Reprinted from the BSV newsletter in 2006
By Elsie Gras
I saw a beautiful pomegranate at Rippon Lea but I don’t think they would appreciate it becoming my yamadori.
There are several varieties of pomegranate to be seen in suburban gardens, but the one which so often catches the eye is the dwarf, Punica granatum nana. It is usually a short tree with a thick trunk and bushy top, laden with either bright orange-red flowers or small fruits.
Coming originally from the Mediterranean area, it likes a warm sunny climate with a minimum of frost. When grown as bonsai, some shelter should be given in winter to prevent damage or die-back.
Excessive heat is likely to damage the tree, especially if it dries out. Pomegranates have root systems which rot easily, so they should not be over-watered, but neither should they dry out in either hot or cold weather. Over-watering also causes too much growth, and then flowers do not develop.
If you can find a pomegranate with a good trunk in a garden or nursery pot, then you have the beginnings of an attractive bonsai.
Smaller pomegranates look attractive in small glazed pots, but they only increase in size very slowly. Grown in a large container for a year or two, without shaping, will help to increase the size of the trunk. Even a small tree will bear flowers and fruit in a short time, though the amount of fruit should be limited to avoid exhausting the tree. Cuttings root easily and can be made into attractive mini-bonsai. Ripe seed is also easily grown.
For bonsai, unless branches are fairly well developed, they should not be wired. Frequent pruning seems to be the best way to shape the tree, as light branches tend to die back when wired.
For potting, use an ordinary coarse potting mix with lime. The coarse mix allows for quick drainage and prevents root rot. Unlike other deciduous trees, it is not repotted until the leaves have opened in spring.
Dwarf pomegranates flower in summer so, when pruning during the growing season, do not cut off the flowers which are formed on the tip growth of the shorter growing shoots. When pruning long shoots, go back to two or three leaves. If you are in doubt about which are the flower shoots, then wait until the flowers appear before pruning. When flowers form do not fertilize until the fruit has formed and is about the size of a pea. Chemical fertilizers and animal-type fertilizers are usually recommended for pomegranates, diluted to half the recommended strength. Maxicrop and fish emulsion are only two out of a number of fertilizers which could safely be used.