Izu Persimmon

Izu Persimmon - Frankenpersimmon

Source tree from Just Fruits and Exotics, March 2014

Graft 1: Coffee Cake, scion wood from npolaske, Jan 2016
Graft 2: Hachiya, scion wood from npolaske, Jan 2016
Graft 3: Fuyu, scion wood from tucsonken / Ken S., Feb 2016
Graft 4: Saijo, scion wood from AZRFG Scion Exchange, Feb 2016
Graft 5: Ormond, scion wood from tucsonken / Ken S., Feb 2017
Graft 6: Chocolate, scion wood from Dave Wilson Nursery, Feb 2017
Graft 7: Maru, scion wood from Dave Wilson Nursery, Feb 2017
Graft 8: Tanenashi, scion wood from LE Cooke Nursery, Feb 2017
Graft 9: Doug Jones' Seedling, scion wood from AZRFG Scion Exchange, Feb 2017

This tree will be a surprising result for anyone who has tried to grow persimmons in Phoenix. It is huge, healthy, never shows leaf burn in summer, vigorous and produces persimmons! My persimmon story is a long one and there have been a lot of lessons learned and observations made. So sit back and let me take you on a journey ....

I ordered my Izu Persimmon from Just Fruits and Exotics (Florida) in March 2014. JFEs trees are incredibly well packaged. The tree was tiny (a 3ft, 1/4" dia. stick) but grew vigorously that first spring. Now here is the surprise: where I planted it. This was one of the first fruit trees I put in my yard, long before I knew about the woes of growing persimmons in Phoenix. So I chose to put it in a western exposure against an eastern block wall. This is basically the worst possible planting location in Phoenix (115-120 F summers, reflected afternoon heat off the eastern wall which will add 5+ F easily). Traditionally you would plant only a mulberry or jujube in a location like this. Most definitely not a persimmon.

But I did it because I literally had no idea what I was doing. And it turns out ... good for me.

Because the tree grew great that first year. It went from a 3 ft stick to a 6 ft tree with nice branching. It never got leaf burn, never looked sickly or overwhelmed by the heat. I watered it a lot during the summer, but I water everything a lot during summer. But otherwise no special treatment.

Then I joined the AZRFG and during the conversations the subject turned to persimmons and the groans and the stories of 'the tree was growing great, started to put on fruit, then the summer hit and the tree died, even with protection!' come up. This seemed to be an almost universal response. And I am thinking to myself, why is mine so different? My first thought was the variety, maybe Izu just tolerates heat better?

So I decided to experiment:

Experiment #1: I bought another persimmon. I bought a Fuyu (most common variety you can find out here), but went with bareroot. The tree woke up fine, leafed out nicely, but by mid-summer it started showing leaf burn and eventually was dead by July. Typical persimmon reaction in Phoenix. The tree was planted in a different spot in my yard, and was actually more protected (sun in the morning up to about 1 pm, then shade from 1pm on) than the Izu.

Experiment #2: I bought another Fuyu. This time it was a potted tree, very large (1/2" diameter trunk, 7 gallon). Thinking if I start with a really healthy tree that will likely get over the summer hump. And I decided to put the Izu theory to the test. I took some budwood off my Izu and graft it on to the Fuyu. That way I could see how much different the Izu would respond to Fuyu side by side (to see if Izu really took the heat better). However, experiment #2 went exactly like experiment #1. The trees and the grafts leafed out beautifully in spring. By mid-summer the Fuyu and the Izu both showed leaf burn. By July the whole tree was dead.

Experiment #3: I had a Diospyros lotus rootstock (seedling) that I picked up at an AZRFG scion exchange in 2016. I was using it for some grafting experiments, particularly I was grafting Black Sapote (Diospyros digyna) and 'Chocolate' persimmon (Diospyros kaki cv. 'Chocolate') onto it. I kept it potted in my nursery area in almost full shade. The tree was never really happy, but both grafts did grow (at least 1-2 ft). And I let the D. lotus rootstock grow a branch. The D. lotus, even in nearly full shade, still showed leaf burn. It just does not like the heat. By the fall of 2017, the tree was dead.

Experiment #4: I have a Chocolate persimmon (DWN tree, grafted on D. lotus) that I have in a very protected spot. Morning sun only. Shaded by adjacent trees and a Chinese Elm from overhead by noon. I planted it as bareroot in 2017. It made it through the 2017 summer, but it was never happy. Lots of leaf burn even with the heavy shade. Tree is still alive and leafing out again this spring (2018) and the leaves look just as horrible. But to make this experiment even more compelling, I took scion wood from this very tree and grafted it onto the Izu. And the Chocolate leaves off the graft on the Izu look dark green and lush, where as the Chocolate leaves on the D. lotus tree look horrible. See pictures below.

Meanwhile ....
While all these experiments are going on my Izu just keeps growing and getting more beautiful. The tree doubles in size from 2014-2015 and then doubles in size again from 2015-2016. I hack the tree way back in 2016 because I wanted to make some grafting locations. In 2016 I grafted on: Coffee Cake, Saijo, Hachiya, Fuyu. In 2016, the grafts all take and the Fuyu (remember how Fuyu did on experiment #1 and #2) leaves from the graft showed no leaf burn whatsoever. In 2017, I hacked the tree way back again and grafted on: Doug Jones' famous seedling persimmon, Maru, Tanenashi, Chocolate. And in 2017, I got fruit off the original Izu branches, as well as fruit off the Fuyu and Coffee Cake grafts (see below)

So now the pieces are starting to fall into place.

It is clear from experiment 2 that Izu possesses no special heat tolerance, so that does not explain the success of this tree. And learning that nearly all the persimmon trees available in AZ come from Dave Wilson Nursery, and DWN grafts their persimmon onto D. lotus. This is probably good for CA growers. But for AZ growers that need to deal with extreme heat, D. lotus is not a good rootstock choice (see experiment #3).

So I send Just Fruits and Exotics an email. And the email goes like this:

I have had such success with this Izu Persimmon and I have killed other persimmons that I have bought from other places locally. Phoenix/Chandler AZ has intense sun and intense heat in summers (120+ F deg). Most persimmons die in June, but not this Izu. It takes FULL sun. I have a theory that that the reason is because of the rootstock. Most growers in CA (CA nurseries supply the trees which we have available here at the box stores) use Diospyros Lotus as a rootstock. I have (had, it died) a D. Lotus tree, because I wanted to see how it grows. It is very sun sensitive and even in full shade you can tell it struggles with the heat. Do you use an American Persimmon (Diospyros virginiana) rootstock for your persimmons? Do you use seedling D. kaki for rootstocks? I would love to know, because I am relaying how well my Izu grows for me for local gardeners here (most people kill their persimmon the first summer) to try to get them to order their persimmon trees from you. But most want to save money and buy bareroot Dave Wilson trees (grown on D. lotus). So I would give them some more info to explain why your trees grow better than average over here.

And here was their response:

It is really wonderful to hear this feedback. We put a lot of work into making sure our trees and plants are healthy and strong. And as you mentioned we take a lot of care when shipping them because it's just so rough out there on the UPS Truck. You are correct about the rootstock used on our persimmon trees. We use American Persimmon seedling and then graft the different desired varieties to that. This Native Persimmon (Diospyros Virginiana) is very tough and resistant to disease. I fully believe that your theory is correct about persimmons not surviving the tough conditions when grafted on Diospyros Lotus. People tend to have a hard time with the shipping costs but if your tree survives because you got a healthy tree on good root stock than you really saved having to buy another tree and plant it.

So there you have it. After running some experiments to isolate the variety effects vs. the rootstock effects, I believe the main reason for the success of this persimmon tree in my yard is because of the D. virginiana rootstock it is grafted onto. As of the spring 2018, the tree is 10-12 ft tall. It would be much larger than that right now had I not cut it back severely in 2016 and 2017 to make grafting locations as I talked about above.

I have relayed this story to Guy Ellis (also an AZRFG member) and he decided to get a persimmon tree from Just Fruits and Exotics. So we will be comparing growing notes over the next few years.

For those of you on the Facebook groups Phoenix Fruit Growers and Fruit Trees Anonymous, there are several threads that tell most of this story, I want to consolidate all those observations on this page. Here are the previous threads:


Fuyu, Izu and Coffee Cake fruit from Fall 2017

Tree in the middle of summer, July 2017 (note the dark green leaves on the persimmon, looks better than the mango tree behind it)

New growth on Saijo graft, March 2018

Spring growth, April 2018

Spring flower clusters

(Image on Left) Chocolate persimmon grafted onto D. lotus, picture taken spring 2018
(Image on Right) Chocolate persimmon grafted onto D. virginiana, the tree in this post. SOURCE SCION WOOD IS FROM THE TREE ON THE LEFT, picture taken at the same time as the tree on the left
This comparison shows the effect of persimmon rootstock on the exact same scion wood.