Punica (Pomegranate)

Punica (Pomegranate)

Punica (Pomegranate) is a small genus consisting of only two species and is included, on the basis of recent phylogenetic studies, in the family Lythraceae, previously placed in a separate family of Pomegranates (Punicaceae), now abolished.

The genus name comes from the Latin name of the plant – punicum malum – punic apple. Poeni, or Puni – so-called the Phoenicians-Carthaginians, who supplied the best fruits of this tree.

Description of punica

punica (pomegranate)
punica (pomegranate)

Socotra Pomegranate (Punica protopunica) is endemic to the island of Socotra. It is a deciduous tree 2.5–4.5 m tall, often spiny. The leaves are dark green, glossy, opposite, about 3 cm long. It has pink, not red, flowers, and the fruits are smaller and less sweet than those of the common pomegranate when ripe yellow-green or brown-red.

Punica granatum is the most famous and only cultivated type of pomegranate. The species name comes from the Latin word granatum, which means “granular”. Its homeland is considered to be the area from Iran to Northern India.

Pomegranate trees are durable, the age of some specimens exceeds 200 years. They are drought tolerant and can be grown in dry areas with a Mediterranean climate. Pomegranate cultivation works best in places with long hot and dry summers and cool winters. In wetter areas, plants can be affected by fungal root diseases. They are tolerant of sandy, clayey, acidic and even alkaline soils. Pomegranates can tolerate short-term cold snaps, up to -12°C.

In the Middle East, South Asia and the Mediterranean region, they have been grown for several millennia.

Common Pomegranate (Punica granatum)
Punica granatum

Common Pomegranate (Punica granatum)
Punica granatum

The fruit of the pomegranate was discovered in the tomb of the court woman pharaoh Hatshepsut in Egypt, in the Mesopotamian cuneiform, pomegranates are mentioned from the middle of the third millennium BC.

Pomegranate is repeatedly mentioned in the Bible, in the Old Testament, it is used as the personification of blessing and prosperity, fertility and fruitfulness, and the death of pomegranate trees is considered as God’s punishment. The Pomegranate was one of the favorite motifs in architecture and applied arts. There are several images of the Virgin with the Child Jesus, with the fruit of pomegranate in her hands.

As a fruit crop, pomegranates are now widely grown throughout the Middle East and the Caucasus, in northern and tropical Africa, in India, Central Asia, the drier parts of Southeast Asia and the Mediterranean Basin, in parts of Arizona and California. There are about 500 varieties, although the same variety may have several names, depending on the place of cultivation.

The fruits are used to make juice, baking, in side dishes, sauces, cocktails and alcoholic beverages. Pomegranate has long been used in folk medicine. All parts of the plant contain the alkaloid pellethierine, which paralyzes tapeworms and is used as an anthelmintic. Pomegranate is also rich in tannin, making it an effective astringent. It has an antibacterial, antiviral effect, tinctures and extracts are used for external treatment of ulcers and throat infections. The dried peel of the fruit is used to treat amoebic dysentery and diarrhea. However, these funds should be used with caution, with an overdose, toxicity is manifested.

Pomegranate grove in the Indian Himalayas

From Pomegranate, you can get red, black or yellow dyes.

Adult specimens can show sculptural twisted figures with several trunks and an ornamental general shape, so in the Mediterranean climate, pomegranates are grown as ornamental trees in parks and gardens, they make hedges. Thanks to the beautiful flowers and unusual twisted bark of old specimens, the pomegranate is a popular tree for growing in the bonsai style and, although the plant is not found in the nature of these places, many new varieties have been bred in Korea and Japan. In cool climates, it is a classic tub plant, and dwarf and terry varieties are grown in pots.

Pomegranate trees reproduce by sowing seeds, but the plants grown from them may differ from the parent forms. To preserve the variety, vegetative reproduction is used by rooting cuttings or cuttings, and in densely double varieties this is the only way to reproduce, their reproductive organs were transformed into additional petals, which led to the absence of fruits.

Home care of pomegranate

For growing in pots, only dwarf varieties of pomegranate, such as Nana, are suitable, usually not exceeding 1 m. And even though its pomegranates can not compete with store-bought ones, they are small and sour, the very appearance of them in the autumn brings great joy. In addition, from spring to autumn, the plant is abundantly strewn with bright red flowers. Planted in a tub, it will serve as a decoration of the garden throughout the summer. Flowering is so decorative that, to the detriment of fruiting, many varieties with terry flowers have been bred, most of which do not tie the fruit(About varieties – on the page Pomegranate).

Common Pomegranate (Punica granatum)

Pomegranate is unpretentious, easy to shape, compact, with small leaves and expressive flowers, which makes it an excellent object for growing in the bonsai style.

Lighting

Pomegranate needs full sun, southern orientation windows are needed. With a lack of light, there will be no flowering or it will be scarce. In summer, it is useful to expose the plant to an open balcony or take it to the garden, this will protect it from overheating through window panes. If this is not possible, then place the pomegranate next to the open sash of the window so that the plant receives a lot of fresh air and blows well during the heat.

Irrigation

Although adult plants in nature are resistant to short-term droughts, their need for water is not so great, it is not worth bringing the soil in the pot to complete drying. Water the pomegranate in the summer in the sun regularly, after drying the soil to about the middle of the pot, but abundantly enough to moisten the entire lump. Do not leave water in the tray, this plant is very sensitive to waterlogging. Once flowering begins, increase watering to form more flowers. At the end of August, reduce the abundance of watering, and in winter in cool conditions, reduce even more to keep the soil in a slightly moist state. To avoid overwatering, add a large amount of draining components (coarse sand or perlite) to the earth mixture.

Temperature

Common Pomegranate (Punica granatum)

In summer, pomegranate tolerates the heat of the day well, and at night it is desirable to maintain a temperature of about +15°C. In winter, the plant needs to rest in the cool at a temperature of + 5 … + 10°C, in such conditions leaf fall occurs, and the plant after its completion can be placed in a dark place. At the end of January, expose the pomegranate to the light, and soon it will start to grow.

Soil and transplants

Pomegranate is undemanding to soil fertility, but needs good drainage throughout the entire volume of the pot, and not just from below. Add 1/4-1/3 volume of perlite to the finished peat soil. You can make the following mixture: one part peat substrate, one part turf earth, and two parts sand. The high content of sand or perlite in the entire volume of the soil will prevent the stagnation of water in the pot.

Young specimens are transplanted every year in the spring after the start of growth by careful transshipment into a slightly larger pot. Adult plants are transplanted every 3-5 years.

Fertilizers

are applied from spring to autumn, starting with half dosages. Use only ready-made universal complex mixtures with trace elements, for potted plants it is better to take mineral fertilizers, liquid or dry. In winter, when the plant rests, fertilization is not applied.

Humidity

is not important for a grenade. In pot culture, the pomegranate does not suffer from dry air in the summer. And for the winter, when the heating season begins, it drops its leaves.

Cropping and shaping

To preserve the compact and dense crown, the pomegranate needs systematic pruning. But since it lays flowers at the ends of young shoots and blooms almost all summer, pruning is best done late in the fall or early spring, after harvesting (in fruiting varieties) and before starting new growth. It is preferable to carry out strong pruning, leaving 2-3 pairs of leaves on the branches. If necessary, individual branches and the emerging unnecessary growth can be pruned in the summer. Pomegranates can be formed as a single-stemmed and multi-trunked tree, in the form of a bush. Easy to form and well suited for growing bonsai. When pruning, be careful, the branches of the plant are thorny and very fragile.

Common Pomegranate (Punica granatum)

Flowering occurs

only with solar exposure of the plant and can last from May to September. Plants are grown from cuttings often bloom as early as the year of rooting, and from seeds, they can bloom in the 3-4th year. If the plant has not bloomed in due time, then it does not have enough light, move it to a sunnier place. Too scanty watering can lead to a decrease in the number of buds, and excessive moisture can provoke an earlier fall of flowers. The flowering of each flower lasts several days, up to a week.

Fructification

Not all flowers are tied with fruits, and for terry varieties, their complete absence is more characteristic. Most flowers fall off without tying the fruit, this is normal for a pomegranate. The Nana variety is capable of self-pollination. It takes about 170-220 days (5.5-7 months) for the fruit to ripen. To avoid cracking of the fruit, which often happens, you can remove the pomegranates earlier than this period and store in the refrigerator (up to 6 months), where they gradually ripen.

Common Pomegranate (Punica granatum)

Reproduction

Pomegranate cuttings are easily rooted according to the standard method (in a greenhouse with the use of root formation stimulants) throughout the growing season. But it is better to take them in early summer when young branches have already grown and matured, and there is still a whole season ahead for their active growth. On the cuttings, the branches ripened at the site of the cut are cut about 10 cm long, the roots appear in 2-4 weeks. This (vegetative) method of reproduction guarantees the preservation of varietal features, and for many terry varieties, this is the only way, since their flowers are sterile.

For sowing, only fresh seeds taken directly from their fruits are used. Do not sow seeds from purchased store pomegranates, they will grow too large plants for the house.

Pests and diseases

Pomegranate is a favorite plant of a very annoying pest – the whitefly. If you find white small flies and their larvae in the form of white capsules on the underside of the leaves, urgently isolate the plant from the rest, treat with insecticides, preferably of a systemic type (Aktara, Mospilan, Confidor, etc.), the drug Applaud is considered the best remedy. In the fall, after the leaf fall, carefully collect and destroy the leaves, replace the top layer of soil. Pomegranate is also affected by mealybugs and shields, the same systemic drugs will help in the fight against them. From aphids, it is enough to treat once with the drug Aktara.

From excessive moisture, pomegranate roots are affected by root rot, in this case, urgently reduce watering and take cuttings to renew the plant.

Varieties of pomegranate

Common Pomegranate (Punica granatum)
Punica granatum
  • Nana (Punica granatum nana) is a dwarf variety of common pomegranate that is most often grown as an ornamental plant in gardens and containers and is used to create bonsai. It was first described in 1803. This cultivar usually grows no more than 60-120 cm in height and width, but pruning can limit growth to 30 cm. It is not only dwarf in growth but even its flowers, leaves and fruits are small in size. The leaves are about 2.5 cm long, when revealed at first bronze, later become bright green, and in autumn acquire a yellow color. In cool conditions, this deciduous plant, in a warm climate or indoors can remain for the winter with leaves. Flowers with an orange-red corolla appear in abundance throughout the summer, and in autumn small, about 5 cm in diameter, fruits are formed, which persist on the plant all winter. These fruits are edible but too acidic to be eaten.

There are several varieties of pomegranate that are grown only for the sake of spectacular flowers.

  • Chico – with terry red flowers that bloom throughout the summer, but without the formation of fruits. With the help of pruning, you can keep the size within 60 cm.
  • Legrellei – A dense shrub or small tree with a height of 2.5-4 m. Flowers are terry, coral-red, edged, and pierced with creamy white stripes. The foliage is glossy, bright green. It doesn’t tie fruit.
  • Flore Pleno is an ornamental variety that does not give fruit but has beautiful bright red terry, 5-6 cm in diameter, flowers similar to cloves. It grows up to 3-4 m, but with the help of pruning, it is easy to maintain the small size of the tree.
  • Alba Plena has terry white flowers. It doesn’t tie fruit. It can grow to 3-4.5 m.
  • Luteum Plenum is a shrub reaching 2-4 m in height with a crown width of about 1 m. Leaves are bright green, copper or reddish at a young age. Large terry yellow flowers appear from June to September. It does not form fruits.
  • Nochi Shibari – with terry dark red flowers. No fruit.
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