“Diospyros” is the scientific name for the genus of persimmon trees, and the meaning of the name implies that persimmons are fruits of the gods. Maybe you haven’t had a chance to taste for yourself how true the name may be, in which case you should realize how much you’re missing out on.
The American persimmon in particular is heavenly in taste, a tiny fruit bursting with sweetness, possibly the closest thing to a nature-made dessert in existence. Best of all, it’s actually good for you.
This might all sound like some exaggerated infomercial, but it’s all quite true. Persimmons really are that good, and you can find out for yourself by simply growing a tree in your own garden. The only rule is to be sure that the persimmon is ripe enough before you partake, or you may be in for a mouthful of bitterness.
American persimmon trees have a long history and a huge range. They can be found as far North as New England, and as far South as Florida in the Eastern-most half of the continental United States. This plant is extremely hardy, and can survive in all sorts of weather and climate zones. In all likelihood, you will easily be able to find a strain of the plant that will do well where you live.
The Persimmon is a beautiful tree to behold. During the summer, its leaves are a deep green with a touch of blue and, depending on the climate, its leaves can range from various shades of yellow to strong, dramatic reds. The tree has a lazy-looking branch system, that hovers over the ground with a hunched posture. The mature fruit of the tree adds an attractive gold into the color scheme. Long-living persimmons can reach heights of over fifty feet. In its earlier stages of growth in particular, a persimmon tree will shoot up rapidly in height, and it is only once it begins putting energy into bearing fruit that the growth rate begins to naturally slow.
PLANTING AN AMERICAN PERSIMMON
Persimmon trees are very simple plants to take care of, though they are unfortunately a bit rarer to find compared to more common fruit-bearing trees. It might take a bit of looking around through the various nurseries in your area before you might find an appropriate sapling. Worse comes to worse, though, you can always order one online.
Most of all, be sure to find a strain of American persimmon that will tolerate your particular local climate well. Though it may be tempting to find wild Persimmon trees to add to your garden, a transplant of this kind is unlikely to be successful because the critical tap root of the tree is unusually deep and fragile, and any significant damage to it will probably lead to the plant’s death. In addition, domestic persimmons are quite a bit tastier than their wild cousins, anyway.
Since quite a number of varieties of American persimmon tree cannot reproduce asexually like some other fruit trees, you will want to plant both male and female trees if you desire a decent harvest of fruit. However, if space is limited and you can only accommodate one plant, it is possible to graft a male branch onto a female tree, or to simply stick to a variety that can pollinate itself.
These plants are fortunately not too picky about the quality of their soil, though they can suffer if the soil is too moist or simply not moist enough. Keep the soil around the tree somewhat damp and be sure to fertilize it twice a year, during the spring and during the summer. As the tree grows, prune any dead or inconveniently shaped branches to keep it healthy.
PESTS AND PROBLEMS
American persimmon trees are resilient to most diseases. The most troublesome problem you will have with your persimmon tree will be your competition with the local wildlife over your fruit. The wildlife may be able to tolerate the tartness of the fruit before the fruit is ripe enough for you to enjoy, so be on guard.
VARIETIES TO TRY
- ‘Meade’ is the hardiest of all American persimmons, and it can withstand temperatures to -30° F. Its fruits are seedless. The fruit matures early making it a good choice for regions with short growing seasons. It is also self-pollinating.
- ‘Early Golden’ is a popular, easy-to-grow variety. It produces fruit early in the season and is hardy to USDA Zone 5.
- ‘Eureka’ is the type of persimmon you would most likely find in the grocery store. But this is a Japanese variety of persimmon, not an American one.
If you would like more information on the American Persimmon, check these two links:
Edible of the Month: Persimmon – National Gardening Association
Persimmons – Texas A&M Extension