A winter wonder – the persimmon tree
Robin Gale-Baker, from Sustainable Macleod, discusses growing persimmons. This is one of a series of articles she has written about growing fruit trees (see right hand sidebar). She has also written a number of articles about growing various vegetables, growing various herbs and general growing techniques.
A persimmon tree is a winter wonder and well worth planting. At this time of year, its glossy green leaves will have turned orange and be falling, leaving beautiful orange baubles hanging on smooth, deep brown branches. It is often referred to as a winter Christmas tree.
Persimmon fruit is often underrated, for two main reasons: first, a lack of knowledge about how to use them; and, second, eating the raw fruit of the astringent varieties before it is sufficiently ripe (which leaves an unpleasant, chalky after taste).
Persimmons are either astringent or non-astringent. Check the label before buying as they are quite different in their use. Astringent varieties are perhaps more suited to a Melbourne climate than non-astringent varieties, but both types should grow well.
Astringent persimmons are ready to eat when their skin deepens to a rich watermelon colour, the skin is almost translucent, and the flesh wobbles inside the skin like a gel. They make wonderful desserts, either scooped out with cream or ice cream, or in pies or puddings. They also make great jams, cakes, breads and biscuits.
Non-astringent persimmons are harvested when they are a rich orange colour. They are eaten firm and crisp and have a crunchy texture. They are used in salads or eaten like an apple. Chutney and smoothies can be made from them, and they can be dried (though the procedure is complex).
Persimmons grow in a wide variety of soils. They are deciduous, hardy, can live for centuries, need only a light prune as they fruit on current season growth and, while they will grow to 5 metres, can be kept at 3 metres for easy netting (birds love the fruit). They are generally impervious to insect attack.
Ideal conditions include deep, rich, well drained soil, full sun and protection from wind (as their branches, when heavy with fruit, can snap). Persimmons also thrive in our clay soils, producing 60-80 fruit per season.
When planting, work the soil well, make sure it is moist, and plant the tree with a 10cm clearance above the graft. Keep the tree well watered until established.
Apply fertiliser each winter.
Is this plant that needs a few hours sun in winter? At the place that I have selected, it’s get full day sun in summer but not in winter as our double story house shadow goes that side in winter.
No, persimmons are dormant over winter and don’t need any sun.
I planted a persimmons (Fuyu) tree in my garden around May in Melbourne. We’ve discovered a better location with more sun exposure. It’s winter in Melbourne at present. Am I OK to transplant the tree to a different location now or wait until early spring?
Transplant it now whilst it is dormant.
I planted a persimmon tree in July 2021. It seemed to get well established. In spring it grew new leaves, nice and plump but, after a while, they became cupped. It had some flowers in December. I removed the flowers to let the young tree get more strength. Lately, the leaves seem to be all drooping with dry brown patches at the edges.
What could be done about it? Is the tree missing some nutrients? I am just nervous as I want this tree to prosper.
I haven’t had this problem myself but did some research and the two most likely causes are incorrect pH or too much fertiliser. With pH, the range needs to be 6.5-7.5 (just either side of neutral). ph readings outside of this range tie up nutrients which the tree needs to flourish. Re fertiliser, this should not be added at planting time but rather once the tree is relatively established – 2 or 3 years and then only in late winter /early spring.
A third possibility is tiny insect infestation for which you would need a strong magnifying glass – look on the back of the leaves – which can suck out the sap and cause curling.
If you figure it out, I’d be delighted to hear what you discovered.
Hello, we are looking at getting a persimmon tree and the only spot we have for it is along the North East border where it will get probably about 3-4 hours of sun from about midday onwards. Do you think this is an ok spot for it or are we wasting our time? Many thanks.
That doesn’t sound enough to me. Most people say that fruit trees require a minimum of 6 hours sun a day.
Where can I buy seedless astringent varieties of persimmon in Melbourne?
I’ve asked around and no one knows. You could always ask your local nursery to order it for you.
George, try West Lakes Nursery.
Online at Daley’s.
Btw persimmons fruit on the tips of last season’s growth so don’t prune off the tips or you will miss out on fruit!