There is no other tree that can give so much pleasure for so little effort. The jujube tree is a member of the buckthorn family, or Rhamnacae. The plant originates in Syria and was distributed throughout the Mediterranean at least 3,000 years ago. Today it is a very popular tree to grow in China.
This deciduous tree can grow up to 12 to 15 feet tall, but normally stay around 30 feet tall. The largest jujube tree in the United States lives in Fort Worth Botanical Garden and measures over 40 feet high and wide. Over time, the trees develop a beautiful gnarled shape. Most varieties have thorns on young branches and their leaves are 1 to 2 inches long, leathery, and a shiny bright green color. Jujube trees also have yellow-green flowers that are about 1/4 of an inch wide.
Fruits ripen in late summer to early fall. Many people enjoy picking them off the tree, after they have turned from green to brown, and eating them fresh. At this stage, their flavor and texture is similar to that of a very sweet apple, but less juicy. If left to mature on the tree, jujube fruits will dry. If they are picked when dried, their flavor is similar to that of dates, but less sweet. These dried fruits require no preservatives and they last ‘forever’, although if humidity is high, the fruit may be slow to dry and have a more limited life.
Jujube trees thrive in USDA Hardiness Zones 6 through 9.
How to Grow
Plant jujube trees in a location that receives full sun and has well-draining soil with a neutral or slightly alkaline pH. Once they are established, the roots are very tolerant of salinity, drought, or standing water. During a period of extended drought, the tree will most likely survive, but it will not produce a crop. Irrigation after a slight drought could cause fruits to split.
Plant bare-root trees in January or February. Spread roots over a cone of soil in the center of the planting hole and adjust the final height until it is equal to or slightly above the original soil grade. Trees often bare fruit as quickly as their first year.
Jujube trees do no require much work, pruning, or training. The best time to prune is in late winter or early spring before the tree breaks its dormancy.
Root suckers can sometimes be a nuisance, but it is known by most jujube farmers that the trees are virtually disease-free, and most insects ignore it as well.
In its first year, a jujube tree will appreciate the occasional irrigation, but after that it only requires water in times of extreme drought.