Trees can be a resilient, beautiful component of a garden landscape, providing pleasure year after year. With so many options available, it can be difficult to decide on the right varietals for you, but whether you're gardening on a balcony or several acres, persimmon trees can be a wonderful addition. These lovely plants have been prized for years for their elegance, hardiness, fruit, and shade.
Being easy to grow is a quality many home gardeners can appreciate. Add that these trees are mostly undisturbed by pests and diseases and you've got a real winner. But as with any other living thing, persimmon trees can be susceptible to problems when conditions are not in their favor or when the trees aren't in tip-top health.
A number of fungi can cause leaf spots on persimmon leaves and fruit. Though unsightly, causing premature defoliation and rot, it isn’t deadly to mature trees and can be treated with fungicide in severe cases.
Though these trees are resilient, the usual suspects may make an appearance in summer—caterpillars, thrips, mites, and ants. Caterpillars cause unsightly defoliation and can require treatment to deter. And anyone with fruit trees knows how attractive they can be to wildlife in the area. Birds, possums, raccoons, deer, and rats, get hungry too, so maturing fruit could require some vigilance if you want to save some for yourself.
Trees develop on a long tap root, and the different varieties range in size from small to medium sized. Mature size can be near 60 feet tall, but they are slow growing and can be maintained at a more manageable size. We've even seen backyard trees in Southern California more than 20 years old that still haven't topped 12 feet tall.
Plant different shapes adds variety and depth to the garden, so don't overlook it with your trees. Persimmon trees can be narrow, oval, or rounded, and if you live in a cold winter area where the trees are deciduous, in the fall you’ll be treated to a striking display of red, yellow, and orange.
As the season progresses and the leaves have fallen, you’ll have a second display, this time showcasing a network of branches that light up with bright orange fruits, and a dark trunk, which upon closer inspection is distinctively rough and blocky. Fragrant, white spring blossoms precede the light green leaves in spring which turn dark green in summer.
Delicious Fruit and Prolific Fruits
While native American persimmons have been around for a long time, Asian varieties are more common in the markets and for home fruit production. If you see persimmons in the grocery store, though, consider yourself lucky. The trees can produce so much fruit they weigh down branches, but they're highly perishable, and may not make the trip very often to your location.
The fruits are rounded, with a slightly pointed bottom, and fall into two categories—astringent or non-astringent. Astringent fruits must ripen completely before eating, otherwise the tannins in the skin will make your mouth pucker. When fully ripe, fruits will be very soft, and the flesh can be scooped out for eating either fresh or cooked in sweet breads, puddings, and cookies.
If they're picked before peak ripeness you can finish ripening in the kitchen by storing them in a container with an apple, or other fruit that produces ethylene gas.
Non-astringent varieties are crisp and sweet, and can be eaten out of hand once the color has deepened to rich orange. They're often more flattened, shaped like a mini-pumpkin or a tomato. They come in seedless or seeded varieties, and often show tiny, wide-spaced flecks in the flesh that resemble a sprinkling of cinnamon.
An abundance of fruits come harvest time may leave you wondering what you can do other than give them to friends and neighbors—who may also be suffering from the same predicament as you, as we've witnessed in certain neighborhoods of Southern California. If you find yourself a "victim" of the persimmon glut, try putting them into the freezer for future gratification. These firm fruits turn soft and scoopable after a stint in the deep freeze, so you can take a break and enjoy them later.
While persimmons are remarkably hardy, as with other plants in your garden, the trees have some requirements that should be followed to turn them into long-lived, healthy parts of your landscape. Regardless of whether you choose a bare root or potted plant, you must find a spot that receives at least six hours of full sun, and moist but well-drained soil. They tolerate a wide variety of soil types, from sandy to clay, and even adjust to your soils pH levels. Once fully established, they're even drought tolerant, saving you a little on your water bills.
Persimmon trees are stunning additions to your landscape, providing fruit, shade, fragrance, and beauty.