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Ask a Master Gardener: Tough climate for persimmons

Q: Would an American persimmon be able to produce fruit if grown near the lake (below London Road)? Online research suggests that it would work in a Zone 4 environment. What other considerations should we have when planting? Which variety? Number to plant? Sun/shade conditions? Soil conditions?

A: Planting persimmons would give you attractive and unusual trees, but it is not very likely that you would get edible fruit with our typically short, cool growing season. Unless you have a full-sun area sheltered from cold winds, and we have an unusually long, warm summer, the fruit is not likely to receive enough warm days to develop, especially with your “colder by the lake” summer temperatures. Persimmons can be picked before they are ripe, but without enough heat and time on the tree they won’t be able to ripen off of it.

Meade is frequently mentioned as the hardiest American persimmon. In some places it is listed as hardy to zone 4. Other sites say it is zone 5. Real-life winter survival is dependent on more than how cold our winters are, such as how much water and wind the tree is exposed to and how much snow cover its roots get. And, just because the tree survives does not mean the fruit will develop.

They prefer sandy or sandy loam soil, but can do well in any well-drained location. They develop a strong taproot, so if your lakeside location is on top of a big rock, it might not be the place to plant a persimmon. They are fairly drought-tolerant once established.

Meade is usually self-fertile, meaning you can plant only one tree if necessary, but some trees actually only have male or female flowers, so it is recommended that you plant several of the same type of persimmon. Unlike apples, they do not need another variety to fruit.

American persimmons are smaller and stronger tasting than the non-hardy Asian persimmons found in grocery stores.

It can take anywhere from five to 15 years before you see any fruit, and then you may have to protect it from animals such as deer and raccoons.  

So, one or more persimmon trees might be nice to plant, but if you want fruit, you may need to go to the grocery store.

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