persimmon winter damage '13 - '14

creekweb(6,7)July 14, 2014

Tallying up the damage to my persimmon trees over the past winter. Have waited to this point since some of the trees have been very slow to bud out, but I think that the call can be made on all of them at this time. The past winter here as in many other places was unusually cold but the real damaging event was the night in January when temps fell to -11 or -12F. There was no significant snow cover here.

The trees that I protected that night with tarps and heat sources sustained enough damage that they will not fruit this year, but the size of and the prospects for the trees remain unchanged.

Trees on lotus rootstock, which suffered severe dieback, all were lost.

Unprotected trees on virginiana rootstock either sustained severe dieback or died back to the rootstock. Varieties surviving with severe dieback were 20th century, Fuyu, Honan Red, Giombo, Smith's Best, Tecumseh, Nikita's Gift, Eureka. Unprotected varieties on virginiana not surviving were Hana Fuyu, Ichi ki kei jiro, Korean, Saijo, Tam Kam and Maekawa Jiro .

Most trees with severe dieback have had robust recovery, some with 6 feet of growth, 3 foot laterals and 1 foot sublaterals, but some have first budded as late as July 1 and so have had only modest regrowth to this point.

The hybrid Rosseyanka showed no dieback and is cropping normally. I lost one mature grafted virginiana, NC10. I have never heard that this one was less cold hardy than the others, and while I doubt that it is, I will replace it with a different early variety.

My biggest and really only major loss was severe dieback to a mature 20th Century that will take about 5 years to recover.

A few things that I draw from this is that in zone 6 (I also have a persimmon orchard in zone 7 which had mild dieback and poor cropping but no significant damage to any of the trees) I will keep my kakis to 8 or 9 feet height and have a tarp, wire and heat source ready if needed for each tree at risk, to be used if temps are forecasted to drop below -7F. I will graft low, not only to keep down the total height of the tree, but I found that in the event that there is severe dieback, those trees grafted lower are more likely to survive. Immediate regrowth can save up to 2 years in waiting to restore the tree compared to regrafting the rootstock.

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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX


Great report!! I have nothing to add other than 23F after growth begins is about like below zero in dormant period. I lost all small wood on Eureka this spring. It is regrowing strongly. Don't know if it will crop next yr.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2014 at 11:08PM
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Tony(Zone 5. Omaha, Nebraska)


My Nikita's Gift and Ichi recovered nicely after -17F. I protected the Ichi with wrapping and still got half died back. The NG without any protection and all the small blanches died back to the trunks. Ichi growing back fast.


    Bookmark   July 15, 2014 at 12:35AM
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Tony(Zone 5. Omaha, Nebraska)


How is your Tam Kam doing? How low was the temp in your area this past winter?


    Bookmark   July 15, 2014 at 10:14AM
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bob_z6(6b/7a SW CT)

I didn't protect (beyond their natural planting positions) any of my persimmons last winter and hit -3 degrees.

Ichi Ki Kei Jiro #1- a 2nd year tree in a somewhat protected, about 10' from a tall stone retaining wall, it died back to the rootstock. The rootstock is back to about 4' tall.

Ichi Ki Kei Jiro #2- a potted 2nd year tree, in an open air location next to the house (North side). It came through fine, which seems a bit strange, as I've heard that potted plants can take 1-2 zones off hardiness. I suppose it only reduces the hardiness of the roots, and since the rootstock is pretty hardy, it wasn't a problem. It's good that I complained last year about the size of the IKKJ Starks sent me- otherwise I wouldn't have this backup to graft from next spring.

Tam Kam- 3rd year tree, in a not too protected spot (sheltered from wind by being ~12' from house and 15-20' from the tall retaining wall). It came out completely fine and may fruit for the first time this year (some haven't dropped yet).

Izu- 2nd year tree, about 4' from a South facing retaining wall. It came through fine.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2014 at 10:59AM
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All mine are small trees, my great wall and rosseyanka look like they died below graft, yates some damage, prok went through winter fine. -16F was the lowest temp, but ground was like permafrost, toasted all my pawpaws.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2014 at 12:18PM
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alexander3_gw(6 Pennsylvania)

Pretty severe dieback on my TamKam. Not sure what the lowest temperature was, I think between -5 and -10, but the big difference was that we got several nights that cold. In past winters it has made it through -5 with no damage at all I thought it was dead, but it sent out new shoots from wood about 5/8" in diameter, so maybe 3 or 4 year old wood. It made one flower this year, and that one dropped. The big challenge for me will be pruning this mess into a reasonable structure...the new shoots are growing out in clusters, a lot of them going straight up like water sprouts.


    Bookmark   July 15, 2014 at 12:43PM
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Tony(Zone 5. Omaha, Nebraska)


My Ichi from the above photo had lots of small branches also. I will let it grows wild this year and re-shape it next april.


    Bookmark   July 15, 2014 at 1:03PM
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I only started grafting persimmons 3 years ago so I don't have any named varieties old enough to fruit. I'm in 7A and we too had an unusually cold winter, but it also followed a major cicada hatch. I had a lot of branches die due to cicada damage.

I have two mature native females. Both are producing fruit but the crop seems lighter than normal.

I was expecting the first fruits on my grafted trees in their third leaf. They were just grafted with native scions from the mature trees. I got none and I attribute that to the added stress of the cicadas and perhaps the cold winter.

I have a Prok and 100-45 that are in their second leaf this year. They had not leafed out when the cicadas were active and as a result were not damaged. They show no signs of damage from the winter.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2014 at 5:13PM
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skyjs(z8 OR, USA)

I didn't have any persimmon damage but i had some on other trees. I'm in a very mild climate 8b-9a but it was relatively cold for us too.
John S

    Bookmark   July 15, 2014 at 5:45PM
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Tony, I agree with your approach to regrowth, leaving the pruning until next spring. I can't cite any science to back me up on this, but I think that with essentially the entire loss of the tree that maximizing the number of new leaves will best refortify the tree with energy to maintain vigorous growth next season. It would be nice if the kakis could be grown as bushes with multiple trunks, but I believe they'll self prune and ultimately retain only one trunk, so In early spring I'll preempt the inevitable and prune to one trunk. The other reason for currently keeping the multiple trunks is that often on some the tops get pruned off (by birds?) arresting growth. Keeping multiple trunks increases the odds that at least one will not meet that fate.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2014 at 6:10PM
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Tony(Zone 5. Omaha, Nebraska)


The 12ft tall Nikita's Gift growing strong again. Remember to email me in August.


    Bookmark   July 15, 2014 at 8:57PM
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bob_z6(6b/7a SW CT)


When you say "kakis...retain only one trunk", does this also apply to the virginiana rootstock itself? I've been letting my IKKJ's rootstock grow out from several shoots shoots and was thinking about making it an open centered (where the old trunk was) multi-graft, grafting different types to each shoot.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2014 at 12:56AM
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Like many other trees but even more aggressively, persimmons, if left on their own after a severe pruning, will eventually pare down the many shoots that grow to one main trunk. Once one trunk becomes dominant it can shade out the others, and the tree will respond by cutting them off. But even so, persimmons can be multi-grafted so long as the management includes preventing dominance of one of the grafts and providing adequate light and space for each grafted section - higher maintenance than I'd really like to deal with. If, say, for space considerations you'd like a multi-grafted persimmon tree, it would be safer to use kaki as an interstem, as it is less likely to self prune, than to make use of the multiple virginiana shoots growing up from your rootstock.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2014 at 11:05PM
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bob_z6(6b/7a SW CT)

The risk with the kaki interstem is that it could die if I get a tough winter and take the whole tree with it. Maybe I should pick the best virginiana shoot, then nip the top to get it started on side branches, which I could then graft to. How hard is persimmon to graft, compared to apple or peach? I've mostly grafted apple and pear, but I've had at least a little success with peach and mulberry as well.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2014 at 12:32AM
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The risk that would most concern me with constructing a multigrafted persimmon with a virginiana rootstock and a kaki interstem is kaki sudden death syndrome and the inevitable loss of all the time and effort that went into the project. If KSD takes out a single grafted tree, that's one thing, but when it takes out a whole group of grafts, it's so much worse. I think you can lessen that risk by using proven rootstock and proven scionwood but that may be hard to come by.

If you used a hardy kaki variety like Great Wall as the interstem, I don't think you'd increase the risk much of cold related injury for the kaki scions.

If you did decide to multigraft the virginiana directly, you'd be better off grafting to the shoots coming off the main trunk than grafting to laterals, as these would be more prone to self-pruning.

Persimmon is fairly easy to graft so long as you have good quality scionwood and a vigorous rootstock.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2014 at 2:30AM
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bob_z6(6b/7a SW CT)

Thanks Creekweb. I'll think it to the best trunk (or 2 trunks for safety) now and graft next spring.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2014 at 2:38AM
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RedSun (Zone 6, NJ)

I was planning to grow some Asian persimmon trees this year. This damage makes me pause.

This is like growing fig trees in borderline hardy or out of hardy zones....

    Bookmark   October 27, 2014 at 12:12PM
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My 2 year-old Meader died back to the roots, which are wild virginiana I assume. This was at my property in the Catoctin Mtns, Zone-6b. I'm really steamed about this loss: the Meader is supposed to be the most cold-hardy American I'm aware of-- bred by Elwin Meader in New Hampshire. Also supposed to be self-fertile & super tasty-- like rum raison. This past winter was just nasty-- bbbrrrr!

Sprouts grew back out from the base of the sapling, which I imagine are random wild virginiana. The exact site of the bud union is not clear to me. Attached is a pic from this past May, when the first sprout became evident.

I got this tree from Miller's Nursery in upstate NY before they were bought out by Stark Bros.

Here's hoping for milder winters in the future. Cheers,


    Bookmark   October 27, 2014 at 12:59PM
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