Fruit Facts from
California Rare Fruit Growers, Inc.
© Copyright 1996 - 1989 California Rare Fruit Growers, Inc.
Diospyros kaki Linn
Common Names: Persimmon, Oriental Persimmon, Japanese Persimmon, Kaki.
Related species: Black Sapote (Diospyros digyna), Mabolo, Velvet Apple (D. discolor), Date Plum (D. lotus), Texas Persimmon (D. texana), American Persimmon (D. virginiana).
The oriental persimmon is native to China, where it has been cultivated
for centuries and more than two thousand different cultivars exist. It
spread to Korea and Japan many years ago where additional cultivars
were developed. The plant was introduced to California in the mid
Persimmons do best in areas that have moderate winters and relatively
mild summers--suitable for growing in USDA Hardiness Zones 7 to 10. It
can tolerate temperatures of 0° F when fully dormant. However,
because of its low chilling requirement (less than 100 hours), it may
break dormancy during early warm spells only to be damaged by spring
frosts later. The leaves are killed by 26° F when growing. Trees do
not produce well in the high summer heat of desert regions, which may
also sunburn the bark.
The persimmon is a multi-trunked or single-stemmed deciduous tree to 25
ft. high and at least as wide. It is a handsome ornamental with
drooping leaves and branches that give it a languid, rather tropical
appearance. The branches are somewhat brittle and can be damaged in
Persimmon leaves are alternate, simple, ovate and up to 7 inches long
and 4 inches wide. They are often pale, slightly yellowish green in
youth, turning a dark, glossy green as they age. Under mild autumn
conditions the leaves often turn dramatic shades of yellow, orange and
red. Tea can also be made from fresh or dried leaves.
The inconspicuous flowers surrounded by a green calyx tube are borne in
the leaf axils of new growth from one-year old wood. Female flowers are
single and cream-colored while the pink-tinged male flowers are
typically borne in threes. Commonly, 1 to 5 flowers per twig emerge as
the new growth extends (typically March). Persimmon trees are usually
either male or female, but some trees have both male and female
flowers. On male plants, especially, occasional perfect (bisexual)
flowers occur, producing an atypical fruit. A tree's sexual expression
can vary from one year to the other. Many cultivars are parthenocarpic
(setting seedless fruit without pollination), although some climates
require pollination for adequate production. When plants not needing
pollination are pollinated, they will produce fruits with seeds and may
be larger and have a different flavor and texture than do their
Persimmons can be classified into two general categories: those that
bear astringent fruit until they are soft ripe and those that bear
non-astringent fruits. Within each of these categories, there are
cultivars whose fruits are influenced by pollination (pollination
variant) and cultivars whose fruits are unaffected by pollination
(pollination constant). Actually, it is the seeds, not pollination per
se, that influences the fruit. An astringent cultivar must be jelly
soft before it is fit to eat, and such cultivars are best adapted to
cooler regions where persimmons can be grown. The flesh color of
pollination-constant astringent cultivars is not influenced by
pollination. Pollination-variant astringent cultivars have dark flesh
around the seeds when pollinated. A non-astringent persimmon can be
eaten when it is crisp as an apple. These cultivars need hot summers,
and the fruit might retain some astringency when grown in cooler
regions. Pollination-constant non-astringent (PCNA) persimmons are
always edible when still firm; pollination-variant non-astringent
(PVNA) fruit are edible when firm only if they have been pollinated.
shape of the fruit varies by cultivar from spherical to acorn to
flattened or squarish. The color of the fruit varies from light
yellow-orange to dark orange-red. The size can be as little as a few
ounces to more than a pound. The entire fruit is edible except for the
seed and calyx. Alternate bearing is common. This can be partially
overcome by thinning the fruit or moderately pruning after a light-crop
year. Astringency can also be removed by treating with carbon dioxide
or alcohol. Freezing the fruit overnight and then thawing softens the
fruit and also removes the astringency. Unharvested fruit remaining on
the tree after leaf fall creates a very decorative effect. It is common
for many immature fruit to drop from May to September
Full sun with some air movement is recommended for persimmon trees in
inland areas, although they will tolerate some partial shade.
Persimmons grown in cooler areas should have full sun with protection
from cooling breezes. As an attractive ornamental the tree fits well in
the landscape. It does not compete well with eucalyptus.
Persimmons can withstand a wide rage of conditions as long as the soil
is not overly salty, but does best in deep, well drained loam. A pH
range of 6.5 to 7.5 is preferred. The tree has a strong tap root which
may mean digging a deeper hole than usual when planting (when on D. kaki stock).
Persimmon trees will withstand short periods of drought, but the fruit
will be larger and of higher quality with regular watering. Extreme
drought will cause the leaves and fruit to drop prematurely. Any fruit
left on the tree will probably sunburn. Some 36 to 48 inches of water
are needed annually, applied gradually in spring and tapering off in
the fall. Hot inland areas may require 2 or 3 applications weekly,
while coastal areas may need watering only once every 6 weeks,
depending on the soil. If a drip system is is used, the emitters should
be moved away from the trunk as the tree matures.
Most trees do well with a minimum of fertilizing. Excess nitrogen can
cause fruit drop. If mature leaves are not deep green and shoot growth
is less than a foot per year, apply a balanced fertilizer such as a
10-10-10 at a rate of l pound per inch of trunk diameter at ground
level. Spread the fertilizer evenly under the canopy in late winter or
Prune persimmon trees to develop a strong framework of main branches
while the tree is young. Otherwise the fruit, which is borne at the
tips of the branches, may be too heavy and cause breakage. A regular
program of removal of some new growth and heading others each year will
improve structure and reduce alternate bearing. An open vase system is
probably best. Even though the trees grow well on their own, persimmons
can be pruned heavily as a hedge, as a screen, or to control size. They
even make a nice espalier. Cut young trees back to 1/2 high (or about 3
feet) at the time of planting.
Propagation: Stratification is recommended for all persimmon seeds. The common rootstock in California is D. lotus, although it is not compatible with some cultivars, including fuyu. Other rootstock such as D. kaki seedlings are temperamental and have long tap roots. D. virginiana
is inconsistent and suckers badly. Whip and cleft grafts are the ones
commonly used. The trunks of young trees should be protected from
sunburn and rodent damage.
Pests and Diseases:
Persimmons are relatively problem-free, although mealybug and scale in
association with ants can sometimes cause problems. Ant control will
usually take care of these pests. Other occasional pests include white
flies, thrips which can cause skin blemishes and a mite that is blamed
for the "brown lace collar" near the calyx. Waterlogging can also cause
root rot. Vertebrate pests such as squirrels, deer, coyotes, rats,
opossums and birds are fond of the fruit and gophers will attack the
roots. Other problems include blossom and young fruit shedding,
especially on young trees. This is not usually a serious problem, but
if the drop is excessive, it may be useful to try girdling a few
branches. Over watering or over fertilization may also be responsible.
Large quantities of small fruit on an otherwise healthy tree can be
remedied by removing all but one or two fruit per twig in May or June.
Harvest astringent varieties when they are hard but fully colored. They
will soften on the tree and improve in quality, but you will probably
lose many fruit to the birds. Astringent persimmons will ripen off the
tree if stored at room temperature. Non-astringent persimmons are ready
to harvest when they are fully colored, but for best flavor, allow them
to soften slightly after harvest. Both kinds of persimmons should be
cut from the tree with hand-held pruning shears, leaving the calyx
intact Unless the fruit is to be used for drying whole, the stems
should be cut as close to the fruit as possible. Even though the fruit
is relatively hard when harvested, it will bruise easily, so handle
Mature, hard astringent persimmons can be stored in
the refrigerator for at least a month. They can also be frozen for 6 to
8 months. Non-astringent persimmons can be stored for a short period at
room temperature. They will soften if kept with other fruit in the
refrigerator. Persimmons also make an excellent dried fruit. They can
either be peeled and dried whole or cut into slices (peeled or
un-peeled) and dried that way. When firm astringent persimmons are
peeled and dried whole they lose all their astringency and develop a
sweet, date-like consistency.
Persimmons are found in most supermarkets during the season, but there
is not a large demand outside ethnic markets. It would appear that
there is a potential as a major crop if and when the market is
has been a great deal of confusion and misidentification among
persimmon cultivars. The following list is subject to revision as
better analysis techniques become available.
to large oblate fruit, puckered at the calyx. Skin bright orange-red.
Good quality. Ripens late. Tree small, vigorous, drought and frost
resistant, precocious and heavy-bearing. One of the most satisfactory
cultivars for Florida and Texas
oblong-conical fruit Skin glossy, deep orange. Flesh dark yellow. Sweet
and rich. Good for drying. Ripens mid-season to late. Tree vigorous,
upright-spreading. Prolific in California.
roundish oblate fruit with thin skin. Skin and flesh ripen to a
distinct orange-red. Very sweet and rich. Excellent for fresh eating
and drying. Ripens midseason to late. Tall, upright, moderately
vigorous tree. Bears good crop.
elongated fruit. Skin dull-yellow when mature. Flavor sweet, excellent,
ranked among the best by gourmets. Mature fruits are attractive when
dried. Tree medium in height, bears consistently. Cold hardy to
somewhat four-sided fruit, broad-oblate and indented around the middle.
Skin thick, orange-red. Flesh light orange, sweet and rich when fully
ripe. Ripens midseason in California
round-conical fruits. Skin light yellow or orange, turning orange-red,
thick. Flesh yellow, sweet. Ripens early. Tree vigorous, rounded,
prolific. In California tends to bear in alternate years.
Sold as Sharon Fruit after astringency has been chemically removed. Medium-sized, oblate fruits. Ripens in October.
oblate fruit, faintly four-sided. Skin deep orange. Flesh light orange,
sweet and mild. Ripens late. Keeps well and is an excellent packer and
shipper. Tree vigorous, spreading, productive. Most popular
nonastringent cultivar in Japan.
roundish-oblate fruit. Skin reddish orange, attractive. When fully ripe
has one of the deepest red colors of any persimmon. Flesh quality good,
sweeter than Fuyu. Ripens in late October. Tree somewhat dwarf. Bears
regularly but sets a light crop in some seasons and is prone to
premature shedding of fruit.
to Jiro. Reddish brown skin. Occasional male flowers and seeds.
Probably a bud mutation of Jiro. Ripens late October and early November
fruit. Skin burnt orange. Flesh soft, with a good amount of syrup, of
fine texture. Flavor very good. Not reliably nonastringent. Ripens
early, from the end of September to mid-October. Tree somewhat dwarf.
Bears only female flowers. Sets good crop.
large. Resembles Fuyu, but more truncated and squarish in
cross-section. Skin orange-red. Flavor and quality excellent. Ripens
late October and early November, ships well. Often sold as Fuyu. Tree
slightly upright. Most popular nonastringent variety in California.
rounded fruit, smoother and less indented than Jiro. Rich orange in
color. Sweet and of good quality. Ripens in mid-season. Tree slightly
upright. Must be planted with a suitable pollinator to ensure good
fruit yield. Bud mutation of Jiro.
round fruit. Skin orange to deep red. Flesh sweet, of good texture,
flavor good. Not reliably nonastringent. Ripens in early November. Tree
medium-sized, vigorous, spreading. Differentiates male flowers, making
it a suitable pollinator.
fruit. Skin orange-red. Flesh dense, very sweet, excellent quality.
Difficult to soften on tree (fruit becomes spongy rather than soft).
Ripens in November, keeps well Tree almost free from alternate bearing.
Recommended for warmer climates.
Pollination Variant Varieties (astringent when seedless)
to medium-sized, oblong-conical fruit. Skin reddish orange. Flesh
brown-streaked when pollinated, must be soft-ripe before eating. Ripens
late October to early November. Tree large, vigorous, producing many
male blossoms. Recommended as a pollinator for pollination variant
cultivars such as Hyakuma and Zenji Maru.
small, roundish to conical with a rounded apex. Skin dull red, pebbled.
Flesh dark, firm, juicy, of fair flavor. Tree small to medium. Bears
many male flowers regularly and is an excellent cultivar to plant for
cross-pollination. Has attractive autumn foliage and ornamental value.
large, roundish oblong to roundish oblate. Skin buff-yellow to light
orange, marked with rings and veins near the apex. Flesh dark cinnamon
when seeded, juicy, of firm texture, nonmelting. Flavor spicy, very
good. Nonastringent even while the fruit is still hard. Ripens in
midseason, stores and ships well.
to medium-sized fruit, rounded at the apex. Skin brilliant orange-red,
attractive. Flesh dark cinnamon, juicy, sweet and rich, quality
excellent. Stores and ships especially well. Tree vigorous and
productive. Generally considered a group name.
Fruit medium, round conical to oblate. Orange color. Mediocre flavor. Ripens in September. Bears male flowers.
et al. Fuyu Primer: Collection of Published Articles, California Fuyu
Growers Association, P.O. Box 1301, Valley Center, CA 92082. 1991.
Griffith, E. and M. W. Griffith. Persimmons for Everyone. NAFEX, 1982.
H. and P. Glucina. Persimmon Culture in New Zealand. DSIR Series no.
159. Science Information Publishing Center. Science Information
Publishing Center, Wellington, N.Z., 1984
LaRue, James H., et al. Growing Persimmons. University of California, Leaflet 21277. 1982.
Ortho Books. All About Citrus and Subtropical Fruits. Chevron Chemical Co. 1985. pp. 68-70.
Reich, Lee. Uncommon Fruits Worthy of Attention. Addison-Wesley Pub. Co., 1991. pp. 75-94.
Ryuago, K., et al. Persimmons for California. California Agriculture Magazine, July-August 1988.