Sacramento Digs Gardening logo
Sacramento Digs Gardening Article
Your resource for Sacramento-area gardening news, tips and events

Articles Recipe Index Keyword Index Calendar Twitter Facebook Instagram About Us Contact Us

This fruit loves Sacramento summers

Pomegranate flowers bloom on Debbie Arrington's tree. Conditions have to be right to get fruit, developing at left.
Photo: Debbie Arrington)

Pomegranates need August heat to be at their best
This is pomegranate weather.
My favorite edible ornamental, pomegranates thrive in the heat of August, soaking up the sun and pumping energy into their fruit. This is when those strange leathery globes really start to swell.
Besides its colorful fruit, pomegranates offer loads of bright orange blooms, a favorite of bees and hummingbirds. In fall, its shiny green foliage turns a beautiful shade of gold. Any harvest is a side benefit.
And harvest can be spotty. Pomegranates may not bear every year — or at all. More a large deciduous shrub than a true tree, a pomegranate produces fruit on second-year wood; pruning needs to be thoughtful and isn’t always easy. I know my pomegranate can create a thicket of thorny fast-growing new growth. But if I over-prune or cut out the wrong branches, there will be no pomegranates the next year.
Improper pruning is just one reason a pomegranate doesn’t bear fruit.   Those flashy flowers quickly lose their fertility. Pollinators only have two or three days to do their work before the stigmas in those silky blooms become “less receptive.” If weather conditions aren’t right for pollination (such as rainy, windy or smoky), a tree may have many flowers but still no fruit.
Exposed to too much cold over winter, a pomegranate may be reluctant to fruit in summer. Some newer varieties are strictly ornamental and bear almost all male flowers, which are bigger and showier but never form those juicy orbs.
I grow the California standard: the aptly named Wonderful variety. It’s late season, ripe in October or November after six full months on the tree. With a tasty balance or high sugar and high acid, the fruit is large and ruby red with arils to match. Arils are those plump juicy sacs surrounding each seed. (And there may or may not be 613 seeds, part of the rich lore surrounding this fruit. Researchers have counted 1,300 seeds in a single pomegranate.)
Pomegranate history is full of fun facts like that. Native to Iran, pomegranates have been cultivated since biblical times. Its name means “seeded apple” and some scholars believe it may be the Tree of Life.  Representing fertility, pomegranates play significant roles in many Greek myths. The French called it “grenade,” inspiring the military weapon of a similar shape centuries later. (Anyone who has thrown a ripe pomegranate can see the similarity.) The Moors renamed an ancient Spanish city Granada in honor of this fruit.
While Spain and Greece embraced the sun-loving pomegranate, the fruit did not have same reception in England or other colder climes. Pomegranates can tolerate frost and temperatures down to 10 degrees, but they need intense summer heat to be at their best.
Spanish missionaries planted the first California pomegranates in 1769 and this fruit has made itself right at home in the Central Valley. With more interest in antioxidant-rich pomegranate’s health benefits, California’s commercial pomegranate crop has grown five-fold in the past decade.
Pomegranates obviously thrive in Sacramento, too. They’re well adapted to our Mediterranean climate and can tolerate drought as well as hot summer sun.
A Utah Sweet pomegranate grows at the Fair Oaks
Horticulture Center. (Photo: Kathy Morrison)
In the home garden, pomegranates double duty in limited space: food while looking good. And isn’t that the definition of an edible ornamental?


0 comments have been posted.

Taste Summer! E-cookbook


Find our summer recipes here!

Newsletter Subscription

Sacramento Digs Gardening to your inbox.

Local News

Ad for California Local

Thanks to our sponsor!

Summer Strong ad for

Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of Sept. 24:

This week our weather will be just right for fall gardening. What are you waiting for?

* Now is the time to plant for fall. The warm soil will get these veggies off to a fast start.

* Keep harvesting tomatoes, peppers, squash, melons and eggplant. Tomatoes may ripen faster off the vine and sitting on the kitchen counter.

* Compost annuals and vegetable crops that have finished producing.

* Cultivate and add compost to the soil to replenish its nutrients for fall and winter vegetables and flowers.

* Fertilize deciduous fruit trees.

* Plant onions, lettuce, peas, radishes, turnips, beets, carrots, bok choy, spinach and potatoes directly into the vegetable beds.

* Transplant cabbage, broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower as well as lettuce seedlings.

* Sow seeds of California poppies, clarkia and African daisies.

* Transplant cool-weather annuals such as pansies, violas, fairy primroses, calendulas, stocks and snapdragons.

* Divide and replant bulbs, rhizomes and perennials. That includes bearded iris; if they haven’t bloomed in three years, it’s time to dig them up and divide their rhizomes.

* Dig up and divide daylilies as they complete their bloom cycle.

* Divide and transplant peonies that have become overcrowded. Replant with “eyes” about an inch below the soil surface.

* Late September is ideal for sowing a new lawn or re-seeding bare spots.

Taste Spring! E-cookbook


Find our spring recipes here!