If you love the crisp, juicy flavor of the pomegranate, but live in a colder part of the country, then the Russian Pomegranate is for you. This compact bush begins to carry large fruits within one year, and within a few years it will be cropping heavily. It grows no more than 15 feet tall, and most bushes are only 6 to 8 feet tall, yet it carries many huge red fruits, filled with sweet but tangy flesh.
Most pomegranates grow best in hot, dry states, in zones 8 or 9, but this variety also thrives in zone 7, and it can be grown successfully in sheltered spots in zone 6. You will enjoy not just delicious fruit, but a beautiful shrub too, with small glossy leaves and gorgeous red flowers in spring. It thrives in hot, dry spots, it is pest and disease resistant, deer leave it alone, and you don’t even need a second tree for pollination. In cooler areas it can be grown in large pot and sheltered from mid-winter cold. What more could you ask for?
Growing Russian Pomegranate Shrubs
The Russian Pomegranate grows into a rounded, multi-stem shrub between 6 and 15 feet tall. In time plants may grow taller, depending on your local conditions, and how they are pruned. The leaves are between 1 and 3 inches long, and no more than ¾ of an inch wide, of a mid-green color, with a glossy surface. The bark is grey, and with age trees develop thick trunks with an attractive gnarled appearance. The tree can also be grown as a bonsai, and it will still carry full-sized fruit.
In spring the beautiful red flowers are produced, and these are over an inch long, and attractive to hummingbirds. Each flower has a leathery covering at the base, and it is from this that the fruit develops. It is technically a huge berry, up to 6 inches across, with a hard, outer skin that grows from that leathery base. When ripe the skin of the Russian Pomegranate turns yellow and then deep, rich red. Each fruit is packed with many seeds, each one enclosed in red, fleshy tissue, and filled with delicious and healthy pomegranate juice. Depending on your location the fruits begin to ripen in October, and the fruit is ripe when it has a hollow ring when tapped with your knuckles. Usually they are ripe for Christmas, and they make lovely table ornaments – before you eat them, that is.
Uses in Your Garden
Pomegranates can be used as specimens in the garden or planted to make a screen. They can even be clipped into hedges and with their spiny stems they make an excellent security barrier. They live for many, many years and become more picturesque as they age. Large trees can be cut back, and they will soon re-sprout, becoming bushy again and looking lovely with their thick grey trunks topped with dense foliage. A single tree should be given at least 10 feet of room from buildings or other plants. For a screen space the trees 6 feet apart and for a hedge 3 or 4 feet apart. A hedge should be clipped once a year only, immediately after the fruits have been picked. More frequent clipping will reduce flowering and fruit production.
Planting and Initial Care
The Russian Pomegranate is self-pollinating, so you don’t need a second tree to pollinate your Russian Pomegranate, and it is rarely bothered by pests or diseases – it’s very easy to grow. Even deer usually leave these trees alone, because there are sharp spines on the stems.
Plant the Russian Pomegranate in a sheltered sunny spot. In cooler areas in front of a south-facing wall of your home is ideal, but in warmer, drier areas it can be grown in any sunny part of your garden. It grows best in well-drained soil, and is perfectly happy in sandy, poor, rocky soil. Once established, this plant thrives in hot, dry conditions, and in hot, humid ones too. From California to Florida, and north as far as Virginia and even into Pennsylvania, people are growing the Russian Pomegranate.
You can also grow this plant in a large pot. Use a cactus soil, and make sure your pot has at least one drainage hole. Never leave it sitting in a saucer of water and allow the soil to dry between each watering. In winter keep your tree in a sunny, cool place, just above freezing is the best. That way the natural growing cycle will be preserved. Keep it outdoors as much as possible, in a sunny place.
History and Origins of the Russian Pomegranate
The pomegranate tree (Punica granatum) has a fascinating history. It is grown throughout the Middle East, and in Central Asia, where it plays an important part in both local culture and in local cuisine. The Russian Pomegranate is not really from Russia, but it was discovered by a Russian botanist, Dr. Gregory Moiseyevich Levin. For 40 years he did research on these trees at the Garrigala Agricultural Station in Turkmenistan, at that time part of the Soviet Union. There he had over 1,000 different varieties of pomegranates, collected all through Central Asia. When the USSR collapsed, so did the funding for the station, and eventually Dr Levin moved to Israel. He took many of his trees with him and sent some to enthusiasts in California. Among them was a variety he called ‘Salavatski’, which he had collected in either Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, or Azerbaijan. None of these places are actually in Russia, but the name ‘Russian’ is often used for this cold-hardy variety.
Our trees are grown from stem pieces genetically identical to Dr Levin’s original plant of ‘Salavatski’. This cold-hardy pomegranate is the hardiest variety known, but it thrives in hot, dry states too. It is perfect for your first pomegranate tree, but our stocks of this highly-sought variety will not last long, so order now, or be disappointed.