Persimmons are small trees that produce a round, tart fruit. They grow from New England to Florida and as far west as Texas. There are two types of persimmons native to the United States. The American Persimmon is the one that is the most widespread. The other one is the Texas Persimmon. There are also Oriental Persimmons that have been imported to the United States. Most of these are grafted onto American Persimmon rootstock.
The American and Texas persimmons produce small, round fruit. The fruits are very tart until the first frost, then they become sweet. These fruits are a favorite of deer, raccoons, and other animals in the forest.
The Oriental Persimmon was introduced into the United States in the late 1800’s from China and Japan. These trees have larger, sweeter fruit that is eaten fresh or dried. Because the Oriental Persimmon is very susceptible to cotton root rot, it must be grafted onto American Persimmon rootstock or it will not do well.
The orchard or area that will be planted should be prepared well ahead of time. All weeds must be eliminated and the area deeply plowed to break up any hardpan. Persimmon trees are planted 15 to 18 feet apart in the row. The rows must be 20 feet apart.
Plants are usually purchased as bare root plants and must be planted in the winter. Plant the tree at the same level it was in the dirt at the nursery. After planting, water the tree in completely. If you use bareroot stock, at least half of the top should be pruned off when planting. This allows the roots to be able to support the remaining part of the tree while the roots are being established.
Young trees must be pruned so that they have three to five strong branches coming out of the central trunk at a height of about three feet above ground level. This will stabilize the tree when it bears fruit and keep the weight of the fruit from breaking the branches.
Mature trees are pruned each winter to eliminate broken or diseased branches, new shoots from the trunk, and any branches that shade the inner canopy.
Trees need supplemental irrigation in the spring and early summer when most of the growth is occurring. Fertilizer should be based on vigor as excessive fertilizer makes the plant put on too much foliage and not enough fruit. Forty pounds of actual fertilizer per acre per year is usually sufficient.
Persimmons are vulnerable to dropping their fruit prior to the fruit maturation when the tree is stressed. This means supplemental water and good mulching practices to prevent weeds are essential. Nothing you do will completely prevent fruit drop, as this is nature’s way of thinning the fruit. The result is fewer fruit that are larger.
Persimmon trees are generally healthy and pest resistant. The few pests they do have rarely become so severe that treatment is warranted. The most serious problem is the number of animals that feed on the fruit. Raccoons, opossums, deer, and various other mammals will eat the fruit, some before it is ripe. A close watch on ripening fruit is necessary to prevent excessive losses.