introducing: the Dwarf Pomegranate
If you have visited us at Niche in the past week, you may have noticed some sweet little shrubs winking at you with their vibrant blossoms of a blood-orange hue or beckoning with their developing fruit. These are Dwarf Pomegranate plants, botanical name Punica granatum var. nana.
winter & spring: PUNICA GRANATUM in mythology
This past week in Boston, we felt the brush of Spring as temperatures climbed above the 70º mark, but are now reluctantly retreating to our parkas as the the mercury drops gradually back down to the freezing point. As we seem to have one foot in Winter and one in Spring, it's fitting to feature these members of the Punica genus, whose fruit are linked with this transition in Greek and Roman mythology.
According to the myth, Hades (god of the Underworld) abducted Persephone. Upon her arrival in the Underworld, Persephone refused all food and drink, knowing that if she consumed anything that she would be eternally trapped in the nether realm. Meanwhile, Persephone's mother Demeter (goddess of the harvest) was so grief-stricken that the earth grew cold, crops ceased to produce and world plunged into a state of famine. Eventually, Hades reluctantly agreed to return Persephone to her mother, but before their departure, he offered her a ripe, red pomegranate. Persephone ate six seeds, binding her to return to the Underworld for six months out of the year. Thus, every year, when Persephone descends to Hades' domain, Demeter enters a state of depression, causing the period of plant dormancy we know as winter. Six months later, when Persephone returns to the world above, so too do the flowering meadows and green growths of Spring.
ABOUT PUNICA GRANATUM
P. granatum is native to the area of Iran and is now found widely throughout the Mediterranean and around the world in comparable climates. A defining characteristic of the fruit is its thick protective shell, which is hard to digest, making it more likely that the seeds will pass directly through an animal's digestive tract and be deposited back into the environment unharmed to produce a new plant. P. granatum's limbs are peppered with thorns, an adaptation developed to prevent opportunistic animalia from clambering to the ends of the branches to eat the fruit before maturation. Members of P. granatum also have an impressive lifespan, with some trees surviving for over 200 years in the right conditions.
The pomegranate is abundant in antioxidants, which are thought to help reduce the risk of certain diseases, earning it the title of "superfruit" (it's pertinent to note, however, that the Dwarf Pomegranate fruits may be less appealing to eat, as they are very seedy and not as sweet). The pomegranate has been long believed to have anti-aging properties, and recent research suggests that pomegranate arils may contain a molecule that enables muscle cells to protect themselves against aging when it interacts with certain gut microbes. The arils are used to make juice and grenadine (grenadine is french for pomegranate!), while the rinds have been used traditionally to make dye.
caring for your dwarf pomegranate
P. granatum var. nana thrives in semi-arid climates, and thus requires well-draining soil. The fruit is edible, but small, full of seeds and not as sweet as the pomegranates you may be used to seeing at the grocery store. It is best to consider it ornamental, and it may be planted anywhere that it will get enough light and warmth to survive. United States Department of Agriculture has classified it as a plant suited for Zones 7-11.
Origin: Iran, Northern India, Mediterranean
Height: Up to 4' in height and width
Light: Bright light to full sun
Soil: Well draining
Water: Keep soil evenly moist during growing months (summer) and sparingly in the winter. Keep moderately damp. Drought tolerant, but won't survive wet conditions.
Fertilizing: You may choose to use tree fertilizer with ratio 10-10-10 diluted by half in the beginning and middle of the growing season. No more often than every two weeks. No feeding in winter.
Humidity: Average room humidity
Temperature: 60-75º F / 16-24º C
Pruning: Prune late winter, removing dead/damaged and suckers. They are excellent plants for bonsai.
Repotting: Repot when roots have filled the pot. Repot in mid-spring when buds are forming.
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