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Past Articles Library | Trees | How to Propagate and Cultivate a Coconut Palm

Starting a coconut palm from its “seed” is easy to do and if you live in the south they are easy to find but………if you do not, you can give store bought coconuts a try.  Both fresh and store bought instructions will be provided.

Starting a Coconut Palm from a Tree

The most successful way of starting a coconut palm is through the use of a fresh coconut.  To find one, do not climb the tree.  I know, this idea is really funny but I just had to say it.  What you will need to do is to search for one on the ground.  It will need to have the husk on and make a swishing sound when shook.  What is this sound and why is it important?  Well, the sound you hear is “coconut water,” which is in the news now as a superfood.  I really do not know about this for humans but I do know that it really is a superfood for the little coconut embryo, which uses the water as food.

Ok, now that you have your coconut, the next step is to soak it in a bucket of water for two to three days.  This step adds additional moisture so that the embryo is under the impression that the environmental conditions are right.  While your coconut is soaking, you can look around for a pot.

Your coconut will need a container that is at least 10 inches in size with a drainage hole.  Once you have selected your container, the next step is to sterilize the container.  Why would you do that and how?  Well, the reason is simple.  You want to start with a clean environment.  What this means is you want to kill any harmful bacteria and/or fungi.  This will give your coconut seedling a chance.  The steps involved in this process are simple and starts with filling a large bucket of water.  Once that is done, add a capful of bleach and place your pot in the bucket.  Allow the container to soak and then scrub the surface.  This not only will make the pot look better but will also remove soil, plant debris, and plant disease.  After that is done, place the pot in another bucket that is filled with plain water and rinse.  Place the cleaned container in the sun to dry and finish sterilizing.

Now that is done and your nut has soaked long enough, you are ready to plant.  To do this, you will need to place drainage material in the bottom of the pot and fill halfway up with a good all-purpose potting soil that is well draining.  After that is done, you are ready to plant.

Planting a coconut is simple but takes a little looking at your nut.  You need to place the pointed end inside the pot with the more rounded end sticking up.  You will need to leave about 1/3 of nut exposed and above the soil line.  In doing so, you may need to adjust your soil level and then fill in.  Water the soil in and place the container in a location that never falls below 70 degrees Fahrenheit or gets above 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

Starting a Coconut Palm from a Store Bought Coconut

While this technique is not as successful as the one described above, it is an approach worth trying.  To begin this process, one will need to find a coconut that still contains its coconut water.  Follow the directions above to determine if your store bought coconut has water.

When you bring your coconut home, you will need to place it in a bucket of water.  At this stage, your coconut will need to remain in this bucket for four to five days. 

After the time has passed, take a large plastic bag and place a few tablespoons of water into the bag.  There is no reason to use fresh water instead take the water from the bucket that your coconut has been soaking in.  Once that is done, take a look at your coconut.  You will notice that there is a pointy end and a rounded end.  On the rounded end, you will notice three dark eyes.  These “eyes” are where the coconut embryo will erupt from.  This is a key point when you go to place your coconut in the plastic bag, which simply means you need to place the pointed end in first and the round end up.  Once that is done, close up the bag, place the bag in a bowl, and store your coconut in a warm but dark location.

Now regardless of which approach you choose to try, the next step is two-fold.  First, you need to make sure that the coconut remains moist but not wet.  Second, you will need to be patient.  What does this mean?  Well, it can take from a few weeks to several months before you see signs of germination. 

While the first approach gets you to the planting stage, the second approach leaves one hanging.  What do you do when you see growth?  Growth in the coconut will appear as a white shoot shooting up from one of the “eyes.”  The shoot will be white since the bag was placed in a dark area.  Once you see the white shoot appear, it is time to plant your coconut.  To do this, follow the directions on how to plant the 10 inch container. 

Once your seedling has grown in a container for a year you have two choices.  One is to turn your coconut palm into an indoor plant.  This is easily done by keeping the coconut palm in its container and only upsizing one size when needed.  What this means is to only go up to the next size and in this example that means to a 12 inch pot.

The other approach is to plant your coconut palm in your landscape.  But this should only be done in the south where the environmental conditions are right for palms.

To plant your coconut palm in ground requires a little work.  First, depending on the type of soil you have you may have to dig pretty deep.  This means that you may have to dig down between 6 to 24 inches down to loosen up the soil.  Once that is done, plant your coconut palms so that they are at least 18 feet apart to 30 feet apart.  After your coconut palms have been planted, make sure to give them 1 inch of water a week during the first year of their transplanting and continue with this process during times of drought. 

While coconut palms can take some time to grow from “seed” it is still fun to see if you can grow a little piece of a tropical paradise.

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Fungi Problems?

Mushrooms usually appear during the rainy months, but they can appear throughout the year.

If you have lots of mushrooms growing after regular watering, it could mean compacted soil is not allowing water to drain properly.

Allow the area to dry out, aerate it, and apply some gypsite to help make the soil more porous.

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