Left to their own devices, coconuts grow very well when they fall to the ground in a damp, tropical climate and are left alone to germinate. If you don’t live in a tropical climate or you want to speed the germination process for your coconut tree, there are several steps you can take to give it some extra help.
You can skip steps three and four if you prefer to allow your coconut to germinate in its pot or in the ground. The extra measures suggested here will simply help the coconut germinate more quickly. It can still take a coconut up to three months to germinate this way, but that’s faster than the nine months that it may take once planted.
- Choose your coconut.Â Select a seed that makes a sloshing sound when you shake it. Make sure the husk is still on the coconut.
- Soak the coconut. Place your coconut in a bucket of lukewarm water and weigh it down with a rock or other item so it stays completely submerged. Leave the coconut in the water for three or four days.
- Germinate the coconut in a plastic bag. Put a cup of water in a large zip-top plastic bag. Place the coconut in the bag, seal the top, and place it in a warm, dark location.
- Monitor the germination process. Check on the coconut weekly for signs of germination. When you see a sprout and roots emerge, add a paper towel to the bag, wrapped gently around the roots. Seal the coconut in the zip-top bag again and leave it to continue germinating until the roots are 6 to 8Â inches long and the sprout is about 3 inches in length.
Planting Your Coconut
Coconut plant growth is slow, but planting your coconut in a warm, sunny location with well-draining soil will provide it with the optimal conditions. Use these steps to plant your coconut:
- Select a large container or appropriate outdoor location. You need a pot that’s at least 12 inches deep and wide enough to accommodate the entire coconut seed. If you live in a tropical climate that stays at least 72 degrees Fahrenheit year-round, you can plant your coconut outside.
- Choose a well-draining planting media. Start with a 50/50 blend of potting soil and sand or a pre-made palm mixture. Add a small amount of vermiculite for added aeration. If you’re planting your coconut outside, make sure the soil is sandy and well-draining. A small amount of gravel in the soil provides aeration for outdoor coconut trees.
- Plant the coconut. If you chose not to germinate your coconut and it doesn’t yet have roots, make sure that the pointed end is facing downward. Plant only the bottom two thirds of the coconut, leaving the top third sticking out of the soil.
- Place the coconut in a warm, sunny spot. Coconut trees enjoy full sun but will grow in partial shade, as well. If you’re growing your tree indoors, you may need to supplement with artificial light.
- Keep the coconut moist. Water the tree at least twice a week, and more often if you’re in a dry climate or home. If the tree is outside, consider placing stakes around it to support a makeshift greenhouse of plastic wrap. This will help keep the plant warm and moist. Remove the greenhouse when the tree is a foot tall.
Caring for Your Coconut
Provide your coconut tree with regular care and attention to keep it in good health.
- Fertilize your coconut. After the first year, fertilize your plant every two months with a palm fertilizer that provides phosphorus, boron, manganese, and nitrogen. The tree requires about a tablespoon of fertilizer per square foot of tree.
- Repot the coconut as it grows. Initially, a small 3-gallon pot will suffice for your coconut tree. As it grows, you should upgrade to a pot that can hold at least 10 gallons of soil. Outside, coconuts should be 26 to 30 feet apart.
- Water the tree weekly.Â Coconut trees need at least 1 inch of water a week. Outdoor trees may need added irrigation if your climate is dry.
- Prune dead leaves with a sharp knife. Leave a stub about half an inch tall, and never prune a leaf that’s still green.
Problem Solving With Coconut Trees
Coconut trees grown indoors typically have a short life spanÂ of one to five years. These trees may not fruit, though they make attractive indoor palms.
Watch for signs of nutrient deficiency in your coconut tree. These will typically present on the leaves. Common problems include:
- Yellow-orange spots on the leaves:Â Potassium deficiency.
- Yellowing leaves: Nitrogen deficiency.
- Yellow bands on the leaves:Â Magnesium deficiency.
Coconut trees can also suffer from a number of diseases:
Basal Stem-End Rot
This fungal disease causes leaves to droop and a reddish-brown liquid to ooze through the cracks at the base of the trunk. The bark may become brittle and peel. You should remove and destroy all affected plants.
Bud rot is a fungal disease that begins with the yellowing of leaves. The leaves will then wilt and drop as the leaf base rots. Adequate drainage may help. You can also treat this problem with copper oxychloride.
Leaf blight is a disease that causes the leaves to brown and wither from the tip down. The nuts may exhibit gray or brown lesions. You should remove affected trees.
Trees suffering from root wilt taper at the terminal of the trunk and exhibit smaller leaves and delayed flowering. Adding manure or fertilizer to the plant can help.
Though you may not get a crop of coconuts from your tree in northern climates or an indoor setting, this is a fun coconut growing project that highlights one of the many possibilities when you have a coconut on hand.