This lovely landscape tree grows up to 25 feet tall and wide, with bright yellow, red, and orange fall foliage and gracefully drooping branches. Its orange fruit dangles from the ends of the limbs as they ripen. Although this tree can withstand winter temperatures to 0 degrees Fahrenheit, in colder regions it tends to break dormancy and begin growing before the cold weather has fully departed.
Plant persimmons in well-drained, acidic soil, but keep the soil moist, especially during the summer, when the tree is carrying fruit. Prune only to establish a modified central-leader branching structure of young trees and to remove dead and damaged limbs from mature trees.
Persimmons have few serious pests or diseases, although fungus disease can affect the fruit late in the season, and trees are susceptible to wilt disease in some areas. Control scale insects with dormant oil spray in late winter. The trees need little pruning.
Oriental persimmon (Diospyros kaki) fruit falls into two categories: astringent and nonastringent. The fruit of the astringent varieties is eaten when the flesh is soft and almost jellylike, whereas nonastringent varieties can be eaten when firm. Some varieties have seeds; others are seedless. The best astringent varieties include Saijo, Tanenashi, and Yomato Hyakume. Good nonastringent varieties include Fuyu, Hanagosho, and Hana Fuyu.
Female trees don't need male trees to set fruit and, in fact, produce seedy fruit with dark streaks in the flesh when pollinated. Harvest in autumn when the fruit feels slightly soft. Protect from birds.
The common persimmon (Diospyros virginiana), which is native to the United States, grows vigorously from Zones 4 to 9, and spreads easily from seeds eaten by birds and animals. The trees tend to form thickets of suckers. Fruits measure 1 to 2 inches across. Some varieties with larger fruit exist.
Plant these ornamental or shade trees, and enjoy the nut harvest as an added treat. Most nut trees need little care but can be messy when the fruit and foliage drop. Plant the large-nut species, such as walnuts and pecans, where you can enjoy their beauty without worrying about falling nuts. Use smaller species, such as filberts, as hedges or small landscape trees. Most nut trees and shrubs require cross-pollination, which means you need two compatible varieties to produce nuts.
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