10/15/2013 - 12/31/2013
Memphis Botanic Garden map
Attributes: Asian or Japanese persimmons are one of the hottest items in the retail nursery trade, as well as a new item in America in the produce section. Most people in the Eastern United States have grown up with the common persimmon, Diospyros virginia with its “alligator bark” and glowing ping-pong ball sized golden fruits, which are very tart and ripen about the time of the first hard frost. The effect of the defoliated tree full of persimmons on a late fall day can be really striking. The Asian persimmon is everything the common one is, plus the fruit is the size of a slicing tomato and delicious. There are several varieties available, but you may have a limited selection locally. On the plus side, I have never tasted one I didn’t think was very good. Leaves are alternate, simple and can be anywhere from 2 to 5 inches in length. The tree can grow up to 30 feet in height, and is somewhat spreading in habit. Flowers in spring are not memorable. Fall color is non-existent, but the effect of the fruit makes the tree a living sculpture.
Growing conditions: Asian persimmons want full sun and a fertile well-drained soil. Basically, these are the same conditions for most shade or fruit trees. Planting can be done spring or fall, as long as the tree is dormant. Bare root specimens under 1.5 inches in caliper move well in the winter months. An application of a tree and shrub fertilizer before growth commences in spring is best. Keep the area under the spread of the branches clear of grass and mulched. Remember these are grafted trees so suckers below the graft union should be removed as they appear. Asian persimmon is hardy up to Zone 7; Memphis is in Zone 7. Further north it needs to be planted out of the prevailing winter wind.
Landscape value: This is a medium-sized trees so it could be used in a landscape in place of a red maple or some of the many flowering ornamental species, such as cherries and pears. Its summer presence is typical of most deciduous shade trees, but in late fall when the fruits ripen it really steals the show. If you can position it so it is either backed by evergreens to show off the fruit or better yet, site it do you can view it from the east side, so the setting sun makes the fruit appear to glow you will have created a memorable picture in your garden.
Location in the Garden: Asian persimmon can be seen, full of fruit in the Urban Orchard at MBG.
Rick Pudwell is the Director of Horticulture at Memphis Botanic Garden. Other articles by Pudwell can be found at www.memphisbotanicgarden.com.