Asian persimmons (Diospryos kaki) are ornamental fruit trees that bear their bright-orange fruit in fall and early winter. They can be grown in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 7 to 11 and are well-adapted to the climate of southern California. Since all varieties of Asian persimmon perform well in the region, the best trees to plant are largely a matter of personal preferences. The American Persimmon (Diospryos virginiana) is native to the eastern United States and is not well-adapted to the arid climate of southern California, requiring more winter chill than most areas receive.
"Hachiya" is the most common astringent persimmon planted in California. It appreciates the high heat of southern California and ripens to perfection there. This type of persimmon is not ripe until it is extremely soft; otherwise the fruit is astringent and inedible. The fruit is shaped like an acorn and has the consistency of jelly when fully ripe. "Eureka" is another excellent astringent-type persimmon. It is very frost-resistant and drought tolerant, making it one of the best choices for the high desert areas of southern California.
Non-astringent cultivars of persimmon are edible when the fruit is still hard and crunchy like an apple, however, the fruit can also be allowed to go completely soft like the astringent types. "Fuyu" is a very sweet variety and is the most widely planted non-astringent persimmon. It is rarely bothered by pests or disease and is adapted to the mild coastal areas of southern California, as well as the hot interior. "Giant Fuyu" is a closely related cultivar with particularly large fruit.
There are dozens of lesser-known varieties that are cultivated by connoisseurs for their fine flavor and texture. "Coffeecake" persimmons are a non-astringent variety with a spicy sweet flavor and velvety texture. This variety is not self-fertile like most persimmons. It is reliably pollinated by "Chocolate" which has similar flavor qualities, but is astringent and has brown flesh. "Saijo" is a small, extremely sweet variety with yellow skin. It is hardy to minus 10 degrees -- a good choice in the high mountain areas of southern California
Asian persimmons are one of the most low-maintenance and attractive fruit trees for southern California. Persimmon pests are virtually unheard of in home orchards and the trees do not require any pruning. They do require summer irrigation, about once a week for young trees and monthly for established trees. Asian persimmons grow to 15 to 20 feet tall with a slightly pyramidal growth habit. Their flowers are not showy, but the dark-green glossy leaves, brilliant fall foliage, and ornamental fruit make persimmon one of the best choices for edible landscapes.
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