Looking for an attractive and
easy fruit tree for your yard? Try the Asian, Oriental,
Kaki or Japanese persimmon (Diospyros kaki).
This handsome small tree with several common names is
perfectly adapted to most of Texas (zones 7–9) with the
exception of the Panhandle. It has few pests, is easy to
grow, not picky about soil, provides delicious and
attractive fruit, and is clothed in colorful foliage
during the fall. What more could you want?
folks don’t notice persimmons until all the leaves have
fallen in late fall, revealing a bounty of bright-orange
globes hanging like little pumpkins from their branches.
They provide a striking focal point in the landscape
during an occasionally dreary time of year.
persimmons are related to, and sometimes grafted onto,
the common American persimmon (D. virginiana),
which grows wild across the South. The common name
“persimmon” comes from the Native American Algonquian
name for our native species. American persimmon fruit is
a favorite of wildlife (especially raccoons, skunks,
deer and opossums), which relish the small, ripe, orange
globes. But, as anyone who has ever bitten into one of
the American fruits before they were fully ripe
remembers well, the unripe fruit is a mouth-puckering
experience! In 1612, Captain John Smith of Virginia
wrote, “If it be not ripe, it will drawe a man’s mouth
awrie, with much torment; but when it is ripe, it is as
delicious as an Apricock.”
If you live in the
drier South-Central parts of Texas, you may be familiar
with another native persimmon, the Texas persimmon (D.
texana), also called Mexican persimmon and
chapote negro. Its sweet, seedy fruit is black when
ripe and also a favorite of wildlife. This small tree is
ornamental with attractive peeling bark that reveals a
smooth trunk of varying colors.
persimmons are dioecious, which means they produce
either male or female flowers on separate trees.
Therefore, both male and female trees are required to
successfully produce a full crop. Asian persimmons are a
bit different and may produce male, female and/or
perfect flowers on the same tree. Because of this, many
cultivars do not need cross-pollination to set fruit.
According to one source, native and Asian persimmons
will not cross-pollinate.
Asian persimmons are
originally native to China and were introduced to the
United States in the late 1800s from Japan, where they
are an important fruit crop. Many varieties have been
named and cultivated in Asia for centuries.
Unfortunately, most folks in our country are unfamiliar
with a persimmon’s unique, sweet taste.
Persimmons are well adapted to our state’s climates and
soils. They are hardy to about 10º F and tolerate high
summer temperatures. Like most fruit trees, persimmons
do best in a well-drained soil. Because they have a low
chilling requirement to break dormancy, occasionally a
late freeze may damage their shoots.
selecting cultivars for your landscape, there are a
couple of important things to note. First, most American
persimmons are astringent and unsafe to eat at this
stage. Second, unlike most American persimmons, not all
Asian persimmon varieties are astringent, and these
non-astringent varieties can be eaten while still firm,
like an apple, as they turn orange.
makes persimmons inedible until they have fully ripened
and have also softened. This usually happens close to,
or after, the first frost and usually after all the
leaves have fallen from the tree. Even then, they might
still be astringent until they have completely
softened. When ripe, they develop a characteristic
sweetness and delicious nutty flavor.
important characteristic is that some varieties require
a pollinator, although most do not. Those not requiring
a pollinator set fruit parthenocarpically, which means
that, just like figs, some persimmons can set fruit
without pollination. When pollination does occur, the
fruit will be seedy and, some claim, better tasting. On
many varieties, the flesh develops dark streaks when
seeds are present. One variety commonly known as
chocolate or maru persimmon develops dark-colored flesh,
and though I have not tasted it, it is reported to be
Seedless, non-pollinated fruit
are more likely to drop prematurely during stressful,
dry summers. In contrast, the seeds within the
pollinated fruits help the fruit stay more firmly
attached to the plant. Asian persimmons often drop most
of their fruit prematurely the first few years after
planting, until the tree becomes well-established.
In Asia there are more than 2,000 named varieties,
although only about 100 are considered important in
Japan. Far fewer varieties are usually found in the
A few varieties you may be able to find include:
‘Eureka’ is a heavy producing, medium-sized,
flat-shaped, orange-red variety of high quality. The
astringent fruit contains seeds, if pollinated.
‘Hachiya’ is a productive, large, cone-shaped, seedless,
astringent variety with bright orange skin. The tree is
vigorous, upright, with good ornamental quality.
‘Tane-nashi’ is another highly ornamental variety. It is
a cone-shaped, orange-fruited, astringent variety. The
seedless fruit store very well on the tree.
‘Tamopan’ is a productive, large, orange, flat-shaped,
astringent variety with a ring constriction near the
middle of the fruit. The tree is vigorous and very
Chocolate or maru (nicknames) has dark
‘Sheng’ bears large, flat, orange fruit.
‘Gailey’ fruit is small but with good flavor. It
also produces many male flowers and is frequently used
for increasing pollination in orchards.
is a variety I grow in my Tyler garden and it produces
regularly every year. It can be eaten firm after it
turns orange or left to soften to enjoy its delicious
pudding-like consistency. It is a medium-sized, seedless
variety with a flattened shape and is prone to premature
fruit drop. Its growth habit is spreading rather than
‘Jiro’ is a good producer and a
cold-hardy variety, bearing large, round fruit.
‘Gosho’ produces fruit that is similar to, but much
larger than, Fuyu.
‘Suruga’ produces very sweet,
‘Izu’ is a smaller tree
that produces round, medium-size fruit about a month
earlier than Fuyu.
Persimmons should be planted
in full sun and in well-drained soil. Plant bare-root
trees at the same time as other fruit trees — in January
and February, as they become available in nurseries or
through mail order. Asian persimmon trees should be
planted about 15 feet apart; American persimmon trees
can grow much larger and will need more elbow room.
Non-astringent varieties such as Fuyu and ‘Jiro’
tend to be less cold-hardy than astringent varieties.
So, if you live in North Texas, astringent cultivars
will be more reliable.
Although persimmons are drought tolerant, they will do
much better and hold their fruit better, if given
regular watering during drier times of the year,
especially the first few years after planting. They do
not need much fertilizer, but they do enjoy moderate
amounts of nitrogen and potassium. Be careful, though.
Too much nitrogen may cause fruit to drop prematurely,
so get your soil tested before adding fertilizer.
Unlike peaches and plums, which need regular
pruning, persimmons only need occasional pruning to help
develop an attractive branching frame that looks good in
the landscape. Early pruning should be done to develop
strong branches that will be able to bear a heavy crop
of fruit. Newly planted persimmons should be trained to
develop a main central leader. Remove branches that
develop narrow crotch angles with the trunk. Also remove
vigorous, upright shoots and branches that cross or rub.
Fruit should be thinned in late spring, if there is
a heavy fruit set. Leave one to four fruit per shoot,
spaced about 6 inches apart. Persimmons tend to bear
heavily every other year, with few fruits in alternate
Fall is harvest season, but ripening
varies by variety from October to November. This roughly
corresponds to the time of the first frost in most of
the state. Fruit may be stored on the tree, or it can be
harvested and kept at room temperature, where it will
continue to ripen and soften. Remove fruit from the tree
by cutting, not pulling, leaving a bit of fruit stem
attached to the fruit.
Mature, hard astringent
persimmons can be stored in the refrigerator for four or
five weeks. They may be frozen and kept for 6 to 8
months. They soften and are ready-to-eat when thawed.
Non-astringent persimmons lose quality rapidly in the
refrigerator. They may be stored for up to a week at
room temperature. Eat them firm, like apples, or allow
them to soften so you can enjoy them with a spoon like a
pudding cup. You can also spread the soft fruit on
pancakes or use in your cereal.
good for you! They have lots of fiber and are high in
vitamins A and C. Fresh persimmons are delicious. Eat
them by themselves or chop them as additions to salads.
They can be used in baked goods — breads, puddings and
pies. In Asia, firm, astringent persimmons like
‘Hachiya’ are often dried to produce hoshigaki.
Hoshigaki involves massaging the fruits once a
week for about a month and hanging them to dry,
resulting in something like a date that is firm but soft
with a naturally sweet, sugary coating.
are unfamiliar with persimmons, buy some from your
grocery store this fall and see why the botanical name
ascribed to them (Diospyros) refers to divine
fruit. After tasting them, you will want to seek out a
source for these easy-to-care-for ornamental trees for
your own yard.