Years ago on a walk, I stumbled upon a strange fruiting tree that I’d never seen before. It had large, orange-colored fruit with an odd leaf-like covering at the very top of it. I knew it wasn’t an orange tree. It looked kind of like an apricot, but the fruits were too big. It definitely wasn’t a peach. And strangely: the fruit was present on the tree well into winter. What was it? After some digging, I learned that it was a persimmon tree, and since then, persimmon trees have become one of my favorite fruit trees.
Persimmon trees yield persimmon fruits, which are sweet, orange-colored fruit that tastes a bit like an apricot, but grows a bit larger. Persimmon trees were a favorite of indigenous people in North America, as the trees uniquely hold onto their fruit well into the winter. In this article, we’re going to dig into how to grow persimmon trees and get a big, delicious yield of fruit year after year.
Growing Persimmon Trees
[Brief paragraph about the plant leading into “fast facts” bullet points]
- Latin name: Diospyros virginiana
- Other names: American persimmon, common persimmon, eastern persimmon, simmon, possumwood, possum apples, sugar plum.
- Native to: Eastern and Central North America
- Invasiveness: Not invasive
- Tenderness: Perennial fruit tree
- Sun: Full sun
- Water: Frequently until established
- Soil: Well-draining, pH of 6.5 to 7.5
- Hardiness zone: 4-9
- When to plant: Autumn
- Spacing: 20 feet
- Tree height: 30 to 70 feet
- Bloom period: May and June
- Time to maturity: 2-3 years
- Harvest: September through November
- Container friendly: Yes, but difficult
- Fertilizer: 10-10-10
- Toxicity: Possibly toxic to dogs
- Deer resistant: Yes
- Pest resistant: No
Persimmon trees (Diospyros virginiana), also called American persimmon, common persimmon, eastern persimmon, simmon, possumwood, possum apples, and sugar plum trees, is a fruit tree native to North America, ranging from Connecticut to Florida and westward to the Great Plains states of Texas, Oklahoma, and Iowa. The tree is considered non-invasive.
Persimmon trees like full sun, frequent watering during their first few years of getting established, and are not very picky about soil. A well-draining soil with a pH of 6.5 to 7.5 is perfectly adequate for growing a healthy persimmon tree. These trees are hardy in USDA hardiness zones 4 through 9. If planting a grove of trees, 20 feet of space should be given between each tree. Your persimmon tree will typically grow to between 30 and 70 feet.
Persimmons are best planted in autumn and will usually begin bearing fruit in about 2-3 years. The fruit will grow from blooms that start in May and end in June. Persimmons are ready to harvest later in the season, usually from September to November. It is not uncommon to see persimmons still on the tree long after leaves have fallen.
Persimmons may be inflammatory if consumed by dogs but are otherwise considered non-toxic.
Persimmon trees aren’t terribly picky about water once established, but during their first few years of life, you will want to water your sapling liberally. Watch it for signs of wilting or inadequate water. At the same time, don’t be too eager to water. A couple of times a week is usually sufficient unless you are in a very dry climate. Just watch your tree for signs of dehydration.
Persimmon trees, like most fruit trees, are sun-loving trees. You will want to select a very sunny location for your new tree.
Persimmon trees don’t mind what kind of soil they’re planted in for the most part. Regardless of what type of soil you’re using, your tree will make it work. That said, they have a preference for well-draining soil with a pH of 6.5 to 7.5.
Young persimmon trees should be provided a balanced fertilizer, such as a 10-10-10 fertilizer, three times per year during the first few two years of life. Fertilize in March, June, and September. After the age of three, you can reduce fertilizing to just March and June. Eventually, once well established, your tree will not require fertilizing.
Persimmon trees are not considered to be invasive, as they require fairly intentional propagation in order to grow. The trees do have a fairly prolific root structure, however, which can cause damage to sidewalks.
Growing Persimmon Trees in containers
Persimmon trees can tolerate being grown in containers, but just barely. You’ll want to repot the tree every 2-3 years in order to keep it healthy and growing, but obviously, you will eventually reach a point where this isn’t possible. It is best to simply plant them in the ground. These trees will grow well throughout most of North America in zones 4 to 9.
Persimmon trees are deer resistant, which is a huge plus if you live in an area where lots of deer roam. They are, however, somewhat susceptible to pests and diseases like root rot, gray mold, blights, crown rot, and wood decay.
Propagating Persimmon Trees
The best way to propagate a persimmon tree is from stem cuttings taken in the autumn. To do this, give your tree a thorough watering for two days in a row prior to taking your cutting. After that, select a stem cutting taken from a semi-hardwood section of the tree, which is usually about 6 inches from the tip of a branch. Insert your cutting into well-draining potting soil. You can use a rooting hormone if you like, but this is not required.
Uses for Persimmon Trees
Persimmon trees have a number of uses. Obviously, they produce a large, sweet fruit that can be enjoyed during the autumn and early winter. Their wood is also extremely dense and strong and has been used to manufacture things like furniture as well as driver golf clubs and billiard cues.
History of Persimmon Trees
Before European colonists settled in North America, there was a long tradition among indigenous Native Americans of drying and storing harvested persimmon fruits. These trees provided a vital source of food late in the season.
Keep Reading: 5 Reasons Cities Should Plant Urban Fruit Trees