Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: Arabian Frankincense
Boswellia sacra

Family: Burseraceae
Genus: Boswellia (bos-WELL-ee-a) (Info)
Species: sacra

24 members have or want this plant for trade.


6-8 ft. (1.8-2.4 m)
15-20 ft. (4.7-6 m)

30-40 ft. (9-12 m)
over 40 ft. (12 m)

USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 C (30 F)
USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 C (35 F)
USDA Zone 11: above 4.5 C (40 F)

Sun Exposure:
Full Sun


Bloom Color:
Pale Yellow
Bright Yellow
White/Near White

Bloom Time:
Unknown - Tell us


Other details:
Drought-tolerant; suitable for xeriscaping
Suitable for growing in containers

Soil pH requirements:
7.9 to 8.5 (alkaline)

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:
From woody stem cuttings
From seed; sow indoors before last frost

Seed Collecting:
Unknown - Tell us

Click thumbnail
to view:

By timrann
Thumbnail #1 of Boswellia sacra by timrann

By timrann
Thumbnail #2 of Boswellia sacra by timrann

By timrann
Thumbnail #3 of Boswellia sacra by timrann

By timrann
Thumbnail #4 of Boswellia sacra by timrann

By timrann
Thumbnail #5 of Boswellia sacra by timrann

By timrann
Thumbnail #6 of Boswellia sacra by timrann

By rntx22
Thumbnail #7 of Boswellia sacra by rntx22


5 positives
3 neutrals
No negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Neutral GardenGrandpa On Aug 14, 2014, GardenGrandpa from Ridgecrest, CA wrote:

Germination information:
Crush lime stones into sand and small stones. Spread on sand in direct sunlight.
Spread seeds on top of the limestone base you have created. Cover the seeds with no more than 1/4 of crush limestone.
Spray the area with water from a spray bottle. Dampen the soil as deep as the seeds are planted, but do not allow water to puddle. Spray in the mornings and then allow the area to dry in the afternoons. This mimics conditions during which morning fog dampens the seeds and then the seeds dry out for the remainder of the day.
Continue this process of spraying and dampening the seeds with moisture each morning and then allowing the seeds to dry out for the remainder of the day. After 3 weeks look for seedlings.
Continue spraying seedlings with water each morning for several months. Seedlings do not need to be protected from the heat, but they must be protected against frost. Older, well established Frankincense trees can survive an occasional frost, but seedlings cannot.
Continue spraying plants with water in the mornings until the plants are well established and are at least 8 inches tall. Stop watering and allow the root system to develop and find its own sources of moisture.

Neutral TreekeeperChar On May 13, 2014, TreekeeperChar from San Diego, CA wrote:

I just received Frankincense seeds from MiniaTree in AZ. I am now in need of info on how to best attempt germination.

I have 3 acres of medicinal trees that I tend in Balboa Park, San Diego. CA. I think that our soil and climate will be appropriate with a little additional watering at the right time. I am eager to add Frankincense to the collection of over 70 trees of healing value and to help preserve the species by growing it here.

Thanks for all the previous comments; they were helpful. Anyone with helpful hints on sprouting the seeds? And, since I cannot plant this in the park until it reaches a reasonable size ... how fast does this grow?

Positive DavidLMo On Feb 22, 2014, DavidLMo from St Joseph, MO wrote:

A good source for many different Commiphora (C.), Boswellia (B.) and Bursera is Sacred Succulents in Sebastapol CA.

I have purchased a C. mukul (syn wightii or guggul), a B. sacra and seeds for B. sacra from them and I can highly recommend them. Friendly, pleasant and courteous - even for the small buyer such as myself.

Another good source for many of these types of plants is MiniaTreeGarden whom I have purchased a C. mollis from. They too are excellent to deal with.

For anyone interested in getting in to these types of plants, these two firms are a great and reasonably priced starting point.

Note that for the trees I purchased (as well as a Bursera fagaroides from another vendor) my intention is Bonsai.


Positive azant On Apr 14, 2013, azant from Phoenix, AZ wrote:

I will say this plant is slow to grow in a pot, even an oversized one unless it has high humidity. Once in ground though, it grows real well... weird considering we have very low humidity here, single digits sometimes. I feel more people should grow this tree, and other species if you can locate them $$$... The leaves and flowers, not to mention form make it worth it

Neutral johneddy On Nov 19, 2012, johneddy from Cos Cob, CT wrote:

I've recently purchased a tree from Miniatree (through eBay) .

I have it on a timed, full-spectrum grow light with a heating pad for this upcoming winter and would like to get it to a decent size, maybe make a bonsai, and maybe try harvesting a little resin- I love the smell and it seems to do me good health-wise.

I've also purchased some seeds and will try my hand at the less-than-promising germination process.

I'm interesting in chatting with others about their experiences, so if you grow them, let me know:)

Positive TNAndy On Jul 12, 2011, TNAndy from Sevierville, TN wrote:

I've grown my Frankincense for a few years now, in a square container, just shy of 1 cubic foot. It has a thick trunk and roots (what few I can see) for such a sparse, squat shrub. New leaves begin lime green, deepening to an oak leaf green as they reach full size. Stems grow in fits and starts. Where the stems pause, the foliage appears tufted. As the trunk and branches age, layers of bark similar to onion skin split and peel away. (Think Paper Birch with fewer layers showing.) Even the oldest part of the trunk is green underneath this peeling bark.

I read it prefers an alkaline pH, so I mulched the potting mix surface with limestone gravel. I fertilize with a granular, slow release commercial product. I give it a spoonful of fireplace ashes a few times a year, too. My zone 6 winter is far too cold for Frankincense. I bring it into my sunroom well before the first frost. I'd say a safe minimum temperature is 40 degrees F / 5 degrees C. However, last winter mine survived a "heater incident" where the temperature dropped below freezing, perhaps more than once that week. I'm sure the fact there was no wind helped. The plant's normal response to stress is to drop its foliage, and it lost a lot of leaves. To prevent root rot, I rarely watered it until I saw new leaves.

It has recovered well this summer. It sure seems to like the humid summer here whether there are thunderstorms or not. I figure it is a desert plant and rarely give it any extra water. What moisture it does get drains away fairly quickly. I give it all the sunlight I can, summer and winter.

It flowered late last winter for the first time, but nothing developed into fruit or seeds.

I certainly haven't dared cut into my specimen to see if any incense oozes out. From time to time I've pulled off (mostly) dead leaves and sometimes a bit of white goo comes forth. There hasn't been enough to collect, so I can't say what it smells like.

I'm pretty sure my plant is a rooted cutting rather than seed-grown. I tried to take an air layer from one green stem during a pause in its growth. I used rooting hormone, sphagnum moss, wrapped in aluminum foil--the same method I had seen used on azaleas in Florida. The hormone caused no roots to sprout and the stem ultimately died. Try something else.

Plants and seeds are frequently available from a single vendor on a well-known internet auction site; infrequently from other online vendors. Be patient; reasonably priced plants do show up sooner or later.

Frankincense makes an interesting bonsai and conversation piece, if not the most attractive house plant.

Positive wolfblacksmith On Oct 21, 2007, wolfblacksmith from San Francisco, CA wrote:

I have searched a long time to find this plant, I was able to purchase 100 seeds, but frankincense is notoriously difficult to germinate, and I had no success. I have found a grower in Arizona that occasionally sells on Ebay, they are called they have wonderful plants, and I purchased two Boswellia's and they arrived in very healthy, bug free and bare root condition, they are growing and sending out new leaves in my Southwest bay window in my Sunny San Francisco flat. If you have any questions about these wonderful sacred plants, please email me. Thanks Wolf.

Positive Cactusdude On May 4, 2007, Cactusdude from Miami, FL (Zone 10b) wrote:

Similar to other plants in the genus, as well as Bursera. Grow in full sun, water when in active growth, keep dry when dormant. Protect from frost, likes heat. Expensive to purchase on the internet, yet very easily grown from cuttings.


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Phoenix, Arizona
San Francisco, California
Miami, Florida

We recommend Firefox
Overwhelmed? There's a lot to see here. Try starting at our homepage.

[ Home | About | Advertise | Media Kit | Mission | Featured Companies | Submit an Article | Terms of Use | Tour | Rules | Privacy Policy | Contact Us ]

Back to the top

Copyright © 2000-2015 Dave's Garden, an Internet Brands company. All Rights Reserved.

Hope for America