George Ray McEachern
Texas A & M University
January 27, 1997
Jujubes are one of the easiest to grow of the fruit crops, with few pests or problems ever reported. Jujube (Ziziphus jujube) was introduced into Texas in approximately 1875. The tree can grow to a height of 30-50 ft if soil and climatic conditions permit. The leaves are dark green and attractive with a shiny waxlike appearance above and a layer of fuzz on the lower side. The tree loses its leaves in the winter to make an ornate specimen with upright trunks, short angled shoots, and rough bark.
Fruit from seedlings can be quite small, while improved varieties can be as large as 2 inches long and 1 1/2 inches in diameter. The fruit usually ripens in July and August. As it matures on the tree, it will gradually turn from a light green to a dark brown and become wrinkled. A single seed is inside the fruit and the dark brown appearance and this seed gives rise to the common name, Chinese Date. The texture and flavor more closely resemble that of an apple than a date.
Varieties of jujube trees in Texas are propagated either by seed or root sprouts from stands of trees scattered around the state. The fruit from these seedlings will usually be of inferior quality; however, they are readily available, inexpensive, and easy to maintain. There are two commonly known varieties in the state: Li is the largest fruit grown in Texas, and also the best flavored. It has edible flesh when picked from the tree and is somewhat later than the other varieties. Texture is crisp when harvested at the proper time. At maturity, skin color is mahogany and the fruit should be harvested before the skin becomes wrinkled. Lang is the most widely grown named variety in Texas. It produces heavy crops of large pear shaped fruit that matures ahead of the Li variety. Lang produces a more spreading tree than other jujube trees. The fruit is red skinned at maturity. Both the Li and the Lang varieties should be grafted as they do not come true to seed.
Soils for jujubes can range widely, but they do require fair to good drainage. They will perform well at a wide range of soil pH. Plants grown in soils with a pH above 7.8 may exhibit minor element deficiencies. With this notable exception, jujubes will survive on soils where most other trees would perish.
Climate for jujubes should be hot and dry. They are grown primarily in Texas and the southwestern United States. Jujubes have survived drought and excess moisture better than any other fruit plant in trials at College Station, Texas. Though plants will survive in all areas of the state, they are better adapted to the more arid areas rather than the Gulf Coast. Winter injury does not seem to be a problem with jujubes in Texas and they usually bloom late enough to escape spring frosts.
Pests are rarely a problem in jujubes though cotton root rot can be a major limiting factor on those sites where it is present. If plant loss is contributed to this disease, do not replant in the same area as additional losses are a certainty.
Root sprouting is a problem under mature plantings and can lead to the formation of a thicket if control measures are not undertaken. As soon as sprouts form, they should be cut off at or under the ground. Any root injury will encourage root sprouting, so cultivation should be avoided where possible. Plants produced from these sprouts will not produce the same type of fruit as the mother plant if the tops are grafted onto a rootstock. Young plants should not be used as a source of new plants unless they are grafted.
Propagation of jujubes is a whip-graft of root sprouts to the variety desired.
Fertilization required to produce excellent plant growth in Texas is only nitrogen. A rule of thumb would be to use 0.2 lb N per inch of trunk diameter up to a maximum of 1.0 lb. A single application just prior to growth in the spring is usually adequate. First and second year plants will respond to applying the material in three applications at monthly intervals usually April, May, and June. If split applications are used, use 1/3 of the total in each application.