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Question from Karen:
I live in a coastal town in California. My house is about five blocks from the ocean in a canyon that runs east west. Two years ago my then twelve-year-old daughter asked for a pomegranate tree for Christmas. That is all she wanted. We got one and planted it in our back yard. It is now three years old has never born fruit. My daughter is asking when it will bear fruit.

Answer from Pat:
Pomegranates will grow and bear fruit in Sunset Zone 24 where you probably live but they need full sun. If you live in an east-west canyon your tree is perhaps not getting enough sun to bear flowers. Another possibility is that you did not get a fruiting variety and another is that you planted it in a lawn. There are several fine varieties of pomegranate. ‘Wonderful’ is the best known, but also make sure that you didn’t purchase an ornamental tree or bush grown only for its flowers. If you have a proper fruiting variety but it has not born fruit there are several possible reasons.

First, the pomegranate might be getting too much nitrogen and not enough bloom ingredients.This can happen if it’s growing in a lawn. Secondly, pomegranates are native to hot dry climates and will grow and even thrive with little attention even in alkaline soil but they need a hot spot. Some varieties will get mildew near the coast and if in too much shade. Sometimes people live in a canyon and don’t even notice that their garden may be in shade all winter long or at least for most of the day. When the sun is far south as in winter the sun may be hidden behind the canyon wall to the south of your garden, plus other houses and trees higher on the hill may be casting a shadow on your garden. In summer the shadows may come from trees or houses or fences to the east, west, and north. So pay attention to where the shadows are in your garden when planning where to put a pomegranate. Full sun means six hours of sun a day.

Despite this problem we might be able to find a way to make your pomegranate bloom. First, in January or early February as the tree begins to put out a few new leaves, go all over the tree and prune off the tips. If it has not grown much, just clip off the outer four to six inches or less. Go all over the tree and cut a few inches off each branch to make it put out new wood. But if the tree is vigorous already, then cut back a foot or two all over to make it branch and be bushier. This is because pomegranates only bear on new wood. One really should prune a pomegranate for the first three years of its life to get it to branch and put out new growth. I doubt you have done than in the past, but now by pruning in late winter (late January or early February) just as the plant begins to grow and put out new tip growth you can correct the problem and make it put out new wood. You want it to be bushy.

Secondly, immediately after pruning, feed it with an organic fertilizer high in bloom ingredients and little nitrogen. This means the first number (nitrogen) should be low and the second number (phosphorus) and third number (potassium) should be very high, 2-10-10 is an example. After fertilizing water the fertilizer inot the ground. If your tree is growing well already showing that it is getting plenty of nitrogen, then just fertilize with two cups of bonemeal and half a cup of Sul-Po-Mag at this time of year. Sprinkle these over the roots and use a cultivator to gently till into the soil under the tree so you don’t harm roots, then cover with mulch or compost. After fertilizing and mulching water the fertilizer into the ground. Feed the tree in January with this high bloom formula. In February fertilize again with an organic fertilizer for citrus and avocado, such as 4-6-6. If you can, push the mulch aside, put the fertilizer under the mulch all around the drip line of the tree (under branch tips) and then replace the mulch and water unless rains are adequate. Another option for fertilizing is to get a bag of seabird guano and feed with this. This will take care of all the needs of the plant. Follow package directions and water it into the ground. (When fertilizer is placed on top of mulch you need to use more of it since some will be absorbed by the mulch.)

Thirdly, you didn’t state whether the tree blooms. If the tree bloomed but bore no fruit, there probably were no bees in your garden when it bloomed. If there are no native or domestic bees or other insects the flowers won’t be pollinated and won’t become fruits. So when your the tree blooms in spring, take a sable paint brush and pollinate all the flowers. Just play like a bee and go from flower to flower spreading the pollen from one to another. Sometimes people use a feather duster for this job but a paintbrush is better. You don’t need a second pomegranate tree. Pomegranates are self-fruitful but the blossoms must be pollinated for it to bear fruit. Since the tree belongs to your daughter it will work best to have her do this job so she gets the tree to bloom. If she is part of all these processes: Pruning to stimulate tip growth, fertilizing for high bloom, and pollinating and if all these steps result in fruit, your daughter will have a genuine feeling of accomplishment from the experience. If none of this works the tree must be in too much shade, but I hope it works!

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26 Responses to “How to Make a Pomegranate Tree Bear Fruit”

  1. guerrette April 11, 2014

    Dear Pat: OMG! I am so glad I found your website. I am just sick with worry, that I’ve screwed up my Dwarf Pomegranate tree. I planted it in my backyard of the home when it was about a foot high, that was 3 years ago this June. I knew by the directions on the plant that it would not bare fruit for 3 years, but even though, I have made sure I fertilized it every year with 10-10-2, had mulch around it and talked to it as if it were my own child, it has grown to the height of over 10ft tall and just beautiful as she willows in the wind,she has never once bloomed even a bud of a flower! :( and now after reading, I realize and or found I should of been pruning her which i have not. I just let her be to grow, not knowing that it was required. i live in Central Florida and she gets over 6 hrs of sun a day and plenty of water in both summer and during the winter time. It’s April now and she has fully leafed and green now. So, I am at a lost at now what to do and praying I haven’t ruin her forever and that I am able to save and rectify the situation so she can eventually bear fruit? Please HELP me and tell me what I can do to correct my mistakes. Should I let this season go since she has already has a full tree of leaves and then next Jan, go ahead and prune off several inches of each branch, make the bonemeal fertilizer and the 10-10-2and pray that she Blooms flowers next spring? Any help would be a Godsend and greatly appreciated….thank you. xoxoxox

    Reply
    • It sounds to me as if your tree is putting on plenty of new growth each spring that should flower and bear fruit. However, it also sounds as if you are feeding the tree with nitrogen. You said you fed with 10-10-2. You need to lower the first number. For a couple of years try this: Fertilize with 0-20-20. In other words, cut out the nitrogen. There is probably plenty in your soil already so withhold all nitrogen and fertilize with phosphorus and potassium only. Additionally, prune out the oldest and weakest wood in winter to shape the tree and encourage new growth. If this does not make the tree bloom and bear fruit, then beat or damage the trunk as I have explained elsewhere, but do not girdle it. Additionally, you live in Florida where summer rains are usually heavy. This is the opposite of what pomegranate prefers since it likes a dry Mediterranean climate with rainfall in winter and none in summer. Nonetheless, pomegranate can set fruit in Florida especially following a colder than usual winter. You did not mention if the tree has born flowers in spring. If it bears flowers in spring but no fruit, make sure there are bees to pollinate. If not, hand pollinate the flowers.

      Reply
      • Guerrette April 16, 2014

        Thank you so much. I will surely do all you say. No, unfortunately, she hasn’t once bloomed even one flower! :( It’s such a shame because I love her so much and she’s just a big beautiful tree. Like I said she has grown from a mere foot when I brought her home, to over 10ft now. I do have a Meyers Lemon and Key Lime tree that hasn’t grown half as well as my Pomegranate but they both have at least bloomed and bared fruit, so I know there are bees an there are politicization ability going on. Yes, we do get rain a lot in the summer months and I’ve let nature take it’s course with her, so the rains has been her only watering (I do not hose water her) So, right now I have everything to gain an nothing to lose now, an will let her do her thing this year (found a lovely Mockingbird family building a nest in her yesterday, so at least she’ll make a nice home for the birdies this year while she’s on sabbatical lol):) and will get to it next winter with the new fertilizer mix you suggested, cutting the oldest and weakest wood branches on her an then pruning her branches some, to spark some new growth. If that doesn’t work then, I’ll find your notes on giving her a good whopping. ROFL…i hope I haven’t ruined her, but if she ends up not ever blooming or baring fruit, she’s still beautiful to me and has grown big enough to keep my nosey Glaydis Kravits neighbor from snooping into my windows…LOL Thank you so much for replying an giving me some great things to try to get her back on track from what I’ve done. Sincerely, TM

        Reply
  2. Vickie March 8, 2014

    I bought a bare root pom. tree from a major Home Imp. store. I planted it according to the directions. It looks like dead branches. I live in San Diego. In this city, they flourish, and folks can’t get rid of them.
    Is it dormant or dead? It is about 4 ft. tall. It gets sun, filtered and shade.
    It looks so sad.

    Reply
    • Your tree may be dead or perhaps not. To find out scratch the bark to see if there is green life inside. Nine times out of ten when folks plant bare root and the plant dies or looks as if it has died, whether it is a tree or a rose, the problem is that they didn’t soak the roots in a bucket of water before planting and/or did not water it enough after planting. Another possibility is they let the plant sit around too long before planting. If you don’t have time to plant bareroot when you purchase the item, then heel it in, which means dig a trench, stick the roots of the plant into it at an angle and cover them with damp earth. The correct way to plant bare root is like this:Unwrap the plant and stick the roots into the bucket of water and leave them to soak overnight. Now go dig the planting hole. Fill the hole with water and refill it and let it drain out at least 3 times. (Check the drainage as described on page 40 of my book.) If drainage is inadequate, build a raised bed or choose a better spot in the garden. In clay soil, dig a coffee can full of gypsum into the bottom of the hole. By filling the hole with water several times the day before planting you make sure that dry soil surrounding your bare root plant does not wick moisture away from the hole. This is a common error and folks often do not notice that a gap can occur on the edge of the plant showing that the surrounding soil is getting all the water and not the plant in the hole. Next day put the bucket of water with the plant in it next to the hole you have dug. Place some fertilizer in the bottom of the hole. (Slow release is best.) Get down on your knees and using the native soil you dug from the hole, build a cone of earth in the middle of the bottom of the hole and pat it down. Now take the plant out of the water and arrange the roots so they are spread out onto the cone with the bottom of the trunk on top of the cone and the roots going down all around it and make sure they are not bent on the bottom of the cone. Also make sure that when you fill the hole the earth will come to the same spot where it was when the plant was growing in the ground. If not correct, lift the plant out and adjust the height of the cone. Once the roots and trunk are arranged at the correct height, cover the roots with soil patting it down with your hands. Fill the hole with the rest of the native soil you took from it and press it down firmly with your hands, not your foot which might compact the soil. Build a watering basin on the edge of the hole. (Later as the tree grows enlarge the watering hole so the drip line of the tree will be watered.) Now lay the hose inside the watering basin and let it fill with water slowly so that roots on the bottom of the hole will be well irrigated. The next day water again, filling the watering basin at least three times and letting it drain out. On the third day water deeply again. For the next two weeks water deeply 3 times a week. For the next month water deeply twice a week. After that water deeply once a month.

      Reply
  3. Hi Pat,

    Thank you for the article. Can you recommend a pomegranate variety that would do well in coastal CA?

    Reply
    • All large-fruited pomegranate trees do better inland. They will bear best in coastal zones if grown in full sun and the warmest, most protected spot in your garden, out of cold wind if possible. If grown in shade I can guarantee you will get no fruit. Two varieties that are reputed to grow well and bear fruit of good quality in cool, coastal California are ‘Sweet’, which has pink, extremely sweet fruit, and ‘Ambrosia’ which bears unusually large fruits.

      Reply
  4. Thank you for the information! When I moved into my current house 13 years ago, the pomegranate tree put out alot of fruit. Over the years, I have been getting less and less fruit. By reading your posts and replies, I seem to be pruining it wrong. I hope by using your guidelines, I hope for more fruit this year. I have two consistent problems I don’t know how to prevent. First, I get this beetle-type bugs that are probably the leaffooted bug. How can I prevent them? Secondly, I sometimes get this white/black mold on the fruit. What is this, and how do I prevent that? Thank you very much

    Reply
    • Unfortunately leaf-footed bugs (Leptoglossus zonatus) are attracted to pomegranates. They can pierce the skin of pomegranate fruits and damage the seeds and pulp inside. One organic way to get rid of them is to wear surgical gloves and hand-pick them and throw them into a bucket of soapy water. Another is to spray them with citrus oil. Regarding mold this sounds as if your tree is not growing in full sun. Mold can come from growing pomegranate in a damp or wet climate or from a tree in too much shade. Pomegranates will not bear fruit in shade. Sometimes, trees are planted in full sun and then other trees grow tall and cast shadows on them, or a building is built that casts a shadow where none was before. This can cause a reduction in the amount of fruit one gets from the tree.
      If you are getting fewer fruits the other reason might be lack of bees while the tree is in bloom.

      Reply
  5. Do you know why the “berries” inside my pomegranates are pale pink instead of deep red? I live in the San Gabriel Valley in California.

    Reply
    • The fruit of your pomegranate is sweet and pink (not red) because you have one of the newer varieties. Years ago all pomegranates were red. The variety called ‘Wonderful’ is still the best known and most popular and it is red outside and has red seeds. Nowadays you can also purchase pink varieties and many of them are really good and sweet too. ‘Ambrosia’ is a huge variety with light pink exterior and purple flesh inside. ‘Fleishman’, ‘Granada’ and ‘King’ have pink rind and pink flesh inside. They have pink flowers. I think you must have one of those. The flowers of a variety called ‘Sweet’ are yellow and the flesh inside is pink. There is even one with clear flesh inside—some people call it white. And the name of that variety is ‘White’. Perhaps the person who owned your property before you did was sophisticated about plant varieties. He or she might even have belonged to the Rare Fruit Growers. Members of that society know and grow all the newest and most exotic fruits and fruit varieties.

      Reply
  6. Pear Ubu November 2, 2013

    Hi there. I just moved into a house in Oxnard, CA with an 80-year-old pomegranate tree in the backyard. The tree is huge and full of fruit, and I arrived just in time for the harvest. Unfortunately, the fruit and juice is way too tart…and rather unpleasant. I’m wondering if there’s anything I can do to get a better sweet-sour balance in the fruit for next year. Appreciate any advice.

    Reply
    • Unfortunately there is nothing you can do to make your pomegranate any sweeter or tastier. Hotter climates often produce sweeter pomegranates. Additionally varieties can have differing flavors. The best variety is called ‘Wonderful.’ However, you might develop a liking for the fruit you have. To some extent pomegranate is an acquired taste. Some people make jelly of the juice. Others juice the fruit and add sugar.

      Reply
  7. Linda Chaumont June 8, 2013

    My pomegranate tree has flowered and born much fruit for over 20 years. The fruit is bitter, however. I have a drip system in my landscape but I wonder if it’s getting enough water. I live in the desert, El Paso, Texas.

    Reply
  8. Thank you for your support!

    Last year I essentially discovered a pomegranate tree on the third of an acre I live on and ever since then i have been responding to it. First by clearing most all the overgrowth that surrounded it and largely hid it from view. I did a little pruning earlier in the year. recently I added a layer of my own compost. Now I need to know how to water it. I see that watering in the Summer is not recommended. Summer is one month away and I imagine that watering now could be a good thing. Would watering it once a week over the next four weeks be sufficient?

    The blossoms on it now are the most beautiful! I know the tree does fruit however I have never had the fruit.

    Reply
    • Apparently not all your message reached me, since what I got was cut off in mid-sentence. Though pomegranate trees are reasonably drought-resistant, they need regular rainfall or irrigation in order to produce the best fruit. Thus here in Southern California where I live we must water pomegranate year round when rains are not adequate. I live in one of the coastal climates of Southern California, which enjoys a mild Mediterranean climate of mild winters, and dry summers with much sunshine and most rainfall confined to fall, winter and spring. Since you mention not watering in summer and living on a quarter acre so heavily overgrown that you did not even know you had a pomegranate tree, it sounds to me as if you might live in Florida, which also has a warm climate but in regard to rainfall it is almost the opposite of ours. Instead of having dry summers and wet winters, Florida has dry winters and humid wet summers. Of course if you live in Florida, this means there is more than ample summer rainfall and thus one would not want to water plants in summer. Hence the best advice I can give you on irrigation is to water when rainfall is insufficient. When the top 4 to 6 inches of soil is dry, that is the time to water deeply until the entire root zone is thoroughly soaked. Watering in this manner once a week during dry weather should be sufficient.

      Reply
  9. John Gothard May 17, 2013

    When we moved into our new home five years ago, we hired a landscape gardener to install trees and plants appropriate for our new location (Tucson AZ). One tree he planted, was a Pomegranate, which has become a magnificent tree and is currently covered in beautiful orange blossoms. I believe now, that he planted an ornamental tree! Is there any way to make it produce fruit?

    Reply
    • Your landscaper may well have planted an ornamental pomegranate (Punica granata). For example, ‘Noshi Shibori’ (dark red flowers) and ‘Tanyosho’ (apricot-colored double flowers) grow 8 to 10 feet tall and wide and either produce small fruits or none whatsoever, but either one can be grown as a small ornamental tree, excellent as a patio tree. Pomegranates need little or no fertilizer once established and they are self fruitful, so if you have an edible variety, you should get fruit as long as your tree is planted in full sun and also has adequate irrigation. Insects do pollinate pomegranate and cross pollination can make trees more fruitful, but should not be necessary. Most plants are grown from cuttings and seed-grown plants might not bear fruit or if they do bear it, it might not be of good quality. If you are sure you have a good edible variety, such as the variety ‘Wonderful’, and not an ornamental one such as those I mentioned above, I do know a trick that can sometimes make a recalcitrant tree bear fruit but it works best in cases where the tree never even flowers. The trick is to beat the trunk hard in early spring, before it sets flower buds, with a blunt instrument such as a garden hose or an iron rod. (On the humorous side you can let some of your frustrations out against the tree for not producing fruit!) But on the scientific side, by damaging the bark but not girdling it entirely, which would kill the tree, you can perhaps produce the effect of making the tree think it’s going to die. This treatment will sometimes make a recalcitrant tree produce a massive display of flowers and fruit. It’s worth a try next year and let me know results. Perhaps some other gardener has a further thought on your question. Pomegranate trees should grow and bear fruit in your climate.

      Reply
    • I have now given further thought to your pomegranate and realized that my solution about beating the trunk can (and at times has) made a non-blossom bearing tree produce flowers but it can not make a flower-bearing tree bear fruit. Your tree cannot produce fruit without pollination. Thus I have come up with a better solution which you might be able to put into practice right now, since there are already blossoms on the tree.
      Perhaps in Tucson you do not have the right insects to pollinate your pomegranate tree. As I mentioned before, pomegranate trees are pollinated by insects. This includes bees. Without pollination, your tree cannot produce fruit. What I suggest is that you play bee and pollinate your tree by hand. I would do this job early in the morning while the pollen is fresh and not old and dried out. Purchase a small sable watercolor brush today if you can. If not, use a Q tip, any small watercolor brush, or a thin stick or twig with a small knob of hairy knitting wool wound around one end to pick up the pollen, but a brush works best. Then go out into the garden and look closely at the flowers and you will see many stamens, each one made of a filament with a yellow anther on the end of it covered with pollen. You will see that the anthers have yellow pollen on them and that they are on the tips of the filaments. The anthers and the filaments are the male part of the flower which together are called the stamen. When the pollen drops easily off the anther, then the pollen is ready. Twirl your paint brush on some anthers to pick up this good yellow pollen and you should be able to see it. Then you need to go to another flower and put that pollen onto the sticky central stigma which you will see in the center of the flowers. This is the female part of the flower and down at the base is the immature fruit. Continue to go from flower to flower dabbing or twirling—whichever works better for you—, picking up pollen from one flower and transferring it to another. This is what bees and other insects should be doing for you and evidently are not. Go all over the tree and continue this as long as there are blossoms on the tree and in fall you should get fruit. If you have another pomegranate tree nearby it would be even better to transfer pollen from each tree to the other one, but this is not absolutely necessary. In a few months let me know if you got fruit.

      Reply
  10. Ele Mennie May 5, 2013

    Hi I have recently bought a pommegranites tree we are going into winter but autumn has been even warmer than usual – the pommegranite currently in a large potbhas many flowers and a couple of small fruit set but as winter is nearly here and it will be cold temps 5-18 degrees should I pull off these flowers and fruit ie are they the tree reacting to the unusual autumn warmth and getting confused ? My understanding is that pommegranites need summer heat to develop good fruit – is this correct?

    Reply
    • I do not know where you live. However, I am making a guess that you live in a Mediterranean climate south of the equator, probably South Africa or southwest Australia or perhaps Gisborne, New Zealand. I have no idea, either, what variety of pomegranate you are growing. You mention it will be 5 to 18 degrees but you do not say whether you mean Fahrenheit or Centigrade (Celcius). If you are speaking of Celsius, 5 to 18 degrees you will have no problems since this is not too cold for pomegranate trees, but if you are speaking of Fahrenheit, this is most likely too cold for pomegranate. I am guessing Celcius is what you mean. In general pomegranate trees bear fruit in summer but it ripens in autumn, and by the way full-size trees grow better in the ground than in a pot, but perhaps you have a small variety? Otherwise, I think you have nothing to worry about. Why not leave the flowers and fruit in place and allow the tree to adjust to its current location? Some fruit trees bear year-round in areas where temperatures are different from those in their normal habitat. Some plants may behave differently from normal when grown in a different latitude and longitude from their native habitat.

      Reply
  11. Saied Zangenehpour April 18, 2013

    I have an older Pamegranate that flowers and fruit several hundreds / year. The soil has a lot of phosphate naturally and reduces the nitrogan induced by the lawn fertelizer. I live in Florida with plenty sun.

    Recently, I grow many pamegranate trees from different variety of pamegranete seeds. They are about 2 years old. This year they flowered but the flowers are falling in a few days. There are many bees around the big pamegrante that bears many many fruits yearly, but not around the little ones

    I am going to use sable paint brush to polinate them, hoping they are going to bear fruits.

    Any advise why the bees are not bothering with the little trees?

    Saied

    Reply
    • Growing fruit trees from seeds is an iffy proposition at best, since you might by a fluke get something great, but usually not. Seed-grown fruit trees will often not bear fruit or not for many years or when they finally do bear fruit, it might be inferior. To give you an example of why you can’t save and plant the seeds of just any random plant, the seeds of any plant—(not just a fruit tree—I am talking vegetables and flowers here)—if these seeds originated from a first-generation hybrid (that is, a cross), then some of the plants are likely to be “mules” or sterile plants. I don’t know why your seed-grown plants are not attracting bees, but it might be that the flowers on the seed-grown plants are sterile and thus have no pollen or honey to attract bees.

      Reply
  12. One of the best advice and wonderfully presented. I had this problem with my three trees and no one knew the problem. I gave it more lawn fertilizer which killed the biggest one. I am looking forward to much better result, thanks to your advice. Best,

    Reply
  13. Thanks for the pom info. My tree was grown from a ucdavis cutting. 3 years old now. I had 5 fruits last year. they were very sweet. I will also take your advise and feed them. I live on the canyon near university of San Diego.

    Reply