In the Arboretum Today
by Alfredo Chiri
Var. Li donated by: CRFG and planted in 1990 (r.f.-03)
Common names: Chinese date, Da Zao, Ber, Pitni, Rambor, Barari
The Jujube, a native of China, is a deciduous tree that grows 12 to 15 feet tall. It is a small spreading tree with drooping branches. The trunk's bark is rough, gray, and irregularly cracked. Branches bear at each node two spines that are modified stipules. Leaves are ovate, dark green and have above and beneath a white fine hair. Flowers are bisexual, hermaphrodite, and are yellow-green in color.
The Jujube can withstand a wide range of temperatures; no temperature seems to be too high. A winter dormancy temperature allows the plant to withstand temperatures to -28º F. It requires a very small amount of chill temperature for its fruit to set.
The fruit is a drupe, varying in size depending on the cultivar. It has a thin skin surrounding a white flesh of sweet pleasant flavor. The single fruit contains two seeds. The immature fruit is green in color while young, but as it ripens, it goes through a yellowish-green to a yellow-brownish with some red coloring at ripening time. The fully mature fruit is entirely red, and at such time the fruit flesh becomes crisp and sweet.
Jujubes should be planted in a warm, sunny location; they should not be planted in the shade of other trees. They tolerate many types of soils, but they prefer sandy, well-drained soils. The plant does not grow well in heavy, poor-drained soils. Plants are able to grow in soils with high salinity and alkalinity.
Jujubes are tolerant to drought conditions, but regular watering is important for good fruiting quality. Jujubes appear to do well with little or no fertilization, but they need a light application of 8-8-8 fertilizer every two months during growing season. Do not fertilize until newly planted trees have the chance to become established.
Trees required very little pruning, but extensive winter pruning keeps the plants healthier. Pruning does not increase the fruit production of the plant.
Jujubes are grown from seeds that were a product of cross-pollination, but their fruit does not come true. Seeds from self-pollination are usually not viable. Grafting onto rootstock is the most desirable form of getting the desired variety.
The Li variety has a large round fruit, 1 ½ to 2 inches in diameter. Fruits are ready in mid-August and can be picked at the yellowish-green stage. Fruit is best eaten fresh.