Pomegranates can be grown in some parts of New Mexico
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Issue: December 27, 2008

Pomegranates can be grown in some parts of New Mexico

Question:

We have two large pomegranate bushes. We need information on how and when to prune them. Also how often they produce. Two years ago we had one of the bushes with a large number of fruit, than last year only two or three pomegranates and this year was the same. We live in Roswell, NM. The bushes are planted on the east side of our yard. They get the morning sun. They are now about 7 feet high. Other than watering them, we do not do anything to them. We need help in knowing how to care for them.

Penny B.

Answer:

I asked Dr. Ron Walser, NMSU Extension Urban Small Farm Specialist about your problem. He is growing pomegranates at the NMSU Los Lunas Agricultural Science Center as a potential crop for New Mexico. He said that pomegranates will grow in New Mexico and sometimes produce fruit. In many areas of New Mexico, the mid-winter temperatures below 10 degrees F. can kill the flower buds and, if prolonged or colder, the branches will also be damaged. However, he said that he has seen pomegranates with some protection from the cold survive in areas where the temperature went to 0 degrees.

The problem often experienced with pomegranate fruit production is damage to the flowers and fruit by late frosts. After growth begins, the late frost can easily damage the flowers. This is probably what happened to your plants for the past two years.

For most home landscape pomegranate shrubs, little pruning is required. Remove dead and weak interior stems during the dormant season. Commercial growers often train the plant into tree form with a single or multiple trunks, but this requires much labor and persistence because the pomegranate is naturally a shrub and continues to try to product shoots at the crown (where the stem meets the ground). In most situations where maximum fruit yield is not a major factor, allowing the plant to grow as a shrub is the best practice.

Dr. Walser also offered some hope for those wanting to grow pomegranates. He is working with “Afganski” varieties that are more cold hardy than the pomegranates commonly available in New Mexico. He received these varieties from the USDA Plant Germplasm Center in California. He said a grower in Silver City, NM, has grown these varieties successfully for the past 10 years. These varieties produce large, attractive fruit and he has great expectations for their success in New Mexico.

Send your gardening questions to:
Yard and Garden, ATTN: Dr. Curtis Smith
NMSU Cooperative Extension Service
9301 Indian School Road, NE, Suite 112
Albuquerque, NM 87112

Curtis W. Smith, Ph.D., is an Extension Horticulture Specialist with New Mexico State University's Cooperative Extension Service. New Mexico State University is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer and educator.