Plant of the Week
January 27, 2007
By David Rodriguez
Few fruit trees are as attractive in landscapes as oriental persimmons (Diospyros kaki). They provide dark green foliage that turns orange/yellowish/red in the fall with orange-red ripening fruit. The persimmon will grow in a wide range of soils and climates. Persimmons have very few major insect or disease problems. They are tasty and high in vitamin A.
Mature trees can reach around 40 feet, but many varieties are easily managed at about 10 feet. Trees should be spaced out at about 15 to 20 feet apart.
Oriental persimmons were brought into the U.S. via Japan by Commodore Perry in 1856. Thereafter, large quantities were imported by the United States Department of Agriculture from 1870 through the 1920’s. Large numbers of trees were planted in California and the Southeast in the 1930’s, but since then have declined tremendously. Today it is still a popular backyard tree. Currently, in the U.S. almost the entire persimmon fruit sold comes out of California, where there are about 700 acres in production.
Oriental persimmons can be divided into two classes-astringent and non-astringent. Astringent varieties gain astringency from tannins that disappear as the fruit ripens and softens. They will make your mouth pucker and give you a “cotton mouth” feeling. Non-astringent persimmons, however, can be eaten when still firm, without any astringency.
The month of January is an ideal and economical time to plant bare-rooted persimmons. Containerized trees should be purchased in March/April to insure that the tree is leafed out and well rooted. Look for these varieties; plant at least two trees with one being Fuyu.
Fuyu (Japanese) is a medium-sized, non-astringent, self-fruitful persimmon. The fruit is red, rather square-shaped and can be eaten green. Fuyu will pollinate all other varieties.
Tamopan is a moderately productive, very large, orange, flat-shaped persimmon with a distinctive ring constriction near the middle of the fruit. The tree is the most vigorous and upright of the varieties grown in the south.
Eureka is a heavy-producing, medium-sized, flat-shaped, extremely high-quality red persimmon. The tree is relatively small and is self-fruitful.
Tane-nashi is a moderate producer, cone-shaped, orange-colored persimmon. The tree is vigorous and upright. The fruit stores well, and the tree makes an excellent landscape ornamental.
Hichiya is a large productive, cone-shaped, seedless persimmon with bright orange-red skin. The tree is upright and very vigorous. This outstanding variety makes an excellent dual-purpose, fruit-ornamental specimen.
Oriental persimmons can be grown on a wide variety of soil types. They prefer a deep, fertile, well-drained, organically enriched soil. Provide plenty of water at the initial planting and fertilize six months thereafter. Ask your local certified nursery professional about more in-depth details on planting and training for the first two to three years.
Persimmons are delicious whether eaten fresh, dried, or cooked. As a fresh fruit, they are unbelievable. The taste of a fully ripened persimmon is superb-incomparable to any other fruit. Try planting two or more this year. I think they will be well suited in your orchard or home landscape.
Remember, Learn and Have Fun!
David Rodriguez is the County Extension Agent-Horticulture for Bexar County. He represents Texas Cooperative Extension with the Texas A&M University System. For any landscape or gardening information, call the Bexar County Master Gardeners Hotline at (210) 467-6575, e-mail questions to email@example.com, or visit our County Extension website at http://bexar-tx.tamu.edu/ and click on Horticulture and Gardening.