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Starting Palm Tree Seeds


Starting palm tree seeds doesn’t have to be difficult if you know what to do. Learning these few things will increase your chances of success.

We’ll cover:

  • How to prepare the seeds
  • What soil mix to use 
  • How much light
  • Which container
  • Seed placement
  • Watering and more

 So let’s get started.

Palm tree seedlings growing at nursery

Cleaning

Before you begin make sure to wear gloves when handling any of the fruit or seeds. Some of them are very acidic. They will leave your hands itchy and cause some inflammation.The fishtail palm is a good example of this.

Purchased seeds will surely have chemical preservatives, insecticides or fungicides on them that could also irritate your skin.

If you have harvested the fruits from a palm yourself, then you will need to clean the seeds.

If you ordered seeds from a nursery then skip to the next step.

Cleaning the palm tree seeds involves removing the actual fruit, meaty part away from the core or actual seed part.

You can compare it to planting a peach or avocado pit to start one of those fruit trees. Even apples and oranges.

You wouldn't plant the whole fruit, just the seeds.

The best way to accomplish this is by soaking the harvested, ripened, fruits for at least 8-12 hours in water that is at least  74°F or 25°C or a bit warmer.

Oil Palm Fruit Cut Open to Show Seed Inside

Don’t soak longer than 12. The fruit will begin to ferment in the pail if left longer. If this process starts the seed part dies.

This short soaking only helps with the removal of the fruit part away from the seed itself.

The soaking should make much easier to peel that away... either by gently rubbing the flesh off, or by carefully using a knife to peel.

Preparation of Palm Tree Seeds

We are right back to soaking the palm tree seeds for this step. Again use close to room temperature water but you will be soaking the seed itself for about 36 hours or so.

For purchased seeds it cleans off any reside left over from chemical like insecticides or fungicides used for storing the seeds.

Plus the seeds may have dried out somewhat after being stored and transported. This will provide the moisture needed to rehydrate them.

Lastly this soaking will help to identify which seeds have a chance of growing and which ones won’t.

palm tree potting soil
Your Ultimate Palm Tree Handbook

If after 48 hours there are seeds floating on the top of the water, throw those away.

Floating is an indication that the embryo of the seed is damaged.

Plant only those not floating on the surface.


Soil and Container

You’ll need to provide a better soil mix for propagating seeds than can generally can be found in your yard.

The best stuff would be a palm potting mix. Sometimes this isn’t the easiest to get depending on your area.

If you can’t find that then use a mix of peat moss—for moisture retention around the seeds and a sand/ small gravel mix or course material perlite. Both assist in very good drainage.

Make sure the container has at hole or two in the bottom of it and then add a layer of broken clay tiles or larger gravel in the bottom before adding the soil.

course perlite potting mix

The container needs to be deep enough. Some palms have what is called an anchor root. This root shoots down deep and anchors the plant in preparation for growth. If you aren’t sure, then use a container that is somewhere between 12-18 inches deep to be on the safe side.

Seed Placement and Depth

Coconut sprouting on a beach

Palms are a bit different than some other plants when it comes to just how deep to submerge the seed. Deeper is not the way to go.

Think of a coconut falling from a tree near the beach.

When it falls it may roll a bit then comes to rest on its side. The waves may bury it with sand half way, or not at all but it will still sprout.

Same thing goes here. All palm tree seeds should be placed on their side.

The larger the seed then the less it should be covered by soil. The smaller the seed the more soil you can use to cover it. At most, even for the smallest ones, they should only just be lightly covered with the mix. Pretty much anything bigger than an inch or so should be left with 1/3 to 1/2of it exposed.

Don’t pack the mix and don’t fertilize until after the spout has gotten 2-3 leaves on it.

Just water and place your container in a warm area that has an abundance of indirect sunlight.

If you have the heat but are lacking the light then supplement with a plant growing light. 8-10 hours of quality light is required.

Mexican Fan Palm - Seeds Kentia Palm - Seeds Travelers Palm - Seeds

Water and Wait

Original photo found here on Wikipedia

Bottle Palm Seedling

Continue to water the container when the top of the potting mix is dry to the touch. No more. Too much and our poor seeds will begin to rot instead of sprout. The course mix we are using is a preventive measure and will help whisk away any extra moisture.

Now it’s time to wait.  Some will sprout within a month, others 3 months and still others could be 2 years or more. You must have some patience for those ones.

If you have planted many palm tree seeds in one container wait until they have the 2nd-3rd leaf on them before you transplant into a new container. Try not to disturb the roots as best as possible. This is extremely important when transplanting any palms with the anchor root. Cut that root too short and it will likely die.

Hopefully with enough patience and endurance you’ll soon have a new group of palms ready to accent your landscape.

Young Chilean Wine Palms
Young Loulu Palms in Pots at Nursery

  TOP: Original photo by Forest and Kim Starr

LEFT: Original image from Wikipedia

Follow the arrows to learn more about caring for and growing palm trees.

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Other articles of interest include:

Landscaping with palms may be a bit of a challenge if you don’t know the trees. Here are some placement ideas.

Fertilizing palms explains which products plus where and how much to apply.

Leaves yellowing? Learn how to treat a mineral deficiency.

Successfully growing palm trees provides the definitions to popular gardening terminology like soil pH, plant hardiness zones, light and water requirements.

Diagnose a possible  bacterial or fungal disease.

How to spot and eliminate any palm tree pests that may be invading your tree.


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