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A Country Favorite: The Persimmon Tree

Written by Mindy on January 13th, 2012

The American persimmon tree (Diospyros virginiana) can be found growing wild in many areas of the United States. It can be found from Connecticut to Florida and across to Ohio. It’s growth requirements are very broad and can grow in practically any type of soil. Due to its deep root nature, the persimmon tree is often planted in areas that are eroding away as a form of erosion control.

Persimmons versatility make them prefect for edible landscapes and wildlife plots. They can also be used to naturalize an area with easy.

A persimmon tree can be described as a beautiful, multi-season beauty. This tree is covered in ebony colored bark that is deeply grooved. The emerald green leaves grow in an alternative pattern. The blooms are not very showy but come fall the fruit makes up for this. As temperatures begin to cool in the fall, the green balls of fruit begin to change into crimson orange and remain that way until the end of the season.

This tree only has three enemies. The first enemy consists of the animals that love to eat the fruit. This includes white-tailed deer, rabbits, bobwhites, raccoons, and squirrels. The second type of enemy includes several types of insects. This includes the bark and phloem borer (Agrilus fuscipennis), the persimmon borer (Sannina uroceriformis), webworms (Sannina uroceriformis), hickory horned devil (Sannina uroceriformis), twig gridler ((Oncideres cingulata), and the false powderpost beetle ((Xylobiops basilaris).

The last enemy is a fungus disease called persimmon wilt (Cephalosporium diospyri). This wilt has only shown up in central Tennessee.

American persimmon trees can be started in a couple of ways but the easiest approach is through the use of seedlings or seeds. Seedlings can be purchased through local extension offices and an even be found at some nurseries that specialize in native species.

Regardless of which method you choose, you will need at least two trees. Persimmons produce male and female blooms on separate trees and having more trees increases the chances of proper pollination.

If you are using seedlings, the first step in the planting process consists of planning out your planting arrangement and digging the hole. Persimmon trees like to be at least 2 feet apart. Mark the area on the ground where you want to place your trees with powdered milk. After this is done it is time to dig.

Most persimmon seedlings are sold bare-rooted so it is very important to get them in the ground as soon as possible. The hole for the persimmon seedlings needs to be two feet deep and two feet wide. Place the soil in a wheelbarrow and mix with well-seasoned compost.

Once all the holes have been dug, it is time to begin the planting process. Place the seedling in the hole for a dry run. The tree should not be any deeper then it was in its container but since bare-root trees do not come in a container this can be a challenge. To aid in this step, study the root area of each seedling. Look for a soil line around the base of the tree. Once you find this line, it will be your depth gauge for each tree.

Place each tree in the hole at the correct depth and fill in with soil. Once all the trees have been planted, water in and refill with soil if needed.

If using the tree to naturalize an area, this is all that is needed. If the tree is used in an edible or decorative landscape, then you will need to create a berm. A berm is simply a rim of soil that is place several inches away from the trunk of the tree. This berm creates a well around the tree for water collection and protects the tree from lawnmower and weedeater damage.

Fertilize the tree with an all-purpose fertilizer once a month during the growing season.

Persimmons can also be started from seed. This begins by gathering ones fruit. This can be ripe fruit that has been picked off the tree or you now can purchase it through the local grocery store.

After the fruit has been gathered, simply run it through a food mill and separate the pulp from the seeds and skin. Once this is done, remove the seeds, wash them and place them out to dry for one to two days.

After they have dried, it is time to stratify them. This only requires the seeds to be placed in damp peat moss and then placed in an environment that is kept at 33 to 40 degrees F for two to three months.

In the spring, plant the seeds in a shallow hole and cover with ½ inch of hummus. Once the seeds have germinated and produced at least three leaves, it is time to transplant, if desired. Do not wait until the seedlings are several feet in height. Persimmons do not transplant well due to their taproot.

Persimmons will begin to produce fruit when they are around 25 to 50 years old but some 10-year-old trees have been known to produce.

A cautionary hint when it comes to planting a persimmon tree. Keep in mind that the tree does fruit and this fruit makes a mess on sidewalks, roofs, and cars. Plan your placement for when the tree is mature and fruiting not while it is small. This prevents problems from occurring and keeps peace with your family, friends and neighbors


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