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Pomegranates have been in cultivation so long that no one knows exactly where they came from. It has been in use for eons in Iran and India and is featured in Egyptian mythology. Many such exotic plants don't often translate to Portland, but the Pomegranate does. It thrives in our warm summers, reliably gracing our gardens with hot orange flowers, and it stands up to our winter cold.
Portland summers aren't quite long enough to produce fruit reliably though. Best bets for ripe fruit are the new varieties 'Angel Red' and 'Sochi Dwarf'. They're reported to ripen weeks earlier than other varieties.
Despite a possible lack of fruit, we think that all varieties of Pomegranate are worth growing since the flowers really can't be beat. Site them in the hottest spot in your yard and they'll be happy. In areas that get very windy in winter, plant them in an area where the wind is a bit less.
Portland Nursery has carried many different varieties of Punica over the years. The following varieties are those we're stocking in 2011.
Orange flowers in July-August, large bright red fruit in September-October, much earlier than other varieties. Fruit has soft seeds with little residue. Upright fountain shape. Grows 10' x 10'
Bred in Russia, this cultivar is the most cold tolerant, withstanding temperatures of 10f. Orange flowers in summer, fruit a bit smaller than store varieties but reportedly sweeter.
Excellent dwarf variety with bright orange flowers all summer, shiny dark green leaves, yellow fall color and small orange-red fruit. Grows 3-4' x 3-4'
New dwarf variety from southern Russia. Orange-red flowers all summer, golf-ball size fruit. Grows 3-4' x 3-4'
Standard commercial variety grown in California. Orange-red flowers in July-August, glossy dark green leaves, yellow fall color. Fruit is large & red, but unlikely to ripen in our climate. Grows 8-12' x 8-12'
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Genus: Punica (POO-ni-kuh)
Common Name: Pomegranate
Origin: Origin is uncertain but is likely Mediterranean to Himalayas. It has been in cultivation for eons.
Characteristics: Small genus with few species, Punica granatum is most common. Large shrubs or small trees with bright orange, red, pink, peach or yellow flowers in summer and large round red to brown fruit in late summer or fall.
In the Pacific Northwest the growing season is typically not long enough to produce edible fruit. Deciduous leaves are commonly green and appear in mid-spring once temperatures have begun to warm. Branches are sometimes thorny.
Size: Large shrubs to about 8-12' are common in our climate. Cold winter weather can cause branch dieback but the plant typically recovers. This limits the mature size to less than California standards (20').
Dwarf cultivars grow to about 3-4' x 3-4'.
Culture: Sun sun sun! Improve soil drainage by adding compost when planting & raise soil pH by adding lime. Don't be surprised if branches are still bare in early May. You should see leaves by June though.
Hardy Z7b – Usually fine in Portland but may be tender in windy areas.
Problems: Most cultivars will not produce fruit in our climate because our summer heat just doesn't last long enough.
New varieties, 'Angel Red' and 'Sochi' ripen earlier than traditional cultivars, so may produce fruit in Portland.