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Just for kicks, I got a packet of baobab seeds from Hirt's last week. I figured they either wouldn't germinate, or would damp off immediately, but what the heck.
I planted six seeds in 3-inch peat pots. One of them germinated in two days, and within four days had roots poking through the bottom of the pot. It's raised some kind of gargantuan leaf about 3x2 inches on a stalk 2 inches tall. I think I have a keeper!
Yesterday morning I potted it up into a 10-inch standard pot (just buried the peat pot in soil mixed with bark, gravel, and perlite). I tossed in a couple of tiny seedlings around the edges of the pot it for display purposes so the single big leaf wouldn't look so lonely. My plan is to keep it slightly moist at all times, never dry, never wet, and see what happens.
Here in Zone 8a, the seedling would probably survive the summer outdoors, but only if I took extraordinary care of it. In the fall, I'd have to dig it up, dry it off, and toss it under the bed until spring. I don't mind carrying a pot in and out, but I draw the line at digging and replanting. That seems like too much work. So I'm going for a potted baobab.
The other five seeds haven't germinated yet (much more in line with expectations), and I'm keeping them bottom-warmed and damp.
A baobab will survive in Zone 8 as long as you're willing to dig it up at first leaf-fall and store it, bone-dry, until it leafs out again. The biggest killers are cold and wet -- during dormancy, the tree must be warm and dry, or it dies almost immediately. People really do wrap them in brown packing paper and shove them under the bed for the winter. They don't need ANYTHING during dormancy.
Think of the veldts in Africa where they grow naturally. The land alternates from desert to flood. In the spring, it's wet, wet, wet, and the trees do all their growing and storing of water against the long, parched winter to come when the flood waters retreat.
As I said before, though, digging up and storing the tree is way too much work for me. When kept inside in a pot, all one needs to do during dormancy is remember to NOT water it at all. Warm and wet during domancy equals instant rot.
I was answering Linda's question about why it's so challenging to grow it in your climate, and it's because it's not hardy and won't survive outdoors. When I said it won't survive your winters, I meant if you left it planted in the garden outdoors--it would probably survive winters in pretty much any zone if you dig it up and bring it in as you described.
Two more of the seeds have germinated. Roots are already sticking out through the bottoms of the peat pots, even though the stems/leaves aren't above surface yet (you can just barely see a loop of green, like a bent-over straw, in the top of the dirt).
The first one is another inch high, and it opens and closes its leaves (like a prayer plant) at dawn/dusk. Still seems to be strong and healthy. An embryonic pair of new leaves is just barely visible. It must be growing a tremendously thick tap root, because it's sucking up all the water I give it, then asking for more.
I'll pot up the two new ones in a day or two, when the leaves are above ground. Normally, I'd want to wait until they were better established, but I want to give those huge roots something to dig into. Based on how the other one's going, I think I'll use larger pots for the next two.
Fun week! And there are still some peat pots left!
The seeds aren't all that big. Pumpkin seeds are much larger. I've seen contradictory information on the web about growth rate -- it may be that different varieties of baobab grow at different speeds. One thing all the descriptions have in common, though, is that while the tree itself may take 500 years to mature, the seedlings usually grow rapidly. The immature tree doesn't look much like the mature tree. Apparently it doesn't grow like it, either!
Okay, these things are nuts. Last night, around 7:30 p.m., I took the picture a couple of posts above. It shows seedlings #2 and #3, just barely poking up out of the starter cell. Since the roots on #3 (right) were already quite long, I went ahead and potted it last night. This morning (photo taken at 11:00), it looks like this! It's hard to get a good photo that shows the leaves and stem together, but the stem is fully extended, and part of the leaves (another 1/4-inch, I'd guess) are still buried. When the tips of the leaves pull free from the soil, the stem will straighten out and hold the leaves up like a fan.
Seedling #2 (on the left in the photo a couple of post up) didn't get potted until this morning. Its seed cover is still hard, but it's trying to crack it open.
Seedling #1 (the original one to germinate) is doing well in its pot by the window. It no longer opens and closes its leaves at dawn/dusk, but the leaves are larger than ever.
Seedling #4 is just about to poke itself up from its starter pot. I wouldn't have known it was there, except that I saw the tail end of the root sticking out from underneath. I gently poked at the top layer of peat, and sure enough, there's a fourth one coming up. If all six germinate and survive, I'm going to need to build an addition onto the house just to raise these things. (Just kidding -- they'll slow down and start acting like trees before long.)
Baby #2 is doing fine, and baby #4 will be ready for potting today or tomorrow, but baby #3 is still having trouble breaking through its seed pod. The pod is well above the surface, and the stem has in fact straightened, but the leaves are still trapped inside.
I kept the seed pod moist yesterday (dribbled a drop or two of water on it every couple of hours), and very gently tried to loosen it by hand, but it's firmly stuck and very hard. I managed to wiggle one small piece loose, and hoped it would be enough. Alas, this morning the pod is still firmly attached, and the stem is starting to show signs of suffering.
Baby #3 may not make it. I don't dare try handling it any more. I'll continue moistening it and hope for the best.
With the help of a pair of plyers, baby #3 got his seed pod off. The portion of the leaves that was trapped was discolored and unhealthy, but the rest of the leaves looked fine. He's opening up, and will likely survive.
In the meantime, baby #5 poked his head out of his peat pot. Yesterday afternoon, he was completely under the soil. This morning, he was two inches tall with two-inch leaves unfurled. I'll transplant him into a proper soil pot later today.
And baby #6 is almost ready to be potted. That's 6 out of 6 seeds. They're flourishing. The first five all have secondary leaves already (some embryonic, but there).
It will be interesting to watch these guys grow. No way to guess how well they'll do indoors, but if they continue on their present course, they'll be huge before long. I'll post pictures every now and then, to encourage other baobab growers.
Now if only my oriental poppies (sown at the same time as the baobabs) would germinate!
Four of the six baobabs seem to be thriving. They've grown their first or second set of true leaves, and are starting to act more like one would expect baby trees to behave: they're slowing down, developing good roots, and thickening at the stem.
The other two baobabs are in trouble. One never opened its first set of true leaves. It sprouted them, and held them up in the air like a spear, but the leaves never unfurled. The other one opened its first set of true leaves, but they were small and more yellowish than the four healthy plants. Both of the sick plants are using up the cotyledon just to stay alive; the cotlyedons are drooping and weary-looking. I fear these two plants don't have much longer to live.
Five of the six plants have been kept in a row, with exactly the same light, humidity, air movement, soil composition, and so forth. The two unhappy plants are in this group of five. The sixth plant (the first one to sprout) is off in another room, on a windowsill, and is about the same level of development as the healthy ones in a row.
I suspect the two sick plants were either transplanted too soon, or were just not as healthy as seeds. This might also be how damping off demonstrates itself in a baobab. Who knows? Perhaps I damaged the roots while transplanting. I've moved them to be directly under a light, and have added a tiny bit of H2O2 to their regular water.
If you're trying this along with me, here's something to remember: Do not use a soap solution of ANY strength on the leaves. While treating all the rest of my plants in that area, I experimented by swabbing one of the cotyledons with an extremely weak solution of insect soap. Within a day, the cotyledon developed a yellow streak, and drooped almost to the dirt. Fortunately, the plant recovered (it's one of the healthy ones), and I'm glad I didn't do the rest of the baobabs without testing first.
Just happened to catch this post today (better late than never!) and remembered that I had received a few Baobob seeds in a trade about 5 years ago, but never planted them when life had more 'pressing' issues in mind for me at that time.
Does anyone know if there's a chance they'll still be viable?
I guess I can google them to find out, but just thought I'd ask here.
Thanks for the post and updates, Dallasdad...it's fun and interesting to see what others are up to. It often spurns a new interest for me, or renews an old one.
You've also reminded me that I need to get some seeds going for my outdoor annuals!
Baobab Adansonia digitata, also known as the Monkey Bread tree. It's the only one I've tried. I bought eight seeds from Hirt's (via Amazon.com), and planted six right away (holding two back in case I screwed something up). I eventually planted all eight. Two never came up, and one died, so I have five, four of which are very healthy, and one of which is iffy.
LOL I went to add Baobab Adansonia digitata to my want list here on Dave's Garden and I had already done so the other day...lol
Would you be willing to do a trade or I can pay for shipping on one of your Baobab Adansonia digitata if they all make it?
Oh now I feel stupid. I looked up Plectranthus ernstii on Dave's Garden and it's not a Boabab, wonder why the person who sent it to me wrote that down on the plant label? the person wrote down on one side, Ernst's Boabab Tree and then on the other side Plectranthus ernstii . I guess I don't have any boaba's like I thought I did. Oh well... Sorry for the mistake.
Not much to report. The growth rate has slowed waaaaaaaay down, as expected. They have some tiny new leaves, but are spending most of their energy developing roots. They're acting more like trees than like annual flowers now. At the current rate of growth, it'll be a year before I need to repot.
I'm waiting for it to get hotter outside. I plan to take several of them out and see how they do with full sun. At the end of April, I'll move a couple of pots to the covered patio to let them start hardening off. In mid-May, if they're still doing okay, I'll start letting them have sun. I plan to leave a couple of them indoors in their current positions to act as controls.
Thanks for the update. I bet they will do a lot of growing when placed in full sun. Your plan sounds good to me...
Please think of me when you are ready to give a few of them a new home. Keep us updated on your new babies...
Just today, I've started introducing two of the five to the outdoors. I gave them all morning in full shade and very mild wind, and am now giving them a little sun. I'll keep it short, but lengthen the time a little bit every day. I'm going to compare the ones kept inside with the ones outside, to see how the environment affects their growth.
Well, the two pots I moved outside did fine until I started giving them a little sun. The leaves etiolated after two days of morning sun, two hours per day. I've moved them back into the shade, but the damage may be done. I have no idea how to get the leaves green again.
I'm going to leave them outside, where it's warmer and more humid than inside, but keep them under the patio roof. They will have plenty of sunlight, but no direct rays will touch the leaves. We'll see what happens.
Down to two of the baobabs happy. The others have either died or are "stuck" in a non-growth stage of some kind. Alas, previous ones that didn't show growth eventually died. On the bright side, the stick-in-a-pot plant popped up a few new leaves, so while it isn't happy, it isn't dead yet, either.
Despite this plant wanting a lot of water during active growth, it really really hates wet feet. If you are going to raise baobabs, make sure they have excellent drainage. Water regularly, but keep the medium damp instead of wet. A few of my dead ones showed clear sign of root rot.
They also don't appear to like much weather. Every plant I've tried to harden off has had problems. The two that are happy are ones I've never taken out. They are on north windowsills for now, with no plant light.
Growth is VERY slow, even on the happy plants. Little shoots seem to take ages to elongate and bring forth leaves. The leaves, when they do appear, also take ages to unfurl, and even more time to achieve full size.
I know this is an old post but your plants looked so cute and I had to look up on google what the trees were but they are great. We don't have them in the UK but I think I might have to buy some now to try them hehe
How are your plants doing? Are they still ok? Ever since I first saw your post I've been itching to get some. I've seen a few fairly good deals on e-bay and I am 99.9% interested. I was just wondering how yours were doing first?
I was going to try and make bonsai out of them :).
Well, the two that had put on dozen of leaves flourished for several months, but just recently the leaves turned yellow and dropped off. (The plants have been inside since early December; no environmental changes going on.)
The platns are either dormant or dead. Kind of hard to tell right now, but I've stopped watering just in case. 'Round about May or June, when it's nice and warm out, I'll move them back outside and see what happens.
I recommend a great deal of patience when working with Baobabs. We're coming up on a year since the exciting first growth, and they're basically just sticks at the moment.
I've done a lot of research on them; people either seem to find they they grow massive really quick or really slowly. I'd rather them grow slower to be honest. My house is full of "baby" plants, at the minute the ones I'm growing look like blades of grass, so adding a stick to the mix won't harm haha.
And I'm pleased to announce that one of them has started leafing out again, pretty much on schedule. The stick of the other one is firm and has some green inside (I broke off the very topmost tip to check), so it's probably still alive, too.
2ndchance I've also bought baobabs. I did make a post but no responses. Mine didn't swell much and neither did my boyfriends. He did cut the seed shell until it started "goo-ing". I didn't with my first two and with my 3rd one I did cut the shell but it didn't goo.
My boyfriends has grown and is about 8 inches tall now...mine are still...well nothing.
I filed all the light brown coat off mine and soaked them in hot water, changing it twice a day for 3 days, but there wasn't much swelling. Mine have been planted one week now. Too soon to report sucess or failure.
Heya, I just came across your post as I was doing some research online about Baobabs. I've just bought a little packet of seeds today from my local garden shop, and thought I'd give growing them a try.
How are your two surviving plants doing? It's crazy how it from 8 seeds it went to only 2 plants.. I guess that's natural selection at work there.
Just put two out of the 5 seeds I had to soak, going to see what happens :)
Hello, I'm new to your post. I've joined to give a little hope to those having trouble with baobab. For what it's worth I planted my seeds over 8 months ago and this week one sprouted! I did not soak, nick, scare or file (could be why it took 8 months). What I offer is hope along with much patents and your seed may still sprout. Iíve read they remain viable to 4 years. Good luck.
I have two growing, my boyfriend has one. One is sprouting and growing loads, the other two are quite pale and loosing their colour. My boyfriend has one which is loosing colour, one of mine is loosing colour and the one I had lots of trouble with in the beginning is thriving.
I just water when dry. It's all trial and error for me. I filed mine and soaked in hot water and mine didn't germinate...my boyfriend did the same and his sprouted in about 2 days...it's unfair. I had to get him to germinate them for me. I think it helps as his window was South facing and mine was North.
Hereís a new pic, germination for me has been more miss that hit! I have planted 8 seeds, 5 in pre-mix tree soil with no nicking or boiling about 9 months ago and another 3 a month ago that I nicked and soaked in hot tap water for 48 hours. The only plant I have is the one in the pic and it was of the first 5 with no prep!
Mine were planted in small pots and when they sprouted I just left them in the pots until they get too big. Once they have sprouted I water when dry - although I did water one more than the other and that plant is doing a lot better than the other one.
I managed to germinate a seed a few months ago, and it is now about 50cms tall. The first leaves are now turning yellow and beginning to drop off. As the tree is deciduous, I am wondering if I should stop watering now for the winter, and if I should keep it warm in the house. Any advice on this matter gratefully accepted. Thanks
I have a couple of 3 year old African boababs on my windowsill that I grew from seed, and they are now over 5 feet high. My 2 year old boababs are about 2 feet high. I did not do anything to prepare the seeds except to put them in a coffee cup of water that had just come out of a microwave boil, and then let them soak overnight. About 50% sprouted in a few days to a few weeks. I am in Virginia so I can not leave them outside for the winter. I stop watering them after the first frost, and I do not water them again until the last frost of spring. They come back pretty quick after watering in the spring.
My biggest problem is white flies and little black bugs on the underside of the leaves that suck the sap and kill the leaves. I used to take each leaf and rub insecticidal soap on its underside to keep the bugs at bay for a couple of months. But now I am using a more potent insecticide. I have not noticed any problem with the detergent or the insecticide damaging the leaves. I water occasionally when they look dry and I try to avoid soaking the roots.
In 2010 my biggest baobabs are hitting the ceiling, and I have pruned them to a nice shape. And I am wondering who can I will them to so that they will live out their natural 500+ years?
Here is a November 2009 picture of one of my 3 year old, 6 ft tall Baobabs grown indoors next to a South facing window in Virginia:
Around September each year I stop watering all my baobabs for the winter so that the leaves will fall off and they will go into hibernation until the spring when I will resume watering. This year I started watering them in May 2010 and they have all come back with new leaves. My largest baobabs did not lose all their leaves even while hibernating over the winter, but the small ones do.
This year I have some new seeds from Madagascar baobabs, and they are already growing on my windowsill.
Hi I stumbled across your baobab pics - look great! I love a baobab tree - Just something interesting I found at one of our local shops - a "grow your own bonsai from seed" kit which comes with a ceramic pot, soil, drainage mesh and baobab seeds - so maybe if baobabs battle to grow in your climate some could try this little bonsai baobab!
Hi i sucessfully germinated baobab,but root system were damaged by me,but still two other raised, i want to share information that baobob need direct hot sunlight and water combination to rise,humus rich sandy soil will increase speed to rise.no need to boil/pile/soak.It is good to germinate in summer and sunny day(28 degrees c +).It will be very fast..but keep seeds in sunlight in combination with white ash for some days say 10 to 45 days to become lighted and tree stronger.Its a practise followed in india by seed experts,ash will make not ants ,flies etc,sunlight will make seed mature in oils etc.boiling makes seed weaker and more chances to die/live unhealthy. I think alignment of seed is important.hole gives water and soil to promote expantion and easy rise,Thank you all for information.
Hello fellow baobab enthusiasts. I'm a total novice here looking for advice, tips, reassurance, moral support, etc.
In the spring of 2013 I brought a small baobab cutting back with me from at trip to Senegal. I stuck it in a pot with some regular potting soil, watered it a bit, and was really surprised by how quickly it took off. The earlier of the two photos below (bob2013.jpg) was taken at the end of June, 2013, after only about 3 months.
After the plant (affectionately known as Bob the Baobab) went dormant over the winter I was excited to see how much it would grown in its second year. But although it's clearly still alive, I've been surprised and a little worried about how slowly it has progressed. The 2nd photo below (bob2014.jpg) was taken today, June 29th. As you can see, the first leaves are only just now beginning to unfurl and it looks way, way behind where it was at this time last year.
Is this normal? Should I be concerned about how slow Bob has been to put out new leaves?