Pruning of Persimmon is a delicate operation that requires some technical considerations. It’s one of the most common cultivars in home orchards. We’ve already discussed its cultivation, providing all the guidelines for healthy and thriving growth. Now it’s time to focus on pruning operations for the tree. In a family orchard, the most manageable tree training form is the container, more or less free.
Let’s understand how to set up this training form in the tree’s early years and how to proceed with production pruning.
When to Plant Persimmon
The best time to plant a persimmon tree using bare-rooted stock is autumn, especially in the central-southern regions. In the North, where the climate is harsher, it’s advisable to wait until late winter, using potted plants with soil. To learn more, you can study various fruit tree planting techniques.
Persimmon Tree Training Form
The container training form is recommended in a family orchard, both for its ease of management and aesthetic appeal. In this training form, pruning interventions will be quite limited, hence termed free container. Nevertheless, there’s a need to intervene, both to establish and maintain the form. A persimmon tree trained in a free container consists of a trunk about 1-1.20 meters high from the ground, from which more or less inclined branches emerge, at an angle of 30-45°. With this setup, a mature persimmon tree can reach a height of about 4-5 meters from the ground. The total spread can reach up to 6-8 meters in diameter. These references are for trees grafted on seedling rootstocks. Therefore, the ideal planting distance should be 4-6 meters between plants and 7-8 meters between rows.
The training period for a persimmon tree can last from 5 to 7 years, given its slow growth rate. Dry pruning operations should be carried out at the end of winter, between March and April, just before bud break. This is because the plant is highly sensitive to late frosts. In the first year, just before vegetative growth resumes, the planted bare-rooted stock should be topped at about 1.20 meters in height. Several shoots will sprout from the trunk areas close to the cut. In May, three of these shoots, well-distributed and spaced to form a 120° angle, should be chosen while the others are removed.
Pruning the persimmon tree continues in the second year, still between late winter and early spring. The three selected shoots, which at this point will have become branches, should be shortened to about half their length. Shoots will develop below the cutting point. The shoot stemming from a bud near the cut and pointing outward should be allowed to grow freely as it will continue forming the main branch. Among the other shoots, the strongest one directed outwards and with a wide angle of intersection is chosen. This will form the first sub-branch of the tree. The other shoots should be topped to avoid competition with the two chosen ones.
Third Year and Beyond
The pruning in the first two years is sufficient to establish the container training form in a balanced manner. Still, between March and April, the training must continue by thinning out the branches in the upper parts of the canopy. This encourages the development of other sub-branches. There will be 3 or 4 sub-branches per main branch, varying depending on the tree’s vigor. These interventions, after 7-9 years, will lead to the complete formation of the tree’s skeleton, reaching a height of 4-5 meters from the ground. However, under favorable growth conditions (fertile soil, irrigation), the tree can continue growing in height. The crucial aspect here is to prune rationally, maintaining the plant in balance and within an acceptable height.
Production pruning of the persimmon encourages growth and productivity in the lower branches of the plant. This occurs by thinning out the vegetation in the upper parts. Initially, the persimmon tree tends to develop robust suckers on the inner parts of the branches. During a growing season, these need to be shortened by half their length. This green pruning should occur first in May-June and then in August for any regrowth. During the subsequent dry pruning at the end of winter, all the suckers should be eliminated. This involves making a cut at the base, leaving only a few of the weakest ones or a strong one to replace any old or damaged branches. Leaving some suckers aims to maintain a balanced internal branch; indeed, the sucker contributes to nourishment.
Another production pruning intervention is the shortening of excessively long fruit-bearing branches. These branches are distinguished by their increased number and development of buds. This intervention aims to protect the branch, which, due to the weight of the fruit or wind action, could break. The main pruning intervention of the persimmon involves thinning out the upper half of the canopy. If necessary, one should resort to return cuts to avoid shading the lower parts of the tree. Excessive shading can cause fruit drop immediately after fruit set. To lighten the canopy, it’s also advisable to remove most, if not all, branches that have already borne fruit.
Mistakes to Avoid
Exercise caution when carrying out this type of persimmon pruning. A common mistake, while trying to lower the canopy, is to conduct overly vigorous pruning on the upper part. This results in vigorous new wood growth, accentuating the tree’s upward tendency. Often, in response to such an error, further drastic pruning is done, called spurring the branches, meaning cutting them even more vigorously. This only repeats the mistake as spurring generates the sprouting of vigorous branches in the upper part of the plant. This limits the development of the lower part and affects the year’s production.
Precautions in Persimmon Pruning
The wood of a persimmon tree is very hard and resistant. Despite appearing sturdy and not easily breakable, during pruning operations, utmost attention must be given to safety conditions. Hence, avoid climbing directly onto the tree to reach the highest points. It’s preferable to use a ladder with a solid base, well-stabilized at ground level (several available here). Also, always use the correct pruning tools, ensuring maximum efficiency and perfect maintenance. This way, the cut will be clean, without tearing or damaging the tree’s branches.