The persimmon tree is in the genus Diospyros, which means ‘divine fruit’ in Greek: a perfect description for this heavenly produce! Native to China, India, the Philippines, Mexico, and the United States, persimmon trees produce fruits that are usually a yellow or orange-red color, but some types can produce black or bluish fruits. They’re an easy to grow tree, reaching heights between 15 and 60 feet when mature. Most persimmons suffer from few pest or disease problems, which might be the result of their limited commercial cultivation. Have you ever bitten into a persimmon and immediately found your mouth puckering? This is due to the astringency in the fruit that arises from varying tannin levels before and after ripening. Astringent, or puckered, types of persimmons are heart-shaped and must be fully ripe and jelly soft before eating. Non-astringent, or non-puckered, types are tomato-shaped and lose their tannins earlier, which allows them to be eaten while still firm. Make sure you know which type you’re growing to avoid a tingling surprise!
Fuyu Persimmons are one of the best known non-astringent types. Fruits are flat, squat, and about 3” in diameter, with orange or orange-red skin at harvest time. If you happen to find persimmons at the grocery store, this is likely the kind that you’ll be buying due to its ability to store and ship better than other types. Mature trees will grow up to 30 feet tall and produce yellowish white flowers and striking red foliage in the fall. Trees are either male or female, so be sure to get a female if you are hoping to harvest fruit. You’ll need a male tree also if you want your fruit to have seeds; the Japanese believe that seeded fruits are tastier and won’t fall from the tree too early. Seedless fruit will still form even if the blossoms are not pollinated.
Seed: In order to grow persimmons from scratch, seeds must be stratified and then soaked (if they haven’t already started sprouting!) in water at room temperature for a day before planting. Note that it may take an average of 4–8 years for a tree grown from seed to produce fruit, and you aren’t guaranteed to get the same type of fruit as the parent tree.
Seed Depth: 1/2–1″
Space Between Plants: 10–16′
Space Between Rows: 15–20′
Germination Soil Temperature: 40–55°F
Days for Germination: 10–40
Sow Indoors: Seedlings can be started in pots at anytime from late spring to fall for planting out the following spring.
Sow Outdoors: After average last frost date in early spring. You can also start seeds in fall, particularly in climates with mild winters.
Vegetative: Trees are commonly grafted onto a different rootstock. Persimmons propagated in this manner should begin to produce fruit within 2–3 years of planting. Can also be propagated by taking stem cuttings.
Grows best in moderate climates, between subtropical and temperate conditions. This Asian-type persimmon prefers warm climates found in Zones 7–11. They will go dormant in the winter, dropping their leaves. In this dormant phase, trees can tolerate temperatures as low as 0°F. Once trees have begun to produce new growth in the spring, they can be damaged by frost, but blooming usually occurs late enough to keep this from being a problem. Fruits grown under warmer conditions will generally have better coloration and a sweeter taste.
Natural: Full sun.
Artificial: Grows best under HID lamps due to their need for a lot of light. Provide 8–12 hours of light per day.
Soil: Wild trees are not picky about soil type. Grafted and transplanted trees will do best on a well-drained soil. Prefers a pH of between 6.0 and 6.5 to keep trees healthy and nourished.
Soilless: Grow in a mix of coco coir, vermiculite, and perlite.
Hydroponics: Not much is known about growing persimmons hydroponically. If you want to give it a try, be sure to let us know how it goes!
Aeroponics: Cuttings will root well in an aeroponic system.
Water: Requires moderate levels of water. Fruit yield and quality will be best with consistent watering, but trees are quite drought tolerant. Water deeply at least once per week for best results.
Nutrients: Requires moderate levels of nutrients. Will benefit from occasional feedings, but trees will tolerate poor soils, albeit with a possible reduction in fruit yield. An excessive amount of nitrogen can cause fruit to drop.
Foliar: Will benefit from foliar applications of zinc, borax, and iron.
Pruning: Because trees can easily grow to heights of 25–30′, pruning can allow easier harvests. Remove dead limbs, maintain a compact shape, and allow for adequate light and air penetration within the tree. Fruit is borne on new shoots from last year’s growth, which yearly pruning will promote. This type commonly has its blossoms thinned to promote larger, sweeter fruits.
Mulching: Use mulch to keep soil moist and suppress weeds. Keep mulch a few inches away from the tree’s trunk.
Support: Limbs full or fruit may require some support, particularly if you have high winds in your area.
Pest(s): Rarely bothered by pests, but watch for:
Disease(s): Not often susceptible to diseases, but watch for:
Deficiency(s): A magnesium deficiency will cause leaves to turn yellow between the veins and eventually to drop.
Rotation: Since trees can live up to 70 years, you won’t need to worry about crop rotation.
Companions: Grows well with borage, chives, marigold, comfrey, and strawberries. Can be inter-cropped with the tea plant.
Harvest: Fruits will be produced between 2 and 8 years after planting, depending on the type of tree and if they were started from seed or by cloning/grafting. Non-astringent types can be harvested when the flesh of the fruit is still somewhat firm. Cut fruit from the tree to avoid damaging them. Fruits should be mature in the fall, although the exact time will vary depending on the type you are growing. Fuyus will ripen sometime between late October and December. Sometimes, fruit are harvested after the first frost, when they should begin to naturally drop from the tree.
Storage: Fruit should be stored at room temperature until ripe, which can take several weeks. Ripe fruit will keep well in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks, but we recommend leaving them on the counter or in a cupboard instead. Frozen fruit will store for 3 months or more.
Fun Fact: The persimmon is also known as “swamp ebony” because it’s related to the ebony tree. Persimmon wood can even be used as a substitute.
Preserve: Can be made into a preserve, jelly, or jam and canned for later use. Ripe persimmons also freeze well. They are commonly dehydrated either whole or in slices, using either the sun, a dehydrator, or an oven set to low.
Prepare: The non-astringent fruits are mostly eaten raw when ripe but still firm. Some varieties are best when first peeled. Fruits will continue to ripen at room temperature. Unripe fruit can be frozen and will be ready to eat or cook when thawed. Suitable for many dessert recipes including pies, cookies, cakes, and cobblers. Combine with lime juice to offset the super sweet taste. Persimmons are also made into a pudding and used as a thickening agent. Try roasting your Fuyu Persimmon to bring out a mild, pumpkin-y flavor.
Nutritional: Provides vitamin(s) A and C. Also contains high levels of manganese, dietary fiber, and antioxidants.
Medicinal: Due to their high levels of antioxidants, persimmons may have anti-cancer, anti-hemorrhagic, antibiotic, and anti-inflammatory properties. They are also helpful for the eyes, digestive system, and metabolic system.
Warnings: Allergic reactions are very rare, but possible. If you eat the unripe fruit, an unpleasant puckering or “fuzzy” taste experience may arise. This is not dangerous, however, just uncomfortable.
If you eat too many fruits on an empty stomach, the tannins in the flesh can cause a bezoar to form in your stomach, so slow your roll if you’re a persimmon fiend!
Use some of your sweetest, ripest Fuyu Persimmons to make this amazing, refined-sugar-free Persimmon Chai Bread.