Baobab-Seedlings: grow…

… your own! If you are a proud owner of Baobabs on your window sill, the balcony or patio, you are in the lucky position to produce seedlings or saplings of Baobabs yourself.

At a very young age Baobabs put a lot of energy in a long and thin single shoot which they seem to drive „straight to heaven“. The shoot can be up to one meter or even more per growing season – even if grown in a pot. A little crown with multiple leaves forms on top of the shoot. The young baobab does not resemble its older relatives in the wild. Baobabs develop their bulbous form once they have reached a certain age. In younger years they need to get tall as quickly as possible. This helps them to avoid being eaten by goats, cattle or antelopes since their shoots taste delicious to the animals.

The energy a little Baobab seedling shoots into its stem in spring can become a real challenge for a normally sized apartment or balcony. But with a skillful pruning you can keep the Baobab to “room size”. Although pruning sounds a bit harsh – it will support the expansion of the potted Baobab into its typical round and gnarled form.

Baobabs tend to lose their leaves usually in October/November each year. The trees announce the coming event by slowly turning their leaves yellow. This is a good time to prune a Baobab. It is done best before all leaves have dropped. The leaves left on the seedlings help them to produce new roots. But you do not have to wait for fall – Baobabs can be pruned year round.

Put the cut pieces into a bottle of water. With a little luck you can observe white dots above the section point pushing their way through the top layer of bark a few days later. As an alternative you could put the seedlings into a container with wet sand. The sand should be moist but not soaking wet. Nevertheless, growing roots requires patience since the process may require several weeks. If you try the water-approach – exchange it every now and then.

Once the roots are long and strong enough, plant the seedling into a pot. Clay pots suit the needs of Baobabs best. As a first layer put pebbles into the pot for better drainage. On top oft hat comes a thick layer of cactus soil mixed with sand (1/3rd should be sand). Make sure that you take riverine sand and not sand from the sea – it might carry salt which the Baobabs do not like at all at their roots. This soil mixture will allow for good drainage. Since Baobabs are very frugal beings they should not be over-fertilized.

It may take quite some time for the seedling to show the first leaves. One of the seedlings I generated in December showed some first green leaf tips in May of the following year.

6 Replies to “Baobab-Seedlings: grow…”

  1. Pingback: Baobab-Seedlings: buying... - Baobabs

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  3. I threw some baobab seeds into a pot 2 weeks ago and about 8 have germinated. When can I split them up into individual pots. They are all in a small (about 10cm diameter) pot and are now 10 cms high! I’m just a home gardener that likes growing plants from seeds.

    • Hello Merrilyn, thank you for your interest in baobabs & your growing efforts. Usually you should leave the new seedlings for about 3 months where they germinated – during that time they form a good tap root that makes survival easier for them. I understand that your little trees are a bit crowded. Maybe you could try carefully with the back of a tea spoon to dig some out to allow for more space for the remaining ones. Carefully place the ones you take out in new pots. What kind of soil are you using? I have tried taking two seedlings out after two weeks of germination but only one (the bigger and stronger one) made it. Where about are you growing your baobabs? If you grow them in Europe it is a difficult time for them because it is their period of “rest” when older trees usually drop their leaves. The seedlings stand a better chance to survive if you start growing them in Spring. Good luck & please let me know if you were successful 🙂

  4. Dear Heike, thank you so much for your inspiring website about the baobab! I love reading your blogs. I’m kind of new to all this. I’ve started growing baobabs from seed last year. I’ve got one baobab (the Fony baobab) which is just under a year old, and about 36 cm in height. The other baobab I have now is the African (digitata) baobab, which has remained very small, only 15 cm in height, also about a year old. I live in the Netherlands, and they cannot get light all day, unfortunately (only direct light from early morning until about 12.30), so the conditions are not ideal, I’m afraid.

    I was wondering when I could prune baobabs back a little in order to encourage more foliage instead of height, and how far back I should prune them. Would you have any advice on pruning and when it can best be done? Although spring is already upon us, the baobabs are only just awakening from dormancy it seems, with a tiny green bud appearing on the top, very slowly, like everything the baobab does – very slowly :). But the fact that it’s already April and not much seems to be happening yet, worries me a bit. They do seem healthy, though, with a nice green-grayish shimmer on them.

    Hope to hear from you, and thank you so much in advance!

    All the best,

    • Hi Lisa, thank you for your appreciation – it is well received on this end 😉
      To your second question first: what you describe sounds quite normal to me – only one of my baobabs has really grown new shoots & leaveas yet and only during the last week. I have observed the tiny green leaves weeks ago – baobabs just have their own speed in how they do things… The “size” of your digitata-baobab sounds ok as well. It really depends on how long it has been in that stage & I would continue to monitor it over the next weeks. If you like, you could send pics. Diagnosing from far without seeing the trees is kind of complicated. With respect to cutting them back: you can do that at any time of the year. I usually cut them back before they get their new leaves – but that is not a “must”. Even the size of the piece you’d like ot cut back: depends on what you’d like to do with the tree. If you intend to have a bonsai – you should follow some of the rules regarding shape etc. One of my baobabs was so keen to grow tall that I had to cut it back nearly 1 meter in one go as I live in an apartment and do not have much space…The tree will not necessarily continue to grow at the same spot where you cut it but rather a bit below or on a different branch altogether. Here is a link to a post I wrote about cutting back baobabs a couple of years ago:
      I hope this helps – if you have more questions let me know. Kind regards & all the best during these challenging times, Heike

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