Starting persimmons from seed
The good news is that I now
have one beautiful little American persimmon growing in our chicken
pasture. The bad news is that I
started with 40 seeds last fall. What happened?
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The seeds came from a
variety of sources (thanks, Lisa, Frankie, and Mom!) and I think I
should have been more careful about how the seeds were handled.
The one seed that sprouted came to me inside a freshly picked
persimmon, while many of the unsprouted seeds arrived flesh-free.
Persimmon seeds can die easily if they don't stay moist, so I think
it's quite possible that some of the seeds I planted weren't even
viable when I put them in the ground. In future, I'll be sure to only plant
seeds that have been inside a fruit, in the
gut of an animal, or
inside a damp baggie.
Since I had so many
persimmon fruits from Frankie, I put about a dozen seeds in some water to ferment off the
flesh the way you do with tomatoes or cucumbers. I was hoping that the
fermenting process would make the seeds more likely to sprout, but none
of that batch made it. Fermenting
persimmon seeds doesn't seem to be helpful.
Finally, I think the
biggest problem was my planting method. Persimmons hate being
transplanted and are supposed to be very dependent on native forest
mycelium, so I dug up some soil out of the nearby woods, put it in
pots, and planted the seeds inside. Over the winter, these pots
were sitting outside to stratify the seeds, and the frost
heaved the soil until many of the seeds ended up sitting on the surface
and drying out. Since persimmon seeds don't sprout until far into
the summer, I forgot about the pots and the seeds had another chance to
dehydrate. If that combination of mismanagement didn't kill all
of the seeds, it surely must have knocked back the soil fungi, so my
low germination percentage is no big surprise.
This year, I plan to remove
persimmon seeds from the fruit, wrap them in a damp cloth inside a
ziploc bag, and let them stratify in the more controlled refrigerator
in the spring will I take them out and put them in pots (in a more noticeable
location!) Alternatively, if I didn't think I'd lose track of
them, I could just plant several seeds in each place where I want
persimmons to grow, then thin back to one plant per patch next summer.
All of these should'ves
aside, I think the one persimmon seedling I set out this week will do
quite well. Of course, I have to wait 4 to 8 years until I know
whether it's a useless boy or a useful girl....