Persimmon – an attractive tree to grow.

By Dennis Ting.

Why are persimmon trees so attractive?

For a start they have glossy green leaves in summer followed by colourful fruit and then beautiful autumn foliage colours of yellows reds and purple hues. They are fairly low maintenance in terms of pests and diseases. Furthermore they can fruit early in three years or so but do remove most of this early crop to encourage tree growth. When established they can produce a heavy crop too.

 The first thing to understand about Persimmons is there are TWO distinct fruiting types non-astringent (hard) versus astringent (soft). The non-astringent is sweet and edible, hard like an apple. Versus the astringent persimmon which is soft and only edible when like an over ripe squishy tomato with jam inside! Previously most garden trees in Melbourne were of the astringent types. But fairly recently, newer non-astringent types are being imported from Japan.

 Try a hard unripe astringent Persimmon and you will pucker your face due to an unpleasant bitter taste and furry feeling or better give one to a friend to try! Sometimes astringent ones still have a bit of this even when ripe. But if you get it at the perfect time, they taste like a sweet delicious honey jam.

 Even if you like soft Persimmons it is still safer to grow a non-astringent variety and wait for them to go soft so you can enjoy them ‘hard’ or ‘soft’ as my family say!

 Buying trees in a nursery is quite straight forward these days as they come year round potted up and well rooted. The days of finding them bare rooted in winter seems to be over as they have delicate roots and did not always transplant well when the roots had been cut back.

 So as you can see in the photo below they are generally available in a range of pot sizes of 20cm, 25cm and 30cm. 

The main non-astringent varieties are ‘Fuyu’ and ‘Jiro’ (and clones of it) producing nice big fruit ripening to perfection in Melbourne. ‘Fuyu’ tend to be six sided so appear round while ‘Jiro’ is more distinctly four sided so appear square.

 Some astringent varieties include ‘Nightingale’, ‘Tanenashi’, and ‘Dai Dai Maru’ which as I said before must be left to fully ripen before eating but can be brought inside when coloured but firm.

 Single stem nursery trees must be pruned back to approximately 40cm to form a trunk and a nice framework with three to four branches low down. They can develop a weeping habit and not grow so tall if multiple branches are encouraged early by pruning several times during the growing season. Remember to stake the tree in its initial years until a strong trunk forms.

 Another way to produce a shade tree might be to select the tallest single stem tree available and only leave the top three or four buds to grow so you have a tall trunk and space underneath to position a chair or bench etc.

 Another good way is to grow against a fence or on a trellis like an espalier as you can lightly prune each year. (Photo)

 I have both ‘Fuyu’ and ‘Ichikeikei Jiro’ (‘Dwarf Jiro’) growing and they reward me with large tasty delicious fruit. They are self-pollinating (unlike apples, pears and plums) and therefore usually produce seedless fruit too. If male flowers appear on the tree it is best to remove them as very seedy fruit may result.

I have found that the only major pest is birds which will start pecking at the fruit even when they are only 4cm across. This year I was introduced to Organza Jewellery Bags 15cm (6″) x 12.5cm (5″) with draw strings. These are available in many colours but plain white seem to work the best.

I obtained these late in the season and once bagged did not lose another fruit! The only complaint being from my daughter who had to climb the ladder to bag the fruit as they would not fit! You harvest each fruit in its bag and undo the draw string to remove it.

So as you can see the fruit look great on the tree and even better inside when they are ready to eat!

Previously I was using a large net to cover the entire tree. This was a hassle to even get the net to go over the whole tree and even more annoying when it came to harvesting the fruit. Removing the net was a difficult exercise too as branches would have grown through it.

So if you are wanting to try something different and can obtain some organza bags this works far more effectively than bird netting and in terms of labour on a small to average size tree is probably about the same to install and remove.


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