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Pomegranate Pruning: Techniques and Timing for Optimal Growth

Pruning pomegranate trees is a straightforward yet crucial task, especially for maintaining balance between growth and fruit production. This article explores the techniques and timing necessary for effective pruning.

by BioGrow

Pomegranate pruning, with proper technical considerations, is easy to perform, even for novice gardeners. It’s a cultural operation aimed at maintaining the trees in our organic orchard in a good balance between vegetation and production. Pomegranate trees are lush, so regular pruning is important over the years. When pruning, drastic interventions that stimulate excessive new growth should be avoided.

However, it’s necessary to aerate the canopy, lightening it from excessive vegetation. In this article, we’ll see how to prune a pomegranate tree according to the chosen training form.

When to Prune Pomegranate

Pomegranate pruning is carried out in two periods of the year: at the end of winter, in the months of February and March (dry pruning); and between late spring and early summer (green pruning). Winter pruning is the most important, as it establishes the vegetative-productive balance with the cuts. Green pruning of pomegranate, on the other hand, serves mainly to lighten the tree, concentrating all its energy on fruiting.

How to Prune Pomegranate

Pomegranate is a species with a shrub/bushy habit in nature. If left to grow freely, in a few years, we would find ourselves with a dense tangle of impassable branches, low production, and difficult harvesting. This is because this tree has a strong tendency to produce basal shoots. Pruning operations are therefore fundamental to have harmonious, productive, and manageable plants. In domestic settings, there are two main training forms: bush and standard tree. These forms are established with training pruning, which is practiced in the first years after planting.

Bush Pruning

Pruning pomegranate in a bush shape

Pruning pomegranate in a bush shape

The bush form is the simplest pruning to establish and maintain over the years. It follows the natural growth of the pomegranate, keeping the plant lower with well-distributed vegetation. Naturally, to grow a pomegranate bush, it must be structured rationally. The ideal planting distance is 4 m between plants.

First Year

After planting, select 3-4 basal shoots to become the main branches of the tree. Choose well-positioned and adequately spaced shoots inclined outward. Prune selected shoots, removing any buds on the stem. This promotes strong and free growth of future pomegranate branches. Remove all other shoots at ground level. These growing branches should have the right inclination, about 30°-35° from the ground. If the branch is not naturally inclined, it can be bent and tied to the ground with a string to achieve the desired angle.

Second Year

At the end of the second winter, perform another pruning intervention. Remove all basal shoots to allow the selected branches from the previous year to thicken, becoming the structure of the bush.

Production Pruning

Pomegranate is slow-growing but enters production quite early. Already from the third year after planting, we could harvest the first fruits. Fruiting occurs on two-year-old branches, which should be preserved from cuts. Old branches that have already produced should be renewed annually with thinning cuts.

Water Shoots

During winter pruning, thin out water shoots, which are young shoots growing vertically on adult branches. Water shoots drain energy from the plant, push it upward, and are unproductive. However, water shoots aim to renew an exhausted or damaged branch and fill in sparse parts of the structure. Therefore, it’s necessary to evaluate which and how many water shoots to leave.

Basal Shoots

Obviously, basal shoots are always removed during winter pruning. The sprouting nature of the pomegranate can be exploited for propagation using trench propagation and classic cutting methods.

Central or Crossing Branches

When pruning pomegranates, always aim to direct growth outward, keeping the plant as free as possible in the center. The best fruiting occurs at the apex of branches exposed to light. Therefore, prune branches pointing inward or crossing, avoiding cuts that stimulate excessive water shoots, resulting in loss of production.

Pruning Intensity

Production pruning of pomegranate aims to maintain the established form during training. Therefore, it’s advisable not to prune too vigorously but only where necessary. Excessive pruning leads to decreased production and vigorous growth the following year.

Photo Gallery

Below is a photo gallery showing the sequence of the described operations.

Green Pruning

After fruit set, usually in June and July, perform green pruning. Again, remove young shoots at the base of the branches and any new water shoots.

Standard Tree Pruning

Pruning pomegranate in a tree shape

The standard tree form of the pomegranate is more challenging to establish and maintain, as it does not follow the natural growth pattern. However, it’s more aesthetically pleasing and, if well established, facilitates harvesting. With medium-vigor varieties, the ideal planting distance is 3 m between plants. Let’s see how to perform the training pruning of the standard pomegranate tree.

First Year

Unlike the bush form, to form a standard pomegranate tree, start with a single trunk, which will be the central stem of the plant. Remove all other basal shoots.
Allow the trunk to grow freely during the first year.

Second Year

In the second year, winter pruning involves first removing all basal shoots. Then, head back the trunk to 80-100 cm in height to form the tree’s scaffold. Remove all shoots below the heading cut to keep the trunk clear. The future branches of the tree will grow from the heading cut, and during green pruning, select the desired 3-4 branches. Choose those well-positioned and with the correct inclination, this time at a 45° angle from the ground. Naturally, training a pomegranate tree is easier if you purchase 2-3-year-old plants with the desired form already established.

Production Pruning

Production pruning follows similar principles as for the bush, with a few additional considerations. Besides periodically removing water shoots during both dry and green pruning, always remove any shoots growing on the trunk below the scaffold point. If any of these shoots are missed, the tree’s shape could be compromised. With the standard tree form, the pomegranate tends to produce even more water shoots at the top of the canopy. This results in vigorous growth upward, requiring more time for canopy thinning and pruning. Avoid letting the tree grow too tall, as it would negate the convenience of easy ground-level harvesting.

Pomegranate Renewal Pruning

Sometimes, you may encounter neglected pomegranate plants that require renewal pruning. These are typically large bushes with many intertwining branches and dense vegetation. In such cases, the intervention needs to be more drastic to return the plant to a rational bush state. Identify the best-positioned, large, and healthy 3-4 stems and clean them at the base by removing everything else. Once done, proceed with a strong internal canopy thinning. Start by cutting out dead or damaged branches and then those crossing at the center. Pomegranate is a highly adaptable plant that tolerates pruning well. In a few years, you can rejuvenate it and restore its lost vegetative-productive balance. It’s an intervention worth doing, as the pomegranate tree is long-lived, easily living over a century.

Tool Handling Tips

Pomegranate wood is very hard and tough. Even young branches and shoots are difficult to cut without good pruning shears with a sharp blade. We recommend purchasing high-quality shears like these. Perform cuts precisely, avoiding bark tears. It’s also important to disinfect tools before starting pruning work. In a mixed orchard where different pruning has been done, such as apple, pear, persimmon, apricot, almond, fig, olive, grape, etc, it’s essential to avoid transporting pathogens from one plant to another. Tool blades are excellent carriers of fungal diseases and wood diseases. Therefore, take some time to disinfect shears and knives, using common bleach.

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