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Growing Jujubes from seed (and general Jujube feedback)

 
Dan Boone
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Hey, I just got done looking at all the threads on Permies that mention Jujube trees and fruit (Ziziphus jujuba). Surprisingly there isn't a lot for a temperate-climate fruit tree that's resistant to pests and drought. Lots of people include it in their ambitious planting lists, but not so many people talk (with love or otherwise) about their Jujube trees or their Jujube harvests. Who has experiences to share?

I myself bought a Jujube tree (Li cultivar if memory serves) at an Asian grocery for $45 in a none-too-large pot, late last spring. Planted it out, where it sat all summer holding on to the same leaves it had when I bought it, but putting on almost zero new growth. It still looks like a live tree so I'm hopeful it will take off this summer.

Meanwhile I am interested in planting more from seed. "Everybody says" that the good eating varieties don't come true from seed, but I don't much care since I wouldn't mind having lots of root stock if my seedling trees turned out not to be tasty.

However, getting viable seeds is tricky. This source says that most fruit sold for eating doesn't contain viable seeds, because it comes from self-fertilized trees:

California Rare Fruit Growers jujube page

My experience so far is in accord. I bought several different types of dried eating Jujubes at various Asian groceries over the last year, and found them typically to contain seeds that were empty; when I would crack open the outer husk the inner cavities that should contain seeds were just full of air. (This source has a nice picture of a cracked-open Jujube seed pod with no seeds inside.)

I recently bought some seeds from eBay that were promised to be viable, but I have yet to crack them open to see if they have actual seeds inside.

Day before yesterday I was stunned to see some fresh fruits labeled "Jujube, Thai" at an Asian grocery, but I snapped up an expensive package on the off chance that they would have viable seeds inside. There's a risk they might be "Indian Jujube" (Ziziphus mauritiana) which is more tropical than temperate, but oh well:



As you can see from the photograph, some of the smaller fruits have broken seed husks inside them that fall apart into two haves when you cut open the fruit. And of course there's no actual seed inside. Currently I've eaten about half that package and found two whole seed husks, much fatter and larger than the broken ones from the smaller fruit. Once I've got all the seed pods I'll break them open (carefully!) and see if any viable-looking seeds are inside.

Viable Jujube seeds must exist, because here are three different Youtube videos showing people germinating them:







As you can see in the videos, a viable jujube fruit "seed" is a hard-shelled pod or nut that contains two seeds similar to healthy-looking apple seeds.

If I find any actual viable-looking Jujube seeds from any of my sources this spring and can get them to germinate, I'll update this thread.

 
Bryant RedHawk
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source for viable Ziziphus jujuba seed Try this source for viable seed.
 
Chris Meador
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I love jujubes and am beginning to plant a bunch of them. I am doing all li for now. Just planted them so nothing yet to report, they are all leafless right now.

I certainly want to grow some from seed so once I get a crop I can see what I get to work with.
 
Dan Boone
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Bryant, thanks for that suggestion. However my luck with Tradewinds seeds have been poor. So far nothing I have tried from them has germinated, across like four different species. I am currently trying again using better/different germinating advice than came on their seed packets, but meanwhile I am observing a personal moratorium on that source.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Thanks for that note. I have only used them once and that particular time I stratified the seed I received. I got a 75% sprout rate in my incubator from that seed.
 
Wayne Mackenzie
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I grow many Jujubes on 2 different rootstocks. There are a couple of us on the "Valley Permaculture Alliance" site that spend a lot of time growing these cool trees.
http://www.phoenixpermaculture.org/forum
 
Dan Boone
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Do you have any experience growing them from seed, Wayne?
 
Wayne Mackenzie
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Dan Boone wrote:Do you have any experience growing them from seed, Wayne?

Not yet. I'm going to try some Indian seeds (Rootstock) I have very soon.
 
Dan Boone
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Awesome! I look forward to hearing how they do for you.
 
Richard Kastanie
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Although most sources consider jujubes hardy to zone 6, that hasn't proven true for me. I had two grafted ones that were planted in 2010, they got to 6-7 feet tall after a few years, and one even had a few fruit. In November of 2013, I planted two more. The winter of 2013/14 killed one of the established ones and one of the newly planted ones completely, no regrowth at all. The other established one and the other newly planted one were both killed back to the ground but resprouted the next year. The coldest it got was -6 degrees F. The two larger ones had survived -4 degrees F is February 2011 with no problem, and I know someone in a colder microclimate in my area that has a few 20 years old or so that survived winter 2013/14 and colder snaps in the past without any problem. I think there must have been some other stress on my trees that made them less hardy, it's possible they could work here if I figured that out, but for now I'm not planning on planting any more anytime soon, but I still have the two living rootstock sprouts and it remains to be seen if they will be hardy and if their fruit will be any good.
 
Dan Boone
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That's really good information. It gives me some hope because the coldest temperature I've seen here in ten winters has been around 10F, no negatives at all. But wind can be a problem here, I'll have to make sure to give my trees some protection when I get some going.
 
S Bengi
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I bought 2 named cultivars and the tips always seem to die back (maybe due to winter cold). They blossomed alot but no fruit development/fertilization. However last May/mid June something odd happened After the plants survive last frost, then but out new leaves and stem, it all died mysteriously right down to the graft union, then it grew about 4ft, in one season. This growth is from just above the graft union by about 1/8 and inch so I am not even sure. But it has ZERO thorns and other little spiny(3inches) branches below the graft union has alot of thorns. Something the length of my finger has 10+thorns and it's own branches branching off it like a dwarf bud sport. Hopefully it survives the 100+ inches of snow that we got in 3 weeks. I will find out once all the snow melts.
 
Meghan Orbek
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I just started growing a jujube from seed and I will tell you from memory my experience...

I bought the seeds from ebay and it was rather expensive to buy only 5 of them, however they came with very detailed germination instructions which went something like this:
-place the seeds in a shallow bowl with hot salt water (it was a specific dilution but I winged it)- discard whichever ones float after 12 hours. (immediately 3 of 5 floated and conitued to float.. leaving me with only two MAYBE viable seeds)
-plant seeds 1 inch deep in a deep pot with rich compost 2 inches apart, water well, and leave for 2 (or 3?) months (I put my pot in a ziploc bag to create a humidity tent)
- then the next steps are fuzzy, because I haven't yet executed them and I am starting several difficult seeds all with ridiculously specific instructions… I think I'm supposed to put them in a cool dark place for some more months and then bring them outside…

If anyone is interested let me know and when I am home I can go look up the source they came from as well as the detailed instructions and leave them here. However I haven't had any results yet so who knows if it's credible...
 
Dan Boone
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So far this spring I've had no luck germinating any of my dubiously-sourced seed.

The good news, though, is that my existing tree has survived the winter. It started showing green buds a week ago and is now leafing out.
 
Josh Katlof
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There is a video on Youtube about growing jujube:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v2vH-xVN_bk&spfreload=10

According to the video, it's rather useless to try to grow them from seed. You are better off using their suckers as rootstock and then grafting your favorite variety over them if you want to expand your or

I have 10 jujubes growing in my orchard (2 each of 5 varieties). We grew 2 that we planted last year, and they produced fruit in the first year (Li and Lang). My family loved them so much, that I added 2 sugarcanes, 2 coco, and 2 GA866 to finish out my collection. The key to jujube is to let them ripen on the tree!!! Also, I suggest dangling old CDs on the tree branches to keep the birds away. As soon as they ripened, and start getting red, the birds seem attracted to them.

Josh
 
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Thanks for sharing that video. I've embedded it below.

 
Dan Boone
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Yes indeed, thanks for posting that video. I saw it a long time ago, and it's about the most detailed out there. I learned some more rewatching it just now (part of it; I'm not done yet.)

However, when it comes to growing jujubes from seed it seems to be the same basic story as any other fruit that doesn't necessarily come true. Seedlings are likely to prove disappointing, but then you can use them as root stock for a known good variety. I'm not letting that deter me from trying to grow any kind of fruit trees from seed, because it's really my only alternative; I just don't have the budget for a substantial quantity of nursery trees, especially when I have to pay shipping on them. Fortunately I have a lot of space, and jujubes are said to fruit fairly fast. It's the business of seeds being empty if they weren't pollinated properly -- and nobody much wanting seeds on a commercial basis because of the not-coming-true issue -- that have complicated my seedling-growing scheme so far.

Fortunately after most of a year of anxiously watching it do almost nothing, my Li tree finally is showing signs of being quite happy:

 
Deb Stephens
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Hi Dan,

I think the secret to getting jujubes started well is to do everything "wrong" -- assume they're actually something else so you don't follow the correct seeding/planting directions; forget you planted them and then lose them entirely for a couple of years; rediscover them grown about 2 feet tall in old plastic pots, with the bottoms broken out and the roots pushed through into the ground exactly where you would prefer NOT to grow them; intend to transplant them somewhere more favorable but then forget to do it for a couple more years (while they grow about 6' taller and start fruiting); and finally end by cutting away the containers -- which are really of no use at this point -- and decide they may as well stay where they are. That's how we did it.

The ironic thing is we didn't even order jujube seeds but raisin tree seeds. The seed company (Tradewinds Fruit) screwed up and sent the wrong thing and we were too inexperienced with either species to realize the mistake for several years (when the trees never looked "right" and started producing fruits that in no way resembled raisin tree fruits). Fortunately, these little guys (4 of them) are producing like crazy, so it was a good mistake in the end. We ordered more raisin tree seeds from Tradewinds today, so it will be interesting to see what we get this time!
 
Dan Boone
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Ha! I'm glad your accidental jujube trees are happy.

As I mentioned upthread, I've had really bad luck with seeds from Tradewinds. So far nothing I've had from them has germinated. Granted that I'm only just learning how to stratify stuff, so it may not be entirely their fault. Their Raisin Tree seeds have done nothing for me. Half of them I planted using the instructions on the packet and the other half I worked harder at stratification. I'm still hoping something will happen in those pots after the soil really finishes warming up, but the first batch I planted last summer are probably long dead by now.

 
Dan Boone
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Research suggested that a nursery Jujube tree should flower (and possibly even fruit) the next summer season after the year of planting. I wasn't sure I believed it, but if these are not flower buds on my Jujube, I will eat them:

 
Francesco Delvillani
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From seed could be slow to flower and the fruits could be small....better to make a cutting if you want it for fruits....if you want to select a new cultivar or jus enjoy yourself seeding is the best way
 
Jane Reed
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J.L.Hudson Seedsman has jujube seeds. They recommend stratifying them, so obtain seeds now and not in the spring, like I did. I was lucky, however, and two of the several seeds I started did germinate.
 
Heather Davis
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Jane Reed wrote:J.L.Hudson Seedsman has jujube seeds. They recommend stratifying them, so obtain seeds now and not in the spring, like I did. I was lucky, however, and two of the several seeds I started did germinate.


I live in LA, too and have started a tiny nursery with trees I've started from seed, although I haven't tried sprouting jujube seeds or checked to see if any I have are viable. I got a bunch of sun dried jujubes from my cousin in Utah, who collects them off the ground in her neighborhood. I sent you (Jane) a PM through FB, if I succeeded in finding your profile, that is
 
Jane Reed
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Heather, I don't do FB. Try a purple moosage. Or post here.
 
Dan Boone
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Oh, boy, do I have an update.

My jubube story prior to today, summarized: I have one tree sourced from a Chinese grocery store, that's now been in the ground for three summers and two winters.  It flowered last year, but has been very slow to put on growth.  Finally this summer I got a lot of new foliage, but no flowers. 

I have bought seed (expensive, just 10 or so seeds per packet) from two different sources: no germination.  I have tried the seeds from fresh grocery store jujubes and several different dried jujube food products from China.  No germination; rumors that commercial jujubes tend to have sterile seeds due to self-pollination seem possibly true.

So there I was today, going to visit a friend who lives a couple of counties away.  You might call him a doomsteader; he's burrowed into his land like a tick, he's got earthworks and ponds and goats and hugels and trees from Stark Brothers.  But he doesn't fully share my interest in wild edibles and native fruit trees.  In the past he's let me dig up wild persimmons that he was planning to brush hog, if that helps give you the picture.  (However, I noticed today he hasn't brush hogged all of them; I might be wearing off on him a smidgeon.) 

I was driving down his driveway when I noticed that there were some sort of fruity bushes or small trees on both sides of the road.  They were sized about like our local sand plums, and the leaves looked familiar, and they had fruit all over them about the size of table grapes or smaller olives, but I could not figure out what they were.





Of course there's no drama to this story considering the thread we are in.  But here's how it went down.

I asked him what the fruit bushes were at the top of his driveway.  "I think those are sand plums", he said.  "But they have a lot of prickers on them, so I had my guy spray some poison on them last week."

My heart sank, but I ignored the poison.  "I don't think those are sand plums", says me, "they aren't the right color and it's the wrong time of year, at least for the sand plums that grow up my way.  But there are five kinds of wild plums and a bunch of hybrids here in Oklahoma, so maybe.  You say they are really thorny?"

About that time his wife walks quietly up beside me and hands me a plastic beer cup full of little olive-sized fruits.  "I picked these before they sprayed the poison," she said real quiet, "if you want a closer look."  She's a good woman.  I don't think she was entirely keen on the poison plan, but she's not going to say so outright.  She picked some fruit in advance of the spraying, bless her.  And now here she is handing me the fruits, which I very much wanted a closer look at.  "They're a little dried out and mushy", she said, "but they should be OK." 

I took one out.  It was dark and wrinkled and not too promising.  But I ripped it apart and it smelled good, so I took a nibble.

Very distinctive taste flooded my mouth.  Sweet, sugar, tasted exactly like a date.  I'm like "I know that taste" because the dried jujubes I bought at the Chinese store and laboriously gnawed the pits out of tasted like that.  "That's a jujube!" I exclaimed in wonderment.   Then I ripped it all the way open and exposed the pit.  Sure enough!  The same distinctive long pit with sharp ends that was in every Jujube seed source I ever found.

So then we talked about the possible sources.  This land has no history of being a home site prior to five years or so ago, but the rather substantial patch of jujube bushes are clearly spreading down the slope from the neighbor's land, where there is an old barn but no modern house.  Perhaps there could have been a jujube planting there, back when there was also a house, decades before.  Or perhaps this patch began from a bird-delivered seed from a Jujube tree somewhere miles away. 

And then we talked about the poison.  It's not the first time he's had his handyman spray poison on these thorny bushes, and it wasn't too effective the first time.  We both figure he'll still have plenty of live Jujube bushes next spring, and I have a standing invite to come and dig some then, which I fully intend to do.  I won't bother this fall, though, because I don't know which ones are doomed by the poison spray and I don't want to waste my time digging up dead trees.

Meanwhile, his wife gave me the cup of unsprayed fruit, so I have some seeds to play with.  I think they'll be fertile; I think his patch is spreading at least in part by self-seeding, since it seems to be growing primarily in the down-slope direction. 

The fruits themselves are very small compared to modern jujube cultivars, but they are very sweet and sugary.  From what I can gather, when a Jujube cultivar has fertile seed, the seedlings tend to revert to something closer to the sour jujube wild ancestor species: small, thorny, shrubby.  And that's what these are, so I am thinking they must be descended from a "good" Jujube tree somewhere in the neighborhood, that may be long dead. 

Got to looking online and found an article about Jujubes that included this photo and caption.  My friend's patch looks just like this except for he doesn't have a visible "original planting" tall tree in the middle (or anywhere near).  And we have a lot more rain than they do in Tucumcari so his patch is considerably more dense and lush:



These trees are fruiting prolifically on a piece of well-drained cow pasture that's not been irrigated or fertilized in living memory.  They taste good, they're as sweet as a date from a palm tree, and they thrive without any care whatsoever through the heat of an Oklahoma summer.  I don't care if they're shrubby and thorny and small; I want them in my food forest.  Finding them today completely made my day.  I even managed not to give my friend too much shit about the whole "oh, yeah, I just had my man spray poison on them" thing. 

Wild and feral jujubes.  In Oklahoma, in a pasture.  I never would have looked for that!
 
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