, sugar, and vitamin C. The fruit ripens on the tree after the first frost, so in the fall, it is a high energy source for deer that helps them build body reserves for the winter. Ripe persimmons start dropping during September in northern states and in late October or November in the South, just in time for early bow season.
I have received a lot of emails from Whitetails Unlimited readers wanting to know more about persimmons and asking if they can be managed in or around food plots. Here is the good and the bad.
Common persimmon (Diospyros virginiana), also called simmon, American ebony, butterwood, or possumwood, is found in USDA plant zones 4-9, from southern Connecticut and Long Island to southern Florida; westward through central Pennsylvania, southern Ohio, southern Indiana, and central Illinois to southeast Iowa; and south through eastern Kansas and Oklahoma, to the valley of the Colorado River in Texas. According to the Natural Resources Conservation Service, it does not grow in the main range of the Appalachian Mountains, nor in much of the oak-hickory forest type on the Allegheny Plateau. It develops best in the rich bottomlands of the Mississippi River and its tributaries, and in coastal river valleys. It is exceedingly common in the South Atlantic and Gulf States, often covering deserted fields with a shrubby growth, and springing up by the sides of roads and fences. It is frequently the first tree species to start growth on abandoned and denuded cropland. It is well-adapted to an environment of high sun exposure and low water supply.
The wood is close grained and sometimes used for special products requiring hardness and strength. However, persimmon is much better known for its fruit. When ripe, the fruit is a food enjoyed by people as well as many species of wildlife. The glossy, leathery leaves make the persimmon tree a nice one for landscaping, but it is not easily transplanted because of the taproot. The common persimmon is relatively long-lived and grows to a height of 40 feet or more.
|Ripe persimmons compared to a quarter.|
It is important to remember that persimmon trees are dioecious, meaning a tree is either male or female. Only the female persimmon tree bears fruit. I have a friend in Virginia who found a tall growing persimmon tree along the edge of an abandoned field in a national forest. He spent much time and money fertilizing the “secret” tree for three years. He couldn’t understand why it never bore fruit. During the fourth year he took a forester with him to take a look at the tree … it was a male tree.
Determining the sex of a tree cannot be done until it is mature, usually 10 years of age or more. One method of sexing a tree is to examine the flowers; flowers hanging in clusters of two to six indicates a male, whereas each flower on a female tree hangs alone on its own stem. A much easier way is to search the woods in late summer or early fall to find trees that bear fruit.
Planting in Food Lots or Along Food Plot Edges
Planting persimmon trees as a food lot is a long-term proposition. When you purchase your seedlings, the sex of each tree is probably not going to be known. It will be 10 years or more before you will find out how many of your trees are female, and it is a safe assumption that only 50% or less will be fruit-producing females. Also, it will be another 10 to 15 years before the female trees produce fruit every year, since young trees usually only produce fruit every other year.
The common persimmon, left, compared to a Japanese persimmon. Donât let the size fool you when selecting varieties to plant; remember ,the Japanese fruit do not fall to the ground easily.
Still, if you want to plant a food lot of persimmon trees, or plant a few around the edges of your food plots, you can purchase seedlings and establish them with a little work. You will want to purchase seedlings that are from 18 to 36 inches tall. Be sure to plant during the late fall or winter when the seedlings are dormant. While many land managers like to plant their persimmon seedlings along a fencerow where they would naturally occur, others like to plant six trees in a diamond-shaped grove, space permitting, about 10-feet apart. There should be seedlings of both sexes in each grove. This type of grove keeps the male and a female trees close for pollination, and provides a lot of food when the fruit is falling.
When planting seedlings, it is important to dig a large enough hole to prevent “J” rooting the seedling and provide natural root placement. These delicate young roots are sensitive, and when crowded, the result is usually a dead seedling.
Keep competing weeds and brush cut during the first few years of the tree’s life. Fertilize annually according to soil test recommendations or as stated for wild trees at right.
Seedlings can be purchased from several dealers found on the Internet. A dependable source I have used is The Wildlife Group (www.wildlifegroup.com) and at this writing, bare-root seedlings 24 to 36 inches tall cost $3.00 each (plus shipping).
The question that often comes up with planting persimmons is, if it takes so long for common persimmons to grow to fruit-producing maturity, why not plant the fast maturing (usually 3-4 years of age) Japanese persimmon, Fuyu or Jiro. It is true that these two Japanese persimmons produce fruit soon after planting, and in the case of the Fuyu the fruit is as large as a baseball. They can be grown in USDA plant zones 6-10. However, these persimmons do not readily fall from the tree when ripe and must be hand-picked, putting them out of reach for deer.
Management of Wild Trees
Once you have located a wild growing persimmon tree and made sure it is a female, managing the tree is not difficult. Like most trees, the persimmon does best and bears more fruit when it is not crowded and gets plenty of sunlight. If necessary, clear out competing trees by cutting. The wild tree will be most productive when in full sunlight.
Each spring, fertilize the tree along the drip line according to a soil test recommendation. If you do not have a soil test, fertilize the tree at a rate of 100 pounds per acre of 5-10-15 fertilizer.
The common persimmon is just one plant in the wildlife manager’s bag of tricks. It is not a one-tree-does-all and does not grow well in all parts of the white-tailed deer range, but it can be an option for stand placement and food for deer.
J. Wayne Fears, the Food Plot Doctor, is one of the pioneers who helped develop food plot practices that are common today. Now, his decades of experience are available to Whitetails Unlimited members. J. Wayne uses questions from our readers as the basis for his column as the Food Plot Doctor. Just email your questions to . The Food Plot Doctor columns will be archived on the WTU website, so you can go back to them for reference in the future.
Unfortunately, J. Wayne will not be able to respond to emails individually, but will find common themes from your questions to write about. So get busy, find that thing that’s been driving you crazy, or that one topic on which everyone else seems to have directly opposite opinions, and let J. Wayne give you the straight scoop.
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Understanding The American Persimmon
Many of us know how attractive the American persimmon can be to wildlife, especially whitetail deer. But how many of us have spent numerous hours in the field scouting for these fruit-bearing trees only to find a large persimmon tree with no fruit on it at all?
Understanding Persimmon Production
What many people are unaware of is that the American persimmon tree can be either a male or a female; females produce fruit, and males produce pollen. Determining a persimmon tree’s sex until it actually begins flowering and producing is impossible. So it’s important to do some scouting during the right time of year to figure out which trees are male and which are female.
When to Scout for Persimmons
Late summer/early fall is a great time to let persimmons tell you whether they’re male or female. Pre-season scouting will allow you to flag the fruit-bearing persimmons so you can come back to the “flagged” trees during hunting season. You can also look for calyxes on the ground. The calyx is the woody portion that’s attached to the mature fruits.
Encourage Fruit Production
GameKeepers can also increase wildlife utilization by returning to the “flagged” trees during the spring for removal of competing vegetation and fertilization. Vegetation removal can be as simple as using a backpack sprayer to control unwanted vegetation. Once you’ve removed the vegetation, fertilizing the tree is another great way to help persimmons increase fruit production in the future.
Nativ Nurseries has a selection of Rapid Mast Fruit trees that are an outstanding source of vitamins and minerals for wildlife. In addition, they are exceptionally attractive, maintenance free, and can be a great spot to hang a trail camera.
For more GameKeeper tips on trees check out “4 Tips When Planting Trees For Wildlife.” Various mast-producing trees such as oaks and fruit trees are a great way to provide additional food to the wildlife on your property in key areas. Keep these tips in mind to ensure success.
This tip is courtesy of the GameKeepers Field Notes, a weekly wildlife and land management email newsletter produced by the Mossy Oak GameKeepers.
A GameKeeper by definition is someone who truly loves AND lives the land, the critters and nature…not just during hunting season but all the time. A GameKeeper wants to be outdoors every day and work the dirt while living their personal “obsession”.
Find out more about what makes a GameKeeper by visiting our website.
Persimmon Tree Care
A persimmon is the edible fruit of a number of species of trees in the genus Diospyros. Persimmons are generally light yellow orange to dark red orange in colour, and depending on the species, vary in size and may be spherical, acorn or pumpkin shaped. The calyx often remains attached to the fruit after harvesting, but becomes easier to remove as it ripens. They are high in glucose, with a balanced protein profile, and possess various medicinal and chemical uses.
Like the tomato, it is not considered a “common berry”, but is in fact a “true berry” by definition.
View in Plant Library Persimmon
Location: Full sun with some air movement is recommended for persimmon trees in inland areas, although they will tolerate some partial shade. Persimmons grown in cooler areas should have full sun with protection from cooling breezes. As an attractive ornamental the tree fits well in the landscape. It does not compete well with eucalyptus.
Soil: Persimmons can withstand a wide rage of conditions as long as the soil is not overly salty, but does best in deep, well drained loam. A pH range of 6.5 to 7.5 is preferred. The tree has a strong tap root which may mean digging a deeper hole than usual when planting.
Irrigation: Persimmon trees will withstand short periods of drought, but the fruit will be larger and of higher quality with regular watering. Extreme drought will cause the leaves and fruit to drop prematurely. Any fruit left on the tree will probably sunburn.
Fertilization: Most trees do well with a minimum of fertilizing. Excess nitrogen can cause fruit drop. If mature leaves are not deep green and shoot growth is less than a foot per year, apply a balanced fertilizer such as a 10-10-10 at a rate of l pound per inch of trunk diameter at ground level. Spread the fertilizer evenly under the canopy in late winter or early spring.
1. Persimmons are successfully grown in deep, well-drained slightly acidic soil. A location that receives full sun is ideal for the tree although partial shade may be tolerated.
2. The persimmon has a strong tap root so it requires a deeper planting hole than most trees. Persimmon roots are normally black and should not be considered diseased or dead. The depth of the planting hole is determined by the root system if planting a bare root specimen. If the transplant is containerized, dig the hole 4 times the width of the root ball and 1 1/2 half times the depth.
3. Position the tree in the planting hole and back fill a small portion of soil to stabilize. Fill the hole with water and allow the root ball and soil to absorb.
4. Back fill the remaining original soil and water again deeply. Persimmon roots grow slowly and require regular watering when newly transplanted.
5. Mulch the entire planting area
Persimmons can be classified into two general categories: those that bear astringent fruit until they are soft ripe and those that bear non astringent fruits. Within each of these categories, there are cultivars whose fruits are influenced by pollination (pollination variant) and cultivars whose fruits are unaffected by pollination (pollination constant). Actually, it is the seeds, not pollination that influences the fruit.
An astringent cultivar must be jelly soft before it is fit to eat, and such cultivars are best adapted to cooler regions where persimmons can be grown. The flesh color of pollination-constant astringent cultivars is not influenced by pollination. Pollination-variant astringent cultivars have dark flesh around the seeds when pollinated.
A non astringent persimmon can be eaten when it is crisp as an apple. These cultivars need hot summers, and the fruit might retain some astringency when grown in cooler regions. Pollination-constant non astringent persimmons are always edible when still firm; pollination-variant non astringent fruit are edible when firm only if they have been pollinated.
The shape of the fruit varies by cultivar from spherical to acorn to flattened or squarish. The color of the fruit varies from light yellow-orange to dark orange-red. The size can be as little as a few ounces to more than a pound. The entire fruit is edible except for the seed and calyx. Alternate bearing is common. This can be partially overcome by thinning the fruit or moderately pruning after a light-crop year. Freezing the fruit overnight and then thawing softens the fruit and also removes the astringency. Unharvested fruit remaining on the tree after leaf fall creates a very decorative effect. It is common for many immature fruit to drop from May to September
Harvest astringent varieties when they are hard but fully colored. They will soften on the tree and improve in quality, but you will probably lose many fruit to the birds. Astringent persimmons will ripen off the tree if stored at room temperature.
Non astringent persimmons are ready to harvest when they are fully colored, but for best flavor, allow them to soften slightly after harvest. Both kinds of persimmons should be cut from the tree with hand-held pruning shears, leaving the calyx intact Unless the fruit is to be used for drying whole, the stems should be cut as close to the fruit as possible. Even though the fruit is relatively hard when harvested, it will bruise easily, so handle with care.
Mature, hard astringent persimmons can be stored in the refrigerator for at least a month. They can also be frozen for 6 to 8 months. Non astringent persimmons can be stored for a short period at room temperature. They will soften if kept with other fruit in the refrigerator. Persimmons also make an excellent dried fruit. They can either be peeled and dried whole or cut into slices (peeled or unpeeled) and dried that way. When firm astringent persimmons are peeled and dried whole they lose all their astringency and develop a sweet, date like consistency.
General Pruning Care
The ideal time for pruning persimmon, is in late winter or early in spring. Using a sharp pair of shears, cut out the broken and diseased branches, and then cut them back till you reach the the trunk of the tree.
Prune persimmon trees to develop a strong framework of main branches while the tree is young. Otherwise the fruit, which is borne at the tips of the branches, may be too heavy and cause breakage. A regular program of removal of some new growth and heading others each year will improve structure and reduce alternate bearing. An open vase system is probably best. Even though the trees grow well on their own, persimmons can be pruned heavily as a hedge, as a screen, or to control size. They even make a nice espalier. Cut young trees back to 1/2 high (or about 3 feet) at the time of planting.
Pests and Diseases
Persimmons are relatively problem-free, although mealybug and scale in association with ants can sometimes cause problems. Ant control will usually take care of these pests. Other occasional pests include white flies, thrips which can cause skin blemishes and a mite that is blamed for the “brown lace collar” near the calyx. Water logging can also cause root rot. Vertebrate pests such as squirrels, deer, coyotes, rats, opossums and birds are fond of the fruit and gophers will attack the roots. Other problems include blossom and young fruit shedding, especially on young trees. This is not usually a serious problem, but if the drop is excessive, it may be useful to try girdling a few branches. Over watering or over fertilization may also be responsible. Large quantities of small fruit on an otherwise healthy tree can be remedied by removing all but one or two fruit per twig in May or June.
Pruning a Young Persimmon Tree
Pruning a young persimmon tree is very important to the overall development of the tree as it begins to grow and yield fruit. The pruning will help get rid of unnecessary new branches and will let the tree concentrate on growing rather than spreading out.
Prune Once a Year
Make it a point to prune you persimmon tree at the same time each year. This can be either in late winter or early spring. Use this time to remove old and diseased branches. Pruning will help new growth begin as it comes out of a frost period.
Prune in a Pyramid Shape
For best growth and fruit production, you should prune the tree in the shape of pyramid or vase. The limbs should be about 3 feet from the ground and need at least 1 foot of space between limbs.
Remove Cross Branches
You should remove cross branches and those through the center of the tree.
Fruit Is on New Growth
Remember that the fruit grows on the tree’s new growth. Pruning will help stimulate that growth but remember not to get carried away when you prune. Leave 2/3 of the growth on the tree so you will have a more mature healthy tree with better fruit.
How to prune a Jiro persimmon with lots of water sprouts
It looks like you removed so much of the tree that it has put out a lot of new growth. (Don’t remove more than a 1/4th of a tree at one time.) You’ll want to clean up this growth (see bold below). Over a couple of years, try to get it closer to what is described below.
Also, when pruning, try to cut back one branch to the juncture where it is attached to a larger branch. If you must cut in the middle of a branch, try to limit this to small branches.
Here is how you prune a persimmon for maximum production:
Shape young plants by pruning the shoots during the first few seasons. This pruning forces growth into framework branches off a central leader. The goal is to develop a pyramid shape with three to five main limbs at about 1-foot intervals on the trunk, beginning at about 3 feet above ground level.
Prune mature plants during the winter. Remove crossover, shaded, diseased, and broken branches. Open the canopy to prevent self shading, reduce excessively vigorous shoot growth, and regulate crop load. Remove limbs with narrow crotches because they create dead areas on the limbs; preserve limbs that grow off the leader at wide angles. Persimmon fruit develops on branches that have grown in the current season. To keep the limbs from drooping, prune secondary branches so that the bearing shoots remain close to the main branches.
Perspectives on Persimmons
By SCMG Bryce Sumner
I always have been attracted to persimmons in late autumn and early winter–trees leafless and full of contrasts, the bright orange fruit against dark branches. Years ago, when a Dutch friend gifted me her pudding steamer and old family recipe, I began gleaning the fruit from friends’ trees and baking like crazy for the holidays. And, the fruit was lovely, just by itself, displayed in a large glass bowl. But I knew nothing about growing them until, four years ago, my husband gave me a persimmon tree for Christmas. I have been learning ever since.
Persimmons are beautifully suited to Sonoma County gardens. Unlike most fruit trees, they need little winter chill. They blossom later than most, avoiding frost danger. The fruit ripens in November when most other fruits have come and gone. And, for the smaller garden they have the added advantage of not needing cross-pollination. A single tree will produce fruit. Trees are highly ornamental. In addition to the vivid orange fruit, the leaves turn eye-catching colors of red, orange and/or yellow before the fall leaf drop.
The ‘Hachiya’ and the ‘Fuyu’ are two cultivars of the Japanese or Oriental persimmon (Diospyros kaki) that do well in our county. The ‘Hachiya,’ shaped a bit like an acorn, is highly astringent (containing tannin) and must be ripened until soft before eaten. The birds love these ‘softies,’ so pick them when they are full of color but still firm and let them finish ripening in your kitchen at room temperature. The ‘Fuyu’ produces a flat roundish shaped fruit that is non-astringent and needs no softening. Let this cultivar come to full color (fully orange or orange-red) on the tree.
Persimmons are relatively disease and pest free. While they are more tolerant of clay than many fruit trees, I learned the hard way that soil preparation makes a big difference. Your tree will be happier and produce more fruit if, at planting time, you amend the clay with compost to create a rich loamy texture. Good drainage is a must. Choose a spot out of the wind, in full sun and with enough space. A ‘Fuyu’ needs 14 to 16 feet and the ‘Hachiya’ a bit more – 20 feet of garden room. The Diospyros kaki has a strong tap root and will appreciate a hole cultivated deeper than usual. At this time, also reduce a new bare root tree’s height to 3 feet. December and January are the perfect months to plant. Bare Root Fruit Trees provides more planting information.
Prune a young persimmon to encourage an open vase growth habit – a pattern of strong main branches. All the fruit it bears will need this support. As the tree grows, prune out dead or crossing branches and any suckers below the graft line. A persimmon will grow naturally as a single or multi-stemmed deciduous tree, but you can also hard prune and turn it into an attractive hedge or espalier–excellent design possibilities for a small garden.
Persimmons are considered drought- resistant but I have found regular water beginning in late spring and throughout the summer increases fruit production. They need 36 to 48 inches of water per year. So, irrigation amounts will depend on our local rainfall. Some say to start gradually in spring and taper off in fall.
Inconsistent watering causes fruit to drop. When using drip, take care to move emitters away from trunks as they grow.
Fertilizing can be kept to a minimum. In late winter or early spring, feed your persimmon by spreading a balanced 10-10-10 fertilizer evenly under the canopy. Too much nitrogen will cause fruit to drop. Healthy mature leaves will be a deep, glossy green.
When you are ready to harvest — usually November in Sonoma County — resist the urge to snap off the fruit. Instead use hand clippers, cutting the stem close to the calyx. Both the ‘Fuyu’ and the ‘Hachiya’ varieties can be picked when they are in full color and firm but the astringent ‘Hachiya,’ as I mentioned earlier, will need to be further ripened at room temperature until softened. It is possible to stop further softening of the ‘Hachiya’ by refrigeration. However, I usually leave mine out. As each ripens, I freeze the pulp in zip lock bags. When needed for puddings or homemade yogurt, I thaw the pulp in the microwave. Persimmons are a good source of vitamins A, C and potassium.
This winter I plan to add a dwarf variety in my Petaluma garden.
Persimmon Tree Not Fruiting: Reasons A Persimmon Tree Has No Flowers Or Fruit
If you live in one of the warmer regions of the United States, perhaps you are lucky enough to have a persimmon tree in your garden. Not so lucky if your persimmon tree is not fruiting. What could be the reason for no fruit on a persimmon tree, and is there a remedy for non-blooming persimmon trees?
Help, My Persimmon Tree is Not Bearing Fruit!
Before attacking the reason behind a persimmon tree that isn’t bearing fruit, it’s a wise idea to know a little about the proper planting of the tree. First of all, persimmons are only rarely self-pollinating, as each tree bears only male or female flowers. The exceptions are some of the oriental varieties, which are capable of producing fruit from each gender. Depending upon the varietal, you may need to plant two or more trees.
Next, persimmon trees are sensitive to cold; temperatures that dip below 10 degrees F. (-17 C.) can damage the tree and any tender buds. They grow best in USDA growing zones 7-10 and will go dormant in the winter months. Persimmons also don’t do well in ultra-sweltering hot, desert-like conditions.
Plant the tree in an area with good drainage, as standing water has an adverse effect on fruit production. Plant the trees 20 feet apart or so; the trees will attain heights of between 20-30 feet. Persimmons like mildly acidic soil of around 6.5 to 7.5 pH. Cut the tree down to about three feet at planting and continue to prune for the first few years to maintain a vase shape.
Use a 10-10-10 or 16-16-16 fertilizer in February or March. Keep the trees watered, especially during spring into the fall. Keep in mind that healthy trees grow up to a foot a year but can take up to 7 to 10 years to produce fruit, so be patient.
Persimmon Tree Has No Flowers
If your persimmon tree has no flowers, don’t despair. When the tree blooms for the first time and when it flowers each season varies depending upon the variety, whether it was grown from seed or grafted and local weather conditions. Oriental persimmons bloom after five years but do not bear fruit until after seven years. Grafted trees bloom within two to three years. American persimmon may take several years to blossom and still not fruit for up to 10 years.
Both American and Oriental persimmons have alternate year blooming and fruiting. This means that you will get a large crop of small fruit one year and in the successive year, a small crop of larger fruit. Both varieties bloom in the late spring but the actual timing is dependent upon the weather which may also account for non-blooming persimmon trees.
Occasionally, a lack of phosphorus may be responsible for non blooming. This can be remedied by adding some bone meal to the soil around your tree.
Reasons for No Fruit on a Persimmon Tree
So to recap, a persimmon tree that isn’t blooming could be due to a number of factors. Does it need a pollinating buddy? Perhaps, you need to plant a tree of the opposite sex. Does the plant have adequate irrigation and nutrition? Overwatering will also affect blossom set.
What type of tree is it? Different varieties bloom and fruit at different times and some take longer to mature and fruit than others.
Also, has the tree been damaged at the grafting point? Sometimes it takes many years for the tree to recover from damage of any kind, if at all. If this is the final answer and you want a fruiting plant, it might be a good idea to dig it out and replant. Or replant in a different area and enjoy the beautiful foliage and shape of the persimmon as a specimen and shade tree.
If you think this is about people having sex in the woods, I’m sorry to disappoint. It’s about persimmon trees having sex in the woods. Far less interesting, I know, at least until hunting season arrives and it’s time to locate stands. Most of us know that deer are drawn to persimmon fruit as surely as your eye was drawn to the word “sex” in the title of this post. Fewer know there are male and female persimmon trees, and, as you might guess, only the female trees bear persimmon fruit.
It’s relatively easy to learn to pick out persimmons in the forest based on their simple, glossy leaves (sometimes splotched with black) and, in mature trees, the distinctive, charcoal-colored, checkered bark. However, if you hang your stand over a male persimmon tree, it’s going to be a quiet hunt.
Fruit, of course, is a dead give-away that you are looking at a female persimmon. Absence of fruit doesn’t necessarily mean a tree is a male. It could be a bad year for mast production, the tree might be in a location with poor resources (sunlight, soil nutrients and moisture), or it could just be an immature female that isn’t producing fruit yet. You can also safely “sex” a persimmon in spring, when the trees are bearing flowers, as each sex produces a distinct flower.
If you happen on a persimmon tree in the spring, check for flowers. You’ll find them on this spring’s new growth that is emerging from one-year-old limbs. The flowers form in the axils of the new growth – that’s the angle between a leafstalk and the branch the leaf is attached to (see the photo in the gallery below). Female flowers are slightly larger than males, and they are attached closer to the branch, because as the fruit forms and becomes heavy, a strong anchor to the branch will be necessary (again, more photos in the gallery). In contrast, male flowers dangle on a stem and almost appear like tiny bells (I promise I’m trying to keep this G-rated). Male flowers also have a “calyx” (the leaf-like cup that holds the flower) that is smaller than the flower. In females, the calyx is roughly equal in size to the flower. Finally, male flowers occasionally, but not always, form in clusters of two or more hanging from the same axil. Female flowers do not. If you see dangling persimmon flowers in a cluster of two or more, it’s a male tree.
So, get out there now and find female persimmons and flag them. If they’re large enough, or growing in groups, you have a great stand site for hunting season.
Let’s take this one step further, though, and get into active habitat management. Think about what I said about flowers – they form on new growth emerging from one-year-old wood. Therefore, a female tree in a crowded canopy or shady understory is naturally going to produce less fruit because it doesn’t have room or resources for a lot of new growth each spring. If you find a tree like this, crank the chainsaw and give the tree some room, more sunlight, and command of the moisture and soil nutrients within reach of its root system. This makes it possible for the tree to put on more new growth next spring, resulting in greater potential for fruit production. This applies to planting new persimmon trees as well. Always plant them, just as you should with any tree seedling, in full sunlight with plenty of space for crown growth. Full, healthy, expanding crowns will mean space on the tree for fruit production.
Interestingly, a male persimmon can be given a “gender reassignment” and made to bear fruit. Grafting is the ticket. During winter, “scion” wood is clipped off a known female and grafted onto a male seedling. Thereafter, any growth from the male base is suppressed and the female graft is allowed to become dominant. The result is a tree with male roots and a female crown that bears persimmon fruit. It’s actually not that difficult to do this. You’ll find instructions for persimmon grafting here.
Soft, Sweet and Tempting
If you find female persimmons this spring or summer and “release” them from competition, check back in the fall and taste the fruits of your labor. As a warning in case you don’t know, unripe persimmons are so bitter you will never again make the mistake of biting into one, but once they soften and turn ripe, they are uniquely delicious. Taste a ripe one and you will understand why whitetails, and a lot of other wildlife, go out of their way for persimmons.
I remember the first time I bit into a persimmon. I got adventurous at the grocery store and bought a whole case of them on sale even though I’m not a huge fan of fruit. It was around the holidays, so cheap fruit was scarce.
When I sliced into my first persimmon it became apparent that it was one of the simpler fruits to prep. There aren’t chunky seeds or inedible parts to get in the way. So I took a bite, and what stood out to me was how sweet it was.
In fact, it’s one of the sweetest fruits I can remember tasting. Sweeter than pineapple or mango, with virtually no acidity. I remember telling my husband, whose love of sweets knows no bounds, “this is like candy!” Its name (Diospyros spp.) is Greek for “fruit of the gods,” and that’s fitting given the luscious flavor.
Since then, I knew I needed to be growing persimmons in my backyard. Lucky for me, the pretty plants are much more trouble-free than other fruits.
Wondering which variety to plant in your yard? Here are a few smart options.
Japanese persimmons (Diospyros kaki) are sweeter than American ones, and many trees are self-pollinating (though not all). They grow 25-30 feet tall and thrive in zones 7-10.
- Fuyu – This Japanese persimmon variety looks a lot like a tomato and is the kind most often found at your local supermarket. It’s sweet and has firm, crisp flesh, which makes it great for eating right off the tree.
- Hachiyama – A small-sized persimmon that sweetens only when ripe and soft.
- Jiro – This plant has a drooping, languid appearance that makes it a popular ornamental. You can make tea from the leaves, and the fruit is squarish and sweet.
- Ormond – Know as the Christmas persimmon, this type is ready to harvest in January with juicy, orange-red fruits.
- Saijo – This type is considered the sweetest of all. The tree is a heavy producer, and it’s cold hardy.
- Chocolate: A darker colored, brownish persimmon that doesn’t get its name from its coloring but its subtle cocoa flavoring. Also known as Tsuru Noko.
American persimmons (Diospyros virginiana) are bitter when unripe. The trees grow larger than Asian varieties, reaching 35-50 feet tall. They’re more cold hardy than Japanese types and grow in zones 4-11.
- Taylor – A cold-hardy variety that can survive even harsh winter conditions, down to -40°F. They have a pronounced sweetness wrapped in a small package.
- Yates – This is a self-pollinating type native to Indiana. It resists pests and diseases and has an apricot-like flavor.
- Prok – Prok is larger than other American types and it ripens in September until late fall. Self-pollinating.
Persimmons do well in southern climates, but there are varieties out there that are bred to handle cold conditions. Depending on the type, they grow in zones 4-11.
Soil and Sun Requirements
Persimmons like loamy, fertile, well-drained soil with a pH between 6.5-7.5. Trees prefer full sun to be productive, but they can also handle part shade. In places with sweltering summers, shade in the afternoon is ideal. Too much darkness, though, and they will get leggy and develop weak branches.
When to Plant
Plant persimmons in the early spring or late winter.
Growing in Containers
Some persimmons do well in pots. In fact, it’s probably a good idea to find a large container if you’re growing persimmons in a northern climate. That way, you can bring the plant in during the winter or when night-time temps drop too low.
Grafts or Seeds?
You can buy persimmons grown from seed or grafts. Grafted trees bear fruit quicker, so when you’re out shopping for a persimmon, that’s something to consider. On the other hand, seed-grown varieties tend to be hardier in the cold.
It’s also possible to start growing persimmons from seed. Begin the process about 5 months before the last frost in your area. Store seeds in moist sand in the refrigerator for 3 months, frequently checking to make sure they’re staying wet. Then, plant seeds 1-inch deep in a peat pot prepped with planting soil. Place near a window or under grow lights and keep between 55-70°F.
Once plants are 4-5 inches tall and have several true leaves, harden them off for 2 weeks before planting in a permanent location.
Plan for Pollination
In some cases, you’ll need two persimmon trees to harvest fruit, though many varieties are self-pollinating. If you’re growing persimmons that require a second tree for pollinating, be sure to plant them at least 20 feet apart.
There’s some wisdom that says gardeners may be able to plant a male and female tree close together and aggressively prune the male tree, so that it’s there to blossom and help with pollination. If you have the room for two trees, I’d suggest spacing the trees out accordingly.
Plant trees 20-25 feet apart.
Caring for Persimmons
Persimmon trees don’t mind a bit of drought, but long periods without water will kill them. Avoid waterlogging the soil around your tree, as well, which can also be deadly. Give trees 10 minutes of soaking once a week during warmer months.
Mulch around the base of a growing persimmon tree to retain moisture and keep weeds away, but don’t mulch directly around the trunk. Keep a bit of distance to prevent root rot and waterlogging.
It’s not enough to make visual observations and diagnose nutrient imbalance issues. Get your soil tested! As long as everything looks normal, a balanced fertilizer is the best option for this type of fruit tree.
If you do decide to fertilize, do it in the early spring or late winter. Avoid a high nitrogen fertilizer as this may cause problems with your tree (e.g., fruit or blossom drop). Apply 5-10 pounds of organic fertilizer.
Remove any stems or parts of the persimmon tree that appears unhealthy. Prune weak branches to reduce the number of fruits the tree bears. Too much fruit will weigh down branches.
Persimmon Problems and Solutions
Persimmons are relatively problem free, but you might run into a few issues.
- No fruit: Do you have two female or male trees on your hands? Perhaps you only planted one tree? Remember that some persimmons require 2 or more trees in order for the blossoms to be pollinated and bear fruit. The lack of fruit may also be a temperature issue. If it’s too cold, your tree may have gone dormant for the winter. Too hot and your tree may be too stressed to produce fruit. Otherwise, your tree may be too young to bear fruit. Be patient.
- No blossoms: Blooming time varies depending on the variety of persimmon tree. It may also be too soon to expect flowers. Certain varieties take several years to bear fruit. A nutrient imbalance may also be the cause, but before addressing a potential problem, be sure to test your soil.
- Trees are dying: Time to whip out your trusty checklist, which will apply to most plants in a garden. First, check that the soil is not waterlogged and causing root rot. Next, is your soil providing needed nutrients? If in doubt, get a soil test. Check for pest damage and consider the recent weather happenings.
Also known as leaf or twig blight, this fungal disease is recognizable by the black spots it creates on leaves. Lower branches on the tree may die, but your tree will probably survive. Pick up any leaf litter, keep the area around your tree weeded and clean tools like pruners before using them. Cut and burn infected branches and water in the morning so leaves have time to dry.
Persimmon Trunk Borer
The persimmon trunk borer is a small insect that, as the name implies, bores into the trunks of trees. Usually, they target the bottom of the tree. You can control this pest naturally if you have the patience to dig out the insects with a sharp tool.
Whiteflies are small, gnat-like insects with white wings that typically target leaves and suck sap from foliage. If you don’t spot the bugs first, you’ll definitely notice that the leaves of your tree are turning yellow. Use whitefly traps to control them.
Another winged insect that feeds on many types of plants, thrips are also controlled via traps.
Persimmon and Verticillium Wilt
This is a fungus that can be fatal to persimmon trees in just a few years. Branches will die off, and leaves will wilt and fall, starting at the top of the tree and moving down. Unfortunately, you’ll need to dig up and destroy impacted trees and solarize the soil.
Nematodes cause galls on roots that prevent the tree from getting water. They generally won’t kill a tree, but if you struggle with this pest, consider planting resistant varieties.
Armillaria Root Rot
This fungus starts at the base of the tree and slowly grows up the trunk. It can stunt tree growth. Remove any fungus that you see growing and sterilize your tools before using. Keep plants appropriately watered to keep root rot at bay.
Companions for Persimmons
The best companion for most persimmon tree varieties is another persimmon tree! You’ll need a male and female tree to encourage pollination. Want to grow something else nearby? Here are a few other beneficial companions for your exotic fruit tree:
- Flowering herbs like mint, chives, borage, and comfrey.
- Flowering plants that might attract pollinators, like marigold, or calendula.
Avoid anything that will compete for space and nutrients with your persimmon tree. Walnut trees are particularly bad companions for persimmons.
Harvesting and Storing Persimmon
Harvest time for persimmons depend on the variety you’ve planted and climate you’re living in. They’re generally ready 2-3 years after planting. American-type persimmons taste best once the flesh is soft.
Some Japanese persimmons can also be best eaten when soft, so you’ll need to check care info for the specific variety you’ve planted to verify whether your persimmon tree’s fruits are tasty when the flesh is still crisp.
With hard-fleshed, non-astringent varieties, the fruit typically changes slightly in appearance when ready for harvest. It may even fall from the tree, but fruits are easily damaged, and the sweet tasting persimmons are easy targets for hungry ground mammals.
Leave the short pedicel in place when picking persimmons.
Once picked, persimmons will stay fresh for a few weeks in the fridge or a few days left out. Varieties that are best eaten soft can be left to ripen after picking. Some varieties may spoil quicker than others.
Even if you don’t love the fruits, the trees are beautiful in the garden thanks to the dark green leaves and pungent flowers. Although they’re amazing fresh off the tree, persimmons make for cookies that are out of this world. How do you like to prepare yours?
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