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Saturday, April 14, 2018

Flowers Produced Late on Pomegranate

Q. I have pomegranates a few years old. Every year they don’t produce flowers until late in the season when everyone is harvesting fruit. I am considering every option including removal of the plants.
Pomegranate flowers are beautiful in their own right. But some varieties of pomegranate are more "precocious" than others meaning they will produce fruit when they are younger. Expect pomegranate to produce fruit anywhere from their first year in the ground to their third or fourth. Pruning them inappropriately or having some low winter temperature damage can delay the production of fruit.
A. Pomegranates produce flowers on new growth in late spring when many other fruit trees have already flowered. Pomegranates are slow starters in the spring but once they start flowering they continue to flower through most of the summer and year after year. The largest fruit, percentage-wise, usually comes from new growth originating on larger diameter, older wood.
            The balance between root and top growth affects flowering. The tree adjusts growth above ground to match growth and the size of its roots below ground. This “root to shoot ratio” affects flowering and fruiting.
Pomegranates on display at the local open air market in Northern Tajikistan. Like the kiwi and pineapple, they were imported from warmer climates where the plant can survive and produce fruit the next year. Notice only the largest and best looking pomegranates are on display.
            If the top of the plant is cut back severely or damaged and the roots stay the same size, the top part of the plant grows rapidly and won’t produce flowers until the growth above ground again matches growth below ground. This ideal “root to shoot ratio” varies among plants, between species of plants, and even among varieties.
Many varieties of pomegranate are well-known for producing flowers and fruit very close to each other on new growth. I seldom see any advantage in fruit size by thinning the fruit unless they are growing directly across from each other. If the fruit is separated by 1/2 inch or more I will not thin the fruit.
            I believe you are seeing a flush of rapid growth in the spring either because of loss of growth above ground. The top produces a lot of new growth at the expense of flowering. Flowering begins when that ideal “root to shoot ratio” is achieved again.
            If you are pruning this pomegranate, do not prune it severely. If you are losing the size of the top because of freezing damage or mechanical injury, try to protect it. If this tree can maintain its root to shoot ratio from one year to the next, this problem will stop.
Pomegranate growing and producing no flowers. If top growth has been lost from freezing or pruning, the roots may be large enough to push new top growth at the expense of flowering. Also, fertilizing these plans with lots of nitrogen early in the spring can cause excessive growth with very little flower production
            There is a difference in tolerance to freezing temperatures among varieties pomegranate. Some are more cold hardy than others. If winter cold damage occurs, it is possible your pomegranate is a different variety from your neighbors. The pomegranate variety ‘Wonderful’ has been a solid performer in our climate.
            Some pomegranates are “precocious” meaning they flower and produce fruit at a young age but all of them should be flowering by the second or third year after planting. Some flower the first year after planting. Some flower possibly as late as the third year after planting.
            If you can’t solve this problem through careful pruning, replace it with a fruit tree more cold hardy or suffers less from cold winter temperature damage.

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