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Saturday, November 30, 2013

Pomegranate: Tree or Bush?

Q. I have a pomegranate plant that I started two years ago.  It is about four feet tall now and looks like it wants to be a bush.  Can I trim all the little branches off except the biggest one and try to make it a tree?
Red Silk pomegranate second year after planting at the UNCE Orchard. Suckers can be removed and trained to a tree form.

A. Pomegranates can be trained as a bush, which they normally want to be anyway, or they can be trained into single or multiple trunked trees. I prefer them as a multitrunked tree myself.
            I usually pick three to five of the largest stems coming from the ground and remove the rest below ground level. Each winter I remove any new sucker growth from the base and just retain these three to five oldest stems.
Fifteen year old pomegranate trained to multi trunk tree form and kept at 7 ft (2.5m) height. Fruits produced are fewer but larger and more marketable.
            It is important to remove these suckers below ground level. Do not just simply cut the suckers off at soil level. Pull soil away from the suckers and remove them from the mother plant. This should not be more than a few inches below the soil level.
            Suckers can be removed anytime of the year but removal during the winter months is most common. If you continue to remove suckers for the next five years they will stop producing suckers or the number of suckers will decrease significantly over this time.  The multi-trunk tree will have little to no sucker removal and you can just prune the tops each winter.
            If you do not remove these suckers at least annually then you will have sucker development for many more years to come.

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