April 29, 2017

1 – Pomegranates may be grown in parts of New Mexico, but some winter protection may be needed.

Yard and Garden April 29, 2017

Q.

My husband grew up in northern California with a very large backyard orchard. He has fond memories of working with his mother to grow a wide variety of fruit-bearing plants. Pomegranates were his favorite.

We are in the process of buying a home in western Albuquerque, and I would like to surprise him with a few fruit trees to plant in our new back yard. I just came across an article from 2008 in which you were mentioned as trying to cultivate a type of pomegranate that withstands cold weather better than most varieties.

I was hoping you had experienced some success in this endeavor and could give me some advice as to when/whether we should try to plant a few trees. If a hardier variety exists, is it available to hobby gardeners?

I would greatly appreciate any advice you have to offer, and thank you for sharing your knowledge on the NMSU SW Yard and Garden page.

- Jessica A. C.

A.

In that article I stated that Dr. Ron Walser had received some new varieties of pomegranate to test in New Mexico. Dr. Walser retired soon after that article was written and I retired about a year after Dr. Walser. I do not know the results of his experiments. They did look promising. However, when checking the internet I found a variety of pomegranate called ‘Russian 26’ that is supposed to be hardy to USDA hardiness zone 6 – Albuquerque is in zone 7. The information said that it would survive temperatures as low as 5 degrees. Some winters can be colder than that in the Albuquerque area, but there is a good chance a pomegranate will survive.

I have seen pomegranates that have survived many years producing fruit in Albuquerque. Some have been frozen to the ground in extreme winters, but have regrown from the base many times. Most of these were in protected landscapes walls and surrounding structures creating a microclimate warmer than the surrounding areas. These pomegranates were not the ‘Russian 26’ variety which should be hardier and even more likely to survive most Albuquerque winters.

Extremely cold winters such as the winter of 2011 may kill even the hardy pomegranates except in exceptionally warm microclimates. If extremely low temperatures are anticipated, a thick layer of mulch (straw, pine needles, wood chips) may protect the base of the pomegranate plant allowing it to regrow the next spring. In colder parts of New Mexico the pomegranate can be grown in a large container that can be moved to a protected location (sunroom or garage) during the winter where it can remain in protection while it is dormant. Such container plants should be watered occasionally during the winter to prevent excessive drying of plant tissues.

Pomegranates may be found online and perhaps in some New Mexico nurseries. Dr. Walser mentioned a grower in Silver City who was successfully growing the hardier pomegranates. Your local NMSU Cooperative Extension Service agent may be able to help you locate some pomegranate plants.

Bare root plants should be planted in the late winter or early spring, but container grown plants may be planted most of the year. Local New Mexico nurseries that have pomegranates will probably have them as container grown plants.

For more gardening information, visit the NMSU Extension publications Web site at http://aces.nmsu.edu/pubs/_h, or to read past articles of Yard and Garden go to http://aces.nmsu.edu/pubs/periodicals.html.

Send your gardening questions to Yard and Garden, Attn: Dr. Curtis Smith at cwsmith@nmsu.edu or leave a message at https://www.facebook.com/NMSUExtExpStnPubs.

Curtis W. Smith, Ph.D., is an Extension Horticulture Specialist, retired from New Mexico State University's Cooperative Extension Service. NMSU and the U.S. Department of Agriculture cooperating.