Scientific: Ziziphus jujuba (Synonym: Ziziphus zizyphus)
Common: jujube, Chinese date, tsao
Family: Rhamnaceae
Origin: China (there are over 400 known cultivars of jujube, though few are cultivated in the United States. Also, there are 20 species of Ziziphus of which three species are native to the United States)

Pronounciation: Zi-ZIFF-us jew-JEW-ba

Hardiness zones
7-16, 18-24
USDA 5-11

Landscape Use: Edible garden tree, accent tree for mesic, oasis and xeric design landscapes.

Form & Character: Upright, stiff and rigid (especially when dormant), but graceful and pendulous when fully foliated.

Growth Habit: Deciduous, woody perennial tree, moderately upright growing to 30- to 40-feet tall with less than equal spread.

Foliage/texture: Small, ovate or oval leaves are 1- to 2-inches long and a shiny bright green. In the autumn, the leaves turn bright yellow before falling. Stems are zig-zag, much like Ebenopsis ebano. There are usually two spines at the base of each leaf. Some spines may be hooked while others are long daggers. There are thornless cultivars. As the growing season commences, each node of a woody branch produces one to ten branchlets. Most trees are deciduous; medium texture.

Flowers & fruits: Flowers are inconspicuous, 1/5 inch in diameter, white to greenish-yellow, somewhat fragrant and are produced in large numbers in the leaf axils. The flowering period extends over several months from late spring into summer. However, individual flowers are receptive to pollen for only one day or less. Pollination needs of the jujube are not clearly defined, but appear to be done by ants or other insects and possibly by the wind. Cross pollination is not needed for fruiting to occur.

The jujube fruit is a drupe, varying from round to elongate and from cherry-size to plum-size depending on cultivar. It has a thin, edible skin surrounding whitish flesh of sweet, agreeable flavor. The single hard stone contains two seeds. The immature fruit is green in color, but as it ripens it goes through a yellow-green stage with mahogany-colored spots appearing on the skin as the fruit ripens further. The fully mature fruit is entirely red. Shortly after becoming fully red, the fruit begins to soften and wrinkle. The fruit can be eaten after it becomes wrinkled, but most people prefer them during the interval between the yellow-green stage and the full red stage. At this stage the flesh is crisp and sweet, reminiscent of an apple. Under dry conditions jujubes lose moisture, shrivel and become spongy inside.

Seasonal color: Foliar fall color is limited in Phoenix.

Temperature: Well adapted to the Sonoran Desert climate.

Light: Full sun

Soil: Jujubes tolerate many types of soils, but prefer a sandy, well-drained soil, and do struggle a bit in heavy, poorly-drained soil. They are able to grow in soils with high salinity or high alkalinity.

Watering: Irrigate during summer infrequently, but heavily.

Pruning: Extensive winter pruning, however, will keep the plants in better health and produce more easily obtainable fruit.

Propagation: Most jujube cultivars in the Unied States are grafted or budded onto a thorny rootstalk which produces many suckers from the roots. There is evidence that jujube cultivars will root on hard or soft wood cuttings. However, successes have been limited to date with this process of plant reproduction. Jujube also can be propagated from seed, although they do not come true. Most jujube cultivars produce fruit without cross-pollination, but seeds from such self-pollination are usually not viable

Disease and pests: None

Additional comments: Jujube is a legendary tree! Many scholars identify the jujube as the biblical atad, mentioned in the "Parable of the trees" in the book of Judges (Judges 9:15).

Jujube revels in the Phoenix summer sun and heat! It absolutely deserves more attention as a Phoenix landscape tree. There are many medicinal uses for jujube fruit. One of its most popular uses is as a tea for sore throats. There a several other named cultivars. Here's another species, Ziziphus mauritiana, the Indian jujube.

Fruit Harvest: The crop ripens non-simultaneously, and fruit can be picked for several weeks from a single tree. If picked green and immature, jujube fruits will not ripen. But tree-ripened fruits can be stored at room temperature for about a week. The fruit sometimes very large and pear shaped like the cultivar 'Lang', may be eaten fresh, dried or candied.