Germinating baobab seeds: some say it is easy, others complain about the low seed germination rates. Tips & Tricks of how to make them grow are easily available – especially on the Internet. Some seem to have success with throwing the seeds into boiling water or into acid. I did not succeed with the former and I did not give it a try with the acid. A gardener in Namibia nipped a piece off a seed with pruning shears. I tried that but found it quite fiddly since the seeds are difficult to hold.
Simply placing the seeds in the soil, as it works in nature, is successful occasionally. Scratching the seeds and soaking them in warm water for one to two days leads to better results, but the germination rate was not satisfying to me.
Therefore I experimented with baobab seeds and how to grow them and take care of them. For me it works best if I scratch, soak and finally peel the seeds. In a next step I put them in a container and let them germinate for two more days. The container has the effect of a miniature greenhouse. I mix soil with sand and put it into a pot. I place the germinated seeds on the soil and cover them with rough river sand. The germination rate of the baobab seeds is significantly higher with the peeling method.
No matter which method you choose, a few basic things help:
- Opening the shell: Baobab seeds have a hard shell. Opening it allows water in and initiates the germination process. In addition the opening helps the seedling to get out. This can be done by sawing, filing or drilling for example
- Soaking the seeds: place them in warm water for 24 to 48 hours. As mentioned above this will set off the germination process and helps the seedling to get out of the shell. The shell gets softer and is therefore easier to peel
- Planting: I put the germinated seeds on soil, which I mix with coarse river sand. I cover the seedlings with sand. The seeds need water, but do not tolerate too much moisture
Grow Baobabs from seeds – The steps:
- Scratch the baobab seeds slightly
- Place scratched seeds in warm water for 1-2 days
- Gently remove the seed coat with your fingernails
- Place the seeds on a moist kitchen towel for another two days in a small bowl with a lid. The seeds will continue germinating.
- Earth: Mix cactus or regular soil with coarse river sand. The sand makes the soil more permeable and helps to prevent root rot
- Pot: It should be at least 10 cm high. Put the soil mixture in the pot. Baobabs form tap roots and need space to do so
- Place the seedlings on the soil mixture in the pot and cover with a two centimeter thick layer of coarse river sand
- Water: the baobab seedlings need regular water – but do not water too often. Pour water every two to three days and use rain water if possible
- Light: Baobabs love it sunny and warm. In summer they can be placed outside in a warm spot – for example on the balcony, in the garden or on the terrace. Beware, the small seedlings are susceptible to spider mites and they do not like strong wind.
- Heat: The seeds need a warm environment, that means temperatures around 20 ° Celsius and above