Jujube fruit has only become popular in recent years, and while it sounds like an exotic, tropical fruit, it’s actually been grown in Texas and other southwestern areas of the U.S. since the mid-1800s. Jujube trees (Ziziphus jujube), like pomegranates, tolerate hot, dry conditions and are actually one of the easiest fruit trees to grow if you live in the right climate. For other fruits, don’t miss our article on growing specialty fruits.
Not only do jujube trees thrive in hot, sunny weather, they can tolerate more cold than many fruit trees, as well. Jujubes become dormant in the winter and have survived temperatures down to -28 Fahrenheit. Hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 6 through 10, they fruit best in areas with summer sun and heat, but they have been grown successfully in the Pacific Northwest.
In addition to their fruit, jujubes make attractive landscaping trees. Their leaves are elongated oval in shape and shiny, waxy green on the topsides. The bottoms of the leaves are covered with fur. The leaves turn from green to yellow in the fall. Jujube trees have a weeping or zig-zag form, with interesting and very durable bark. Most jujube trees have thorns, although thornless cultivars are available.
Plant jujube trees in late spring. Choose an area that gets full sun and space the trees at least 10 to 15 feet apart. These long-lived trees can grow 25 to 50 feet tall, although most stay under 20 feet. Jujube trees are tolerant of almost any soil type, including alkaline, acidic, compacted and clay soils. They need reasonably good drainage, though, so amend soggy soils with compost or other organic matter.
Don’t fertilize jujubes at planting time, but apply 1 cup of 8-8-8 fertilizer each subsequent spring to the soil under the tree’s canopy. Water jujube trees every few days immediately after planting until the trees become established. Mature trees need infrequent watering – perhaps once per month during dry conditions.
Jujubes don’t need complicated pruning regimens to bear fruit, but they can be pruned to control size or improve the tree’s health. Prune the trees in winter to remove any dead branches, as well as branches that grow vertically or rub against one another. Disease and insect problems are very rare.
Jujube fruit are smaller than most tree fruit – about the size of a walnut or pear. They mature from green to bright red or deep reddish brown. As the fruit further ripen, the skin becomes brown and wrinkled, which is why they’re sometimes called Chinese dates. Jujube fruits are best eaten after they’ve turned red, but before they wrinkle. Despite the moniker of date, jujube trees are crunchy, juicy and sweet – reminiscent of an apple. They can be eaten fresh, dried or candied in desserts.
Jujubes are native to China, but the first seedlings to arrive in the United States came from Europe. These varieties are inferior to the Chinese types. Additionally, look for a root grafted tree, rather than a seedling, which won’t produce high-quality fruit. Although jujubes are self-pollinating, they’ll bear more fruit if you plant two trees.
‘Li’ was first introduced in California by Frank Meyer. It is still considered one of the best varieties, ripening in late summer. It produces large fruit, ideal for fresh eating.
‘Lang’ is another old favorite. This thornless cultivar produces large, pear-shaped fruit. Allow the fruit to fully color before picking.
‘So’ jujube trees have a lovely form, with interesting zig-zag branches.
‘Sugar Cane’ is a very thorny tree, but the fruit is among the sweetest.
Want to learn more about growing jujubes?
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