Florida is full of options for growing fruits at home and an often overlooked option is the pomegranate. Pomegranates are best adapted to a Mediterranean climate with mild winters and hot, dry summers. This does not match Florida exactly but they do have decent cold tolerance and some varieties can produce a good crop. However, many pomegranates my struggle through our humid summers. Overall, work is being done to find new varieties that will work as a commercial crop in our state even though the main commercial variety ‘Wonderful’ did originate here.
Pomegranates can grow to a height of around 12-20 feet and can be trained to be either a small tree, a dense shrub, or even a hedge. Plant them in an area with well-drained organic soil with a pH of between 5.5 to 7.0. The best time to plant is early spring after the threat of frost has passed and be sure to plant them so that the crown (where the trunk and roots meet) is above the soil line.
Individual plants should be placed between 10-16 feet apart unless you are planting them as a hedge where a spacing of 6-9 feet is used. Pomegranates are also self-fruitful so you can get by with just one in your landscape. For more information about growing pomegranates, visit https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/publication/MG056 .
Caring for Pomegranates
Pomegranates can be fairly low maintenance and require little irrigation. Only water them around every 7-10 days when no rainfall is present. Irrigation is not needed at wetter times of the year and overwatering can lead to fruit drop and plant stress.
Fertilization similarly should not be overdone as it can lead to fruit drop and plant issues. Use a slow release granular fertilizer twice a year, once in March and again in June. A soil test can help determine what nutrients may be needed but some recommendations on pomegranate fertilization can be found at https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/publication/HS1347 .
Pests and Diseases of Pomegranates
The humid summers of Florida are the main issue with pomegranates and with this weather can come anthracnose. If present, this may require three preventative sprays of a copper-based fungicide per year. Pests can include scale and mites but stem-boring insects may also kill trees.
Ripe pomegranates can be eaten but the juice from this fruit plays a major role in mixology as the core ingredient of grenadine. Often mistaken for cherry flavor, pomegranate juice is used to create this syrup. Below, you can find a recipe for how you can make your own grenadine:
- 2 Cups Pomegranate Juice
- 2 Cups Granulated Sugar
- 2 Tbsp Lemon Juice
- Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and heat until it begins to bubble. Stir while cooking to dissolve the sugar.
- Remove from heat and allow to cool before transferring to an airtight container.
- Once cooled, this can last up to a month in the refrigerator.
Grenadine syrups is used in many recipes but is probably most famous in mocktails such as the Shirley Temple (Lemon Lime Soda and Grenadine) and Roy Rogers (Cola and Grenadine). Some recipes for this may also replace the lemon juice with citrus flower water.
The creation of this syrup will also be a part of our Horticulture Happy Hour workshop series in the Something Sweet class where participants will create this syrup and take home to try in some fun recipes. For upcoming workshops in this series, and other offered by UF/IFAS Extension Clay County visit https://www.eventbrite.com/o/ufifas-extension-clay-county-9764382549 .