Pruning a fruit tree is a vital part of care. This annual task helps direct nutrients to your tree’s fruiting branches, reduces the risk of pest infestations and disease, and encourages healthy growth. In this article, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about how to prune a pomegranate tree, including the best way to get it done.
Why Pruning a Pomegranate Tree Is Important
Pruning fruit trees has three main benefits: directing nutrients to fruiting branches, keeping your tree safe from pests and disease, and shaping the tree. Each of these things plays a vital role in the long-term health of your tree and how well it will produce fruit!
Pruning your pomegranate tree helps direct nutrients to the main fruiting branches. When you remove the dead, criss-crossing, or underproducing limbs, you encourage oxygen, water, and other vital elements to nourish the branches that remain. These get a bigger meal, so to speak! That extra attention will help the tree flourish because it has more nutrients for fewer branches and can use them more efficiently.
Reduces the Risk of Diseases and Pests
Fruit trees are most vulnerable to diseases or pests just after the harvest, as the temperature begins to drop. During this time, it is common for fungal spores to infect fallen leaves or dying branches. The same goes for pest infestations. Many fruit tree pests lay their eggs in a tree to keep them safe throughout the window. When spring arrives, they hatch and overwhelm the tree, at which point it is often too late to save it.
That’s why pruning in the autumn, just after you harvest the pomegranates from your tree, can be so helpful. By removing the dead or crossing branches, you are eliminating vulnerable spots on the tree — the spots that invaders are most likely to target.
You might also be removing spores or larvae that are already present. Make sure to remove the prunings from the area after you are finished. The best option is to burn them. This will ensure that they don’t reinfect the tree from the ground.
Shapes and Trains the Tree
Training is a term used to refer to shaping a fruit tree. This can mean cutting it down so that it fits in a small garden, greenhouse, or even a pot. However, it can also simply mean cutting a fruit tree in a way that lets it get the most nutrients from its surroundings.
While training is slightly different for each fruit variety, it usually involves opening the canopy of the tree. To do this, you will need to remove the interior branches in a way that lets the sun hit the stronger exterior as well as the central trunk. However, because pomegranates can be grown both as a tree and a shrub, there are more things to consider when it comes to training.
When To Prune Your Pomegranate Tree
Pomegranates are a fall and winter fruit, with the earliest varieties ready for harvest in September. You will want to prune your pomegranate tree just after the harvest, preferably once the tree is going dormant for the winter. You can, however, do light to moderate pruning — just enough to open the canopy — in the late summer.
What Tools Do You Need To Prune a Pomegranate Tree?
To prune a pomegranate tree, you will need a few basic tools. Not all of these will be necessary if you have a smaller plant, such as a dwarf tree or a shrub, but will come in handy if you have a full-sized tree.
Basic pruning tools include lopping shears, pruners, and pruning saws with various grips.
Lopping shears or hand shears are used to cut smaller branches (usually less than an inch or so around). They are made to provide sharp, clean cuts without damaging the plant tissue. As you can imagine, they are extremely sharp!
Larger shears called bypass loppers have extremely long handles, allowing you to reach far up into the tree. These are made to cut thicker branches. Due to their sturdiness and the manner you will need to use them, bypass loppers can be fatiguing, so make sure to pace yourself as you work.
A pruning saw differs from a basic carpentry saw through one key element. Instead of having its blades face outward, causing it to cut on the push stroke, a pruning saw cuts on the pull stroke. This lets it make a clean, neat cut that causes minimal damage to the tree.
How To Prune a Pomegranate Tree In the Early Years
If you have planted a fruit tree before, you know that caring for a juvenile tree is different from caring for a mature tree. Trees that are younger than two or three years have vastly different needs. You will need to be particularly careful while pruning your pomegranate tree in the early years so as not to destroy the growth before it is fully established.
The first year after planting your rootstock, cut the tree or shrub down to about 30 inches, maximum. Then remove all suckers from the trunk. Prune in the late winter after the last frost but before the plant puts out new growth.
During this time, cut back the branches to two-thirds of their length. Remove all branches that cross one another and keep each branch to about three to five offshoots.
This is the heaviest pruning you will ever do to your pomegranate tree. As the tree ages, pruning it heavily will remove the productive branches, reducing your fruit yield. For this reason, you will need to prune much more lightly after the tree is fully established (by the third year, generally).
How To Prune a Mature Pomegranate Tree
As we said above, pruning a mature pomegranate tree is a much lighter task than pruning a newly established tree. You will only need to prune a mature pomegranate tree once a year — while dormant, just as with a young tree.
During pruning, focus on the excess growth, removing light growths and crossing branches. This will encourage nutrients to pass to the fruiting branches without damaging your future crop.
Pruning Pomegranate Shrubs vs. Pomegranate Trees
Pomegranates can grow as both shrubs and trees, and the pruning protocol for each is slightly different. Farmers are divided on whether pomegranates thrive better as multi-trunk shrubs or single-trunk trees. Ultimately it is up to you to do the research and decide which method you think is best!
When pruning your pomegranate shrub, leave between three and six trunks, removing any other growths. Prune away all suckers as they sprout, which might be several times a year. This will ensure that your pomegranate shrub remains trained and growing healthily.
Concerns With Pruning Pomegranate Trees
When pruning your pomegranate tree, make sure to use clean, sharp shears and make neat cuts wherever possible. If you suspect that your tree is infected with bacteria or fungus, keep a solution of bleach and water nearby as you prune, then dip your shears into it between every cut. This will ensure that you avoid spreading the disease around the tree.
Once you prune the tree, remove all clippings from the area and, most preferably, burn them. This will eliminate the risk of any present pests or bacteria reinfecting the tree and becoming a problem once again, especially during the period of new growth.
How Do You Prune an Indoor Pomegranate Tree?
If you are growing a pomegranate indoors in a pot or greenhouse, you will need to focus much more on training — that is, cutting it heavily to keep it in a small, basic shape. This will both keep the nutrients flowing to the fruiting branches and keep it small enough to fit in your indoor space. When pruned properly, even an indoor pomegranate tree should produce a good amount of fruit each year!
What Month Is the Best To Prune Pomegranate Trees?
As we discussed above, the best time of year to prune a pomegranate tree is in the late winter. This can vary based on the pomegranate tree variety. Most pomegranate varieties, however, are ready to be harvested in September or October.
You will want to do your annual pruning after the harvest, once the tree has gone dormant. In most regions and for most varieties, this is usually in January or February. This gives your pomegranate tree enough time to go dormant but is early enough to avoid harming new buds or growths.
How Do You Increase Pomegranate Fruit Size?
Pruning is an excellent way to increase your tree’s fruit yield. But you might also find that it helps your tree produce larger fruit. This is because the tree’s nutrients are funneled to fewer branches, helping the remaining fruit thrive.
If you want your fruit to grow even larger, you can add some fertilizer. Pomegranate trees need a high nitrogen fertilizer. Ammonium sulfate is a popular choice which can be very effective for increasing fruit size and yield.
Pruning a pomegranate tree is vital to its health and fruit production. Though the process can feel intimidating at first, it doesn’t have to be! All you need are the right tools and knowledge to make sure you give your tree the care it deserves.
Do you have experience with pomegranate tree pruning? Let us know in the comments!
Excited to learn more about this magical fruit? Then check out our pomegranate trees page for information on pomegranate planting, growing, harvesting, cooking, and more!