RedKestrel
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Pomegranate Bonsai from seedling: Help for a beginner?

My thought is that no, pomegranates aren't good for beginners, especially not in frosty Minnesota, but I seem to insist on doing things the hard way, so I went ahead and planted the single pomegranate seed that I had.

The seed itself is interesting in that it came with clear white flesh! That's right; nestled among the ruby red sea of pomegranate seeds, this one little seed had clear flesh! That's what made me keep it, and I'm hoping that the fruit it might produce could have a chance at being white instead of red as well, though I'm not familiar with what makes the fruit on the seed be white instead of red.

So now I have a small seedling with about 8 leaves so far, and I have a few questions!

What I do know is that pomegranates are a lot more tropical than the region I live in can support, so I know better than to leave this one outside over the winter. I'm hoping this can be an indoor bonsai, since I love having indoor plants, but I'm willing to put it outside for the good of the plant if that's what it needs. Now my question is this: What's the best time to put it outside, if it must go? and... When would it be a good idea to repot it and/or trim roots? and... How do I go about wintering it, and if/when I should even winter it at all?

It's less than a year old, currently growing on my window ledge next to various other plants, It's got 8 or so leaves and more on the way, but no branches yet. I get the feeling that next spring might be too early to let it outside. I'm worried something might happen to it if I let it go outside too early. I've never seen another clear pomagranate seed, and I don't know how rare that is to find one, but I don't get pomagranates very often and I feel I may never get a second chance with this, so I want to do things right.

I don't mind saying that I have a very limited budget, so buying a lot of expensive fertilizers and soils and stuff is going to be difficult for me, and advice for cheaper alternatives or places to get better deals would be awesome.

Any tips, links, or advice at all is welcome!

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rainbowgardener
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To start with I thought you might be interested to see pictures of a (very large) pomegranate bonsai, in this thread:

https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=167499&highlight=pomegranate+bonsai#167499

I'm not a bonsai grower, but your initial questions really aren't about bonsai growing they are about growing pomegranate from seed. Starting from seed is a long slow way to get a bonsai tree. You will spend some years just growing it out from seed, before you can do anything to it.

Also, I would think pomegranate isn't a great subject for a bonsai unless you have something like the picture in mind, because the fruit are large and would be out of scale for a small tree - unless you don't want to let it fruit.

Pomegranates are deciduous, meaning they do want some dormancy period. They are a lot cold hardier than citrus, tolerating temps down to about 20. That said I would be out of my depth to even try to answer your question about what to do with your little 8 leaf seedling now. I would lean as you suggested to keeping it indoors under lights all this year until spring. Then you want to harden it off gently, making a gradual transition for it. But fall next year, I would leave it out until it drops its leaves and low temps are down around freezing, then bring it in to some protected, but not very heated space.

Here's an earlier thread we had about dealing with pomegranate bonsai dormancy: https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=149008&highlight=pomegranate+bonsai#149008

Your trouble may be more with summer than winter. They are warm climate trees and like hot sunny summers.
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RedKestrel
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Thank you Rainbowgardener! Both links were very helpful!

I'm curious to know how one goes about repotting something that big :shock: , and how often such an undertaking might need to be done!

I had hoped to build a greenhouse with my parents and grandma in the spring, perhaps it might be warm enough in that in summer? I deffinitely want somewhere very warm to keep it from the sounds of things... I was also looking into growing a starfruit tree, but I think that's a topic of it's own for another time. A greenhouse would open up some different possibilities, eh? I like the idea of a large Pome bonsai that can support fruit!

I recognize that growing from seed takes a long time, but since I'm really inexperienced with bonsai techniques I figured it'd be good to take it slow at first, and maybe abduct a wild tree or two from the backyard or my dad's hunting land to begin practicing on before my pome got old enough to tamper with. I'd be devastated if I killed it by pruning too much or something.

I do have a growlight, which I'll be setting up soon! And I have another question: is it possible to train the roots of my seedling to be a better bonsai? and how would I go about doing that, if it is in fact possible?

On another note, I gotta laugh at myself 'cause I never even stopped to think that someone should repot a tree that wasn't going to be a bonsai! xD Now I'm just imagininge trying to grow an adult pomegranate tree in my little pome's pot. :lol:

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applestar
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I asked the overwintering question here:
https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=168881#168881

RedKestrel
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Thanks for the reply!
I'm still not entirely sure what it means to winter a plant, but from what I can tell it's just letting it go dormant and lose it's leaves by dropping the temperature. I'm worried that mine may be too young yet to winter, since I haven't even had it for a full year.

Also, it does get very cold outside and it has snowed already here, I fear putting it outside at night would be a very bad idea, so should I just put it in a colder part of the house?

Phil L.R
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Pomegranites are tropical plants that need to be sustained in an almost like enviroment which in this case is tropical. You could maintain it indoors while it snow's outside with the help of thermostat. I have a pomegranite tree in my backyard which has a ton of seedlings under it, I consider them to be a perfect bonsai specimen since they're easy to obtain from seed and even cuttings.
As for the "white" pulp around the seed, where I live those are kinda normal, since the color is determined by the pgiment compound. But anyways, keep growing it, and tell us what happens.

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Gnome
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RedKestrel,
I'm worried that mine may be too young yet to winter, since I haven't even had it for a full year.
It sounds like you are on the same schedule I was the first year. Harvest seeds in late fall from fresh fruit and plant immediately. That put me exactly where you are now with seedlings that were just under a year old.

I can tell you that I did allow a brief, protected dormancy that first winter, actually I started two groups one in 2006 and then again in 2007. Those were allowed to go dormant yearly starting in 2007 and 2008 respectively.

I just brought them all (one from the first round and three from the second) inside Monday afternoon. They had already dropped most of their leaves and had experienced two frosts, one light and one a little deeper than I had expected. It got into the upper 20's Sunday night/Monday morning. They are now inside an unheated garage and will remain there until temps begin to get too cold inside. At this point I will bring them into a cool basement.

Norm

RedKestrel
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(I'm back, after some technical difficulties :D)

Thanks a bunch for the help, and sorry if I tax your patience, but I'm just about a complete newbie to this stuff, so just to clarify, what temperatures would you consider "too low" for the pome to winter at? (temperatures this morning were at 19 degrees, we had one night at 8 not too long ago, brrr...)

How long should the winter need to last?

And for the white pulp, do you know if you just kept crossing pomes grown from pale seeds, could you eventually get pomegranates that give totally white fruit? I think that was what I was hoping for when I planted the seed, though it seems like a longshot. :lol:

RedKestrel
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Er... heh, I meant to ask more about what temperature ranges should be, like, should I aim keep it between 60 and 25 degrees? Does it affect it to be brought above the max temperature once in awhile?

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rainbowgardener
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rainbowgardener wrote:
Pomegranates are deciduous, meaning they do want some dormancy period. They are a lot cold hardier than citrus, tolerating temps down to about 20.
Tolerating temps down to 20 means NOT below that. 8 degrees will kill your tree. Probably even 20 degrees will kill your tree, because when it says they tolerate temps that low, that is talking about an established tree, in the ground. The little bit of soil in a bonsai pot is going to freeze solid a lot sooner than the ground.

Most often if deciduous trees are given 6 weeks of leaves-off, no growth, cold dormancy, they can be brought back. But if you are going to shorten the winter like that (as opposed to just waiting for spring), it has to be done carefully and gradually. You can't just have your plant in cold storage one day and bring it in to 70 degrees the next. Also lighting will be part of that. Part of what plants respond to in spring is not just temps, but increasing hours of daylight. So you would have to simulate that also.

There are easier things you could have started with--either something like maple or juniper that is native to your area that you could just leave out in the winter or an evergreen tropical that you could just leave in all winter, like ficus or schefflera.
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Gnome
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RedKestrel,

I agree with RBG that you are really pushing your seedlings to their limits and they may already be damaged. I don't allow mine to get anywhere near that cold. While the ocassonal flirtation with freezing temps have not damaged mine, I make sure that they don't get too far below freeziing and not for very long. It would be wise to find a more sheltered situation for them ASAP.

Brent Walston writes this:
Small stem dieback will occur at 10ø but established plants will surely survive. At 0ø there is the risk of killing the entire plant. Younger plants, potted plants, and the dwarf types will need more protection (keep above about 20F).
Does it affect it to be brought above the max temperature once in awhile?
Here's my understanding of how temperate, deciduous trees function. As RBG stated it seems that 6 week (about 1000 hours) is the magic number of chilling hours required. This number is cumulative, meaning that it does not matter if there is the ocassional warm day, 1000 hours is 1000 hours. After that threshold has been met the tree is able to break dormancy when spring arrives.

Here the process is similar, but there is a difference. The tree must recieve a certain number of warm hours before it will leaf out, so that is the same. The difference lies in the mechanism, the warming hours must be contiguous, without interruption. One cold night starts the clock over again. This is a survival tactic that helps to keep the tree dormant despite the ocassional warm day in early spring. It will not break dormancy too early.

Now exactly how this relates to Poemgranate I am unsure as they are not in the same category as true temperate decoiduous species such as Maple. I don't believe that they need as long a chilling period and have handled them much the same as I have a Small Chinese Elm, bringing it in around the first of the year.

Norm

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Thanks for the replies rainbowgardener and gnome!

I found a chilly window in my basement that I thought would work perfect, since we've been getting hammered with lots of snow here and I wasn't about to throw my little pome out in that! My basement is very cold, but I don't' think cold enough to kill it since one of the nearby rooms is heated. The room it is in is not though. I will check the temperature just to be sure.

I was mostly worried that since it would be starting it's winter somewhat late might prevent it from having a true dormancy, since all the trees around here have been leafless for a long time, but that's cleared up now. I have no intention of bringing it out of it's slumber earlier than necessary, but it is good to know that I should take it slow when waking it up. I've got another window that's not as chilly but still cool that I think would work as an in-between until I can move it into my room again. The idea of keeping it outside makes me nervous, so I was hoping that this could be an indoor bonsai. I haven't had it outside yet, and I hope not to need to put it out.

I know I always say thanks at the beginning of my posts, but I wanted to let you guys know you've been extremely helpful and that I really appreciate the time you're all spending explaining these things to me! :D

RedKestrel
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Just now realized something... There's an indoor bonsai forum! :shock: Oops! I think this topic might belong over there...?

Anyways, I know that the pome is going to be a tough starter, and I was going to abduct some wild trees in the spring (if that's the best time to snatch them?) to practice some techniques on. Hrrm... don't' wanna go too far off topic, but let me know if maples and birch are bad starter plants? I've also gotten my hands on some seeds from a storebought starfruit, (more than one this time :lol: ) I was going to wait until spring to plant, but I'm expecting those to be as tough as the pome, if not worse. I just gotta do things the hard way I guess. :lol:

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applestar
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Starfruit -- what a cool idea. I might try that too. 8) This is the time to get unusual fruits too since you see more of them during the holiday season.

I don't know about star fruit, but a lot of tropicals won't sprout if the seeds are dried out. I would plant them right away. A warm location or bottom heat and a humidity cover usually helps (I like top of cut off plastic soda bottles. The cap allows ventilation as necessary).

Keep us update about your pomegranates. Mine are in the garage right now, just inside of the (insulated) door, and the thermometer sitting next to the pot hasn't gone down past 33 or so. I'll have to move them further inside the garage, closer to the laundry room door once the outside temps dip down more into the 20's and teens.

It sounds like I should be able to bring them inside after new years, just ahead of the coldest months around here, though we have had two frigid temp (low teens) News Year Eves running, and may get it again this year.

RedKestrel
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I've also thought about trying to bonsai mangoes, dragonfruit, durion, lychee, and Theobroma cacao (chocolate!). Heck, I've got a whole list of tropical oddities that I'd like to try growing, but that's a topic for some other time :P I haven't the space to grow much else right now even if I could get ahold of them.

Back on subject, I've checked the temp at the window and found it to be 56 degrees. Rather cool, but is it cold enough?

*edit* I'm pretty sure it's quite dead...
It's been several months and all the leaves fell off and didn't come back once it came out of it's winter... I'm thinking that it got colder than I thought, maybe with the wind chill hitting that side of the house (poorly insulated). Oops. After a brief mourning period, I've decided to try getting something from a couple of ficus cuttings off of my aunt's plant. I don't know exactly what kind of ficus they are. The leaves are just solid green, if that helps XD. Both are producing roots and one is already growing new leaves, so things are looking up. Ficus sound a lot easier than pomegranates. No pictures yet, but I think they'll probably get their own topic once I get around to it. :P
Last edited by RedKestrel on Wed Apr 06, 2011 5:10 pm, edited 2 times in total.

RedKestrel
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:shock: I think I killed it. (and I have a camera!)

[img]https://lh6.ggpht.com/_PngHbpepnV0/TQe-3WwNmfI/AAAAAAAAARI/moK5yFFV-vw/dead%20pome.jpg[/img]
I just know I've killed it! But I'm not about to give up on it... Is this how it's supposed to look as it goes dormant? It looks quite dead to me, but I'm used to trees changing colors as they go dormant, so I don't know for sure.

Since I thought it might not be cold enough in the basement, I moved it into a much colder area, and last I checked (near 10:00) it was at 31 degrees... I can only imagine how cold it might have gotten over night, I've never checked the temp in there early morning. The leaves are all wilted but not crispy, none have fallen off and only one has a brown tip on it (has had the brown since before it's winter, but it got a tiny bit bigger) they don't seem to have changed colors aside from that. I'm not sure if pomegranates do that, but I thought it better to be safe than sorry. I've moved it back to the basement window for the night which is currently 50 degrees, and likely a good bit warmer than 31 even at night.

Should I move it between window and cold room daily so it doesn't get too cold at night? (that is, of course, if it's not dead yet...)

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applestar
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Not and expert by any means, but I think it's just the leaves got hit with sub-freezing temp. Maybe the plant didn't have time chance to gradually change color. Mine outside turned yellow - I think - and all fell off. (ALTHOUGH... your leaves look different from mine -- mine had smaller, more oval shaped leaves.... :?)

I had them in my unheated garage until a few days ago, two days AFTER the outside temp went down to 13ºF and the thermometer set on the garage floor next to them read 26ºF. :shock: A I had to trim some of them as the wispy, almost vine-like winding branches were 12~18" long. I thought those skinny sticks were dead but cut surface showed green central core. I did leave them long so they can be properly pruned later.

Some of them are starting to show tiny red buds on lower trunk closer to the soil level.

It was 13ºF out last night and 21ºF outside right now so there's no way they can stay in the garage any more, even though I intended to leave them out there until after New Years. I hope they had enough cold/rest period.

Your little plant looks younger than mine -- more like the one I kept inside all winter in upstairs window side grouping (most likely around upper 60's). The leaves eventually became somewhat yellowed and spotty. I would think 50's would be safer.

RedKestrel
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Ok, I'll keep it in the basement, thanks! It's in the same room as the heater, though on the opposite side and in front of a window (tiny window that barely peeks above ground). I don't think it will get below freezing with that heater there.

I appologize for the picture, the camera used has a broken inner-screen and no eye hole so it's basically just point, shoot, and hope it comes out ok. Anyways, the leaves are somewhat crumpled in the picture, they're normally more oval shaped.

*edit* And forget what I said about un-crispy leaves, they are indeed crispy, except for one.

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