Request: Foolproof Coconut sprouting methods.

Satellite Beach, FL

A neighbor has a coconut tree that I have been admiring for years, a heavy bearing medium-tall tree that came through the cold winters of 2009-2011 like a champion. Here in Central Florida on the space coast barrier island we lost maybe 80% of the coconut trees in those winters ... it is the survivors that interest me the most, and especially this tree. So today I gathered two of my sons to help and with the neighbors permission took down as many coconuts as could easily be reached with a 40 foot ladder. One of my sons was on top of the ladder tossing them down into a grassy area ... about 10 of them split open, full of water. I tasted some of it and it was sweet. There is another ten that survived the fall. Now I am looking for suggestions on the best way to sprout these. They are not cured, but rather orangish-green, but they have been up there for many months and all were full of liquid.

Any suggestions to help me maximize my germination rate are appreciated.
I included a picture of some of the coconuts with a six-inch ruler for scale.

Thumbnail by guygee
Satellite Beach, FL

After some further research I have realized the parent tree is likely a Maypan hybrid, so I suppose this complicates matters as the seed is unlikely to come true. I am going back to get a picture of the parent tree and will add that soon.

There are two other very similar trees in the immediate vicinity of the parent tree. These look almost identical except they have never born fruit anywhere near as heavy as this tree. I was surprised talking to the owner to learn that the tree was only 9 years old. This particular tree has been heavily laden with fruit constantly in the three years I have been observing it. Its two sister trees have had much less fruit, even though they are close together (likely eliminating an environmental explanation for the difference). The owner's impression was that the tree grew fairly slowly for the first 3-4 years but then growth exploded as the taproot hit the water table.

In lieu of any expert advice from this forum, I am thinking of placing each nut into a "$1-store" black bucket on the western-side porch of my house until the nuts "cure" and turn brown, then using the same buckets to plant the "cured" nuts in, using 50-50 vermiculite and coir sealed in a translucent plastic bag. The ants are vicious in my yard, and I have noticed that past sprouting attempts have been thwarted by ants entering as soon as the nut split to feed on the sweet meat, then using the hollowed-out nut as an egg incubator.

A voice of experience would be appreciated ... otherwise I am off to experiment in the coming couple of months.

Baru, Panama

If you took the coconuts down from the tree while they were not mature it is very unlikely that the coconuts will sprout. Let the coconuts fall when they are mature and then just pick the coconut and place it where you want it to grow, The process takes anywhere from 6 to 12 months depending on the variety of the coconut.

You have some options in dealing with ants.
One is to grow the coconut in a 5 gallon bucket until the coconut basically eats itself by growing. You can transplant the grown coconut tree without any problem just keep it watered.

Second is to use ash around the coconut while it grows. Just burn some paper, boxes and collect the ash. Dig around the coconut a trench a few inches deep and two feet wide touching the coconut. Place the ash inside of the trench. This should keep the ants away.

Good Luck,

Owner of Coconut Biko Coconut Plantation.

Satellite Beach, FL

Thank you for the expert advice coconutbiko.

I did take them down early, but the stems looked dried up, so I am hoping it was not too soon.These Maypan trees were actually clinging to some old coconuts that were all dry and brown, totally dessicated but never fell. One of the owners told me most nuts fell, and they would lay them out in their yard but they almost never sprouted (only once). Many neighbors are eager for me to take them down from the tree exactly because they do not want them to fall, so that is a conundrum for me.

I harvested several nuts and I let them season indoors until I heard water sloshing inside. I put a couple of them into 5 gallon buckets exactly as you suggested ... a little perlite and vermiculite at the bottom with some drainage holes and then clean "sharp sand", the kind used for mixing concrete. I am keeping the sand moist but in the afternoon sun. The ones I put in still had some green patches on them, but I have held the rest back to keep until they look dry and brown (but still with water sloshing in them).

So I guess we will see in the next few months. I'll update this thread "for posterity" on whether I get any sprouted or not. Anyways if these don't sprout I am going to keep trying until I get it right.

(Deb) Pensacola, FL(Zone 8a)

guygee; coconutbiko is correct. You have to let the nuts mature on the parent tree for it to sprout. Do not harvest it early for it will not germinate for you. I come from the island of Guam and that is usually how the coconuts grow there. Have patients don't rush these things.

Satellite Beach, FL

Pearl - Thank you for the advice. The cool winters of 2009 and 2010 killed over 50% of the coconut trees on the island in my area. Yet many survived, even farther north into Cocoa Beach and Cape Canaveral. In my neighborhood I noted some heavy-bearing survivors that were in neighbors yards. My idea was it is better to sprout from the local survivors as they are probably better adapted to cool weather. The owners wanted me to take all the coconuts down because they did not want them to fall and they would rather not have to pay anyone to do it. I appreciated the gift, and sampled the coconut water from several trees, then I tried to take only the most mature nuts.

But so far it is exactly as coconutbiko and you have predicted: none of the ones I picked have sprouted using the bucket method, yet one coconut that I bought online from the "Polynesian Produce Stand" (identified as "Samoan Dwarf") did sprout, so I believe it is not the method that is lacking, but rather the locally-harvested nuts which are infertile due to early harvesting. I noticed on some of the best trees the neighbor already paid somebody to take down the nuts so it is too late to try again, for now.
(Edit: Sp, grammar)

This message was edited Jun 10, 2013 7:22 AM

Laie, HI

I think it is better to place the coconut on the ground in a shady area and let it sprout and then plant it in the place you want the tree to grow.

Satellite Beach, FL

The problem I had with just placing them on the ground was that ants would invade, eat the sprouting coconut, then make a nice little incubator out of the shell. So I tried the bucket method. I've gotten coconuts to sprout before ... ones I bought "ready to sprout" from Hawaii, but I finally got a local nut to sprout. It came from a very tall tree that survived the two bad winters of '09 and '10. It was not one I picked off of a tree but one that fell then I gathered it. It has been in the bucket for about 2 months and I had just about given up hope. The tree was behind my Doctor's office, which used to be a plant nursery until it went out of business after the hurricanes of '04 if I remember correctly. Maybe a "panama tall"? We will see. The nurseries around here only carry the various Malaysian dwarfs which I think are very inferior so I am hopeful this one will live and a couple more will sprout too, despite the current plague of the "rugose spiraling whitefly" that has hit the local trees hard.

This message was edited Sep 24, 2013 5:40 PM

This message was edited Sep 24, 2013 5:41 PM

Thumbnail by guygee
Kerrville, TX

Speaking of germinating coconuts, are the ones at my grocery store viable?
They have been peeled down to the fiber layer. The size being about a 12" soft ball.
Those on top of the bin are very light, whitish. At the bin bottom they are the brown I would expect to see.
Any chance of germinating?

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