American persimmon

American persimmon

The American persimmon (Diospyros virginiana) is an attractive addition to the home landscape. Often grown as a multi-stem large shrub, they have unusual dark gray-black bark contrasted by shiny elliptical leaves. The persimmon is hardy, adaptable, requires little maintenance and can provide an abundance of interesting fruit.
The genus name for the American Persimmon means "Fruit of the Gods". This is a reference to the delicious golden-orange fruits that often hang on the tree after the leaves drop in autumn. When ripe, these fruits are very sweet.

But they must be fully ripe. If you try to eat one too soon, your mouth will likely pucker from the bitter taste of tannic acid. Yet a ripe fruit is a real treat. Native Americans relished them, and they are a popular food for wild turkey, mockingbirds, deer, raccoons, foxes, squirrels, rabbits, and other wildlife. They can be made into pudding, preserves, beer, and brandy, and can also be dried for winter eating.

Most American Persimmon trees are either male or female, but some are self-fertile. The fruits are typically about one inch in diameter, though nurseries sell special cultivars which produce larger ones. The size of a crop, especially on wild trees, usually varies from year to year.

A fruit becomes soft as it ripens, and its skin begins to wrinkle. To avoid competition from wildlife, you can pick them a few days early, just after they start to soften, and let them finish ripening on a window sill. Some people say that they don't get ripe until after the first hard frost, but that isn't always true. A self-fertile variety called Meader can produce its first ripe fruit as early as mid-August in warm climates.

Although the color of this tree's fruit is normally orange, there is a rare naturally-occurring form of the species which has much darker fruit, sometimes almost black. This form is called Diospyros virginiana atra.

Select a planting site. Persimmons are successfully grown in deep, well-drained slightly acidic soil. A location that receives full sun is ideal for the tree although partial shade may be tolerated.

Dig a planting hole. The persimmon has a strong tap root so it requires a deeper planting hole than most trees. Persimmon roots are normally black and should not be considered diseased or dead. The depth of the planting hole is determined by the root system if planting a bare root specimen. If the transplant is containerized, dig the hole 4 times the width of the root ball and 1 1/2 half times the depth.

Position the tree in the planting hole and backfill a small portion of soil to stabilize. Fill the hole with water and allow the root ball and soil to absorb.

Backfill the remaining original soil and water again deeply. Persimmon roots grow slowly and require regular watering when newly transplanted.

Mulch the entire planting area.

Tips and Warning

The persimmon is a multitrunked or single-stemmed deciduous tree that is hardy in planting zones 7 through 10. This is a tree for areas with moderate winters and mild summers so check the USDA Hardiness Zone map for the trees suitability in your area.


Persimmon trees are frequently purchased as bare root specimens through mail order distributors. Trees are normally shipped from December through March and it is advisable to plant as soon as it is received in the spring. Bare root plants shock easily so watering is important. Containerized trees transplant more successfully.

If planting more than one tree, space them 20 to 25 feet apart. Persimmon usually grow to a height of 25 feet and equally as wide.

Persimmon is dioecious. Each tree produces either male or female flowers. If growing the persimmon for its fruit both male and female trees must be planted.

American persimmons tend to sucker heavily. Yearly pruning is required to maintain the tree's desired open vase shape and to focus growth into the main branches. Remove dead or broken limbs regularly.

Light: Sun

Zones: 4-9

Plant Type: Tree

Plant Height: To 70 feet tall

Plant Width: To 35 feet wide

Flower Color: Yellow

Bloom Time: Summer

Landscape Uses: Beds & Borders,Privacy

Special Features: Fall Color,Attracts Birds

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