February 28, 2010

1 - Pomegranate plants need water in the winter and they will do better if in the ground.

Yard and Garden - February 28, 2010


In the spring of 2009 I purchased 12 "Wonderful" pomegranates. I moved them into 1-gallon containers. In July I put some of them into the ground, but some are still in pots. The ones in the ground did much better during the summer and held onto their leaves longer than the ones in the pots.

Do they need water in the winter? How soon in the spring or summer can I put the others in the ground?

- Ben S.



Plants do need water in the winter. At this time of the year they use less water than in the summer, but they still need water to maintain life. This is true for both evergreen plants and deciduous plants like the pomegranates. Plants in the ground should be irrigated once each month unless there has been adequate precipitation to moisten the soil to at least the same depth you irrigated during the growing season. The reason for irrigating to the same depth is that the roots have adapted to that depth of moisture and if part of the root zone dries too much during the dormant season, those roots will die. The pomegranates should be irrigated to a depth of about 2 feet. Water savings accrue because you should water less often than during the growing season.

Plants in the pots will need to be watered more frequently because pots dry more quickly. The frequency will depend on how quickly they dry and that will depend on where you are keeping the pots. In a warm sunny location they will dry much faster and may need irrigation once a week. In a cold shady location they will dry more slowly, but here there is a greater chance that the root system will be damaged by freezing. The roots never become as hardy as the above ground part of the plant, so be careful where you store the plants. A shady, but not extremely cold location is best (north side of the house is usually not good).

Yes, the plants will do better when planted in the open soil in the garden or landscape because they can develop a more extensive root system to support the plant. You can plant them as soon as you can dig the soil. If the soil is not frozen, you can plant them now. However, if the plants have been kept indoors, in a greenhouse, or other warm location, then you should wait until the chance of freezing has past. Since you said the leaves dropped, I assume you have the plants outside. They will be more protected and better able to survive if you plant them soon. If roots have begun circling in the pot, you should cut the outside (circling) roots with a sharp pair of pruners or a sharp knife. These plants will have a smaller root system and, if mulched, may need to be irrigated once or twice a month until growth begins. Once growth begins irrigate all the pomegranate plants twice a month to a depth of about two feet.

Remember to prepare the planting site by loosening the soil over a large area (much larger than the rootball) and by adding compost to the whole prepared site. Then place the plants so that the top of the rootball is even with the surrounding soil surface. Do not put additional organic amendments into the planting hole. Water the plants well and cover the soil with a 3 to 4 inch layer of organic mulch to conserve moisture and keep the soil temperature moderate.

Marisa Y. Thompson, PhD, is the Extension Horticulture Specialist, in the Department of Extension Plant Sciences at the New Mexico State University Los Lunas Agricultural Science Center, email: desertblooms@nmsu.edu, office: 505-865-7340, ext. 113.


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