As more Americans get the satisfaction that comes from growing their own food, the home gardening craze continues to expand, providing us with a continually widening array of plants from which to choose. Among these is the persimmon, a fruit-bearing tree which offers quality fruit for comparitively minimal effort. Whether you're contemplating purchasing one of your own, or have already done so, here's how to plant and care for your persimmon tree.
The first step, of course, is to determine which type of tree you want. There are two major species, the American and the Oriental persimmon, each with many varieties, such as the chocolate and the fuyu persimmon. Research some different varieties to decide which one is best for you. Bear in mind that most persimmons require two trees, one male and one female, in order to set fruit. Check with your supplier to ensure that you are purchasing one of each.
Once you have made your selection, decide which developmental stage you'll want your tree. You may plant them from seed if you like, but it could take several years before you see fruit. Another option is a bare root specimen, in which you are planting just the roots. This is common, though it is not recommended because bare roots need more careful attention. For most growers, the best option is a young sapling in a container.
After purchasing your trees, survey your yard to determine the best location for them. Persimmon trees are not very finnicky about the soil selection, although they do not fare well in soil that is too sandy. If this is the type of soil you have, you can amend it with compost and manure to make it more suitable. In addition, they prefer slightly acidic soil, with a pH of 6.5 to 7.5.
Another consideration is space; persimmons can grow to 25 feet tall and nearly as wide.??Also, plan around existing structures. Planting near a house can protect the tree's delicate branches from the wind. Don't forget to check with your utilities company about underground structures such as water pipes; persimmons grow very deep taproots.
Planting Your Tree
The best time to plant your tree is in early spring. After you've selected your site, dig a hole for each root ball about three times its width and one and a half times its depth. Place the root ball inside, then backfill the soil and water heavily again. Don't be alarmed if your roots are black; this is their natural color. Water two to three times a week for the first few weeks. Their roots grow slowly, and in the meantime will need lots of water.
Care After Planting
Due to their deep taproots, persimmon trees are quite drought-resistant once they're established, although they still may need supplemental watering if the drought drags on in order to ensure large, sweet fruit. Fertilize them heavily in the early spring and late summer, with about one pound of fertilizer per inch of trunk diameter. You may use manure and compost, or a balanced 10-10-10 commercial fertilizer.
Early in the spring, prune away dead or damaged branches, suckers and unruly growth, smearing mouthwash on the cuts to prevent infection. The ideal shape for your tree is a pyramid; it allows plenty of light and air for optimal production. Once your fruits begin to set, reduce each cluster to two or three per twig to ensure large, juicy fruits as well as to prevent the need for bracing the branch. Persimmon branches are delicate and can snap under the weight, and a heavy crop one year may reduce the crop the next.
Happy gardening, and enjoy your fruit!