Baobab seeds: how they germinate easily

Baobab – grow your own from seeds from Heike Pander on Vimeo.

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.

Baobab Deko: Baobab fruit of different shapes

Baobab fruit of different shapes

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.

Baobab Seeds

Baobab Seeds

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
Baobab Sapling

Baobab Sapling

Grow Baobabs from seeds – The steps:

  1. Scratch the baobab seeds slightly
  2. Place scratched seeds in warm water for 1-2 days
  3. Gently remove the seed coat with your fingernails
  4. Place the seeds on a moist kitchen towel for another two days in a small bowl with a lid. The seeds will continue germinating.
  5. Earth: Mix cactus or regular soil with coarse river sand. The sand makes the soil more permeable and helps to prevent root rot
  6. 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
  7. Place the seedlings on the soil mixture in the pot and cover with a two centimeter thick layer of coarse river sand
  8. 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
  9. 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.
  10. Heat: The seeds need a warm environment, that means temperatures around 20 ° Celsius and above

Baobab – grow your own from seeds from Heike Pander on Vimeo.

8 Replies to “Baobab seeds: how they germinate easily”

  1. Hello again,
    My experience is quite different, I have read somewhere that you need to pour over boiling water and wait.
    And this is what I have done, poured over boiling water and left them in water for a day, planted next day.
    Germination rate is high.


    • Hi Vas, thanks for your comment & sharing your experience. As mentioned in my other mail there are different ways in getting baobab seeds to germinate. Congratulations that you mangaged it with your method. All the best, Heike

    • Hi Heike,

      I have tried your method and first time (I take one seed at a time), I filed it as in your video then left in water for 2 days and then removed outer shell and left it in moisture container for 2 more days although it smelled like it was rotting when it was time to plant it and the embrio had no extra growth like in your video, I am doing the second seed now making sure heat is correct and I am in day one of embrio in moisture although still no visible change in embrio like in your video.

      Hi Vas,

      Please walk me through your method as well, if you dont mind?

      Any suggestions or relevant information or steps I might need to look at?

      Thank you kindly
      #Desperate Learner

      • Hi Sean, thank you very much for trying to grow baobabs. Sorry that your first attempt did not work in your favour. There are quite some different ways to get baobabs to germinate and I have tried most of them – except using acid or boiling them in water. The method I describe in the video is the one that has by far the highest success rate with respect to germination for me.

        When it comes to getting the seeds started the important thing is to open the outer hard shell of the seed so that water/moisture can penetrate the shell. This is the impulse that initiates germination in a healthy seed. Why your seed did not germinate as expected can have different reasons. It might be too old or the temperature was not right or it had too much moisture… or it was simply not the right time for it to grow or it did not get enough hours of daylight. I live in Europe and our days are getting considerably shorter at the moment. Therefore I do not try to germinate seeds at the moment. I wait for next spring. If this is the case for you as well you could try to give them some extra light with growth lamps (I am not sure if you call them like that).

        I have spoken to a number of researches and they confirmed that not all of the seeds will germinate – some only do so after some years, some never will.

        Good luck for your next attempt in growing baobabs & don’t give up!

        Kind regards,


  2. Hello, I have germinated baobab seeds severally and they have been working. I used to scratch seeds using sand paper, soaking them in water, then put them on wet paper towels and wait for them to germinate. To germinate a large number of seeds, simply soak the seeds in 98% sulphuric acid for 1-2 hours to peel the seed coat, then rinse 3 times then put them on paper towels. I achieved 80% germination. However, moulds are a nuisance to my seedlings, do you have any idea on how I could handle that?

    • Dear Nyamohanga Justus, thank you for sharing your experience with germinating baobab seeds – that is well appreciated! And congratulations for your high rate in germination. Well, yes. mould can cause a problem. When does the mould occur with your seeds/seedlings? Before planting or after? The only thing that I can suggest at the moment is that you try not to put them on towels that are soaking wet. Each seedling needs some space around it, no contact to other seedlings so that the air can circulate freely. They should be kept in a warm spot, not direct sunlight and no wind. There needs to be some moisture but not soaking, dripping wet – before you plant them… As soon as you put the germinated seeds in a pot (one seed per pot or if planted in a garden with enough space between the seeds) they need soils with good drainage. No clay and no thick/rich soil. Baobabs are used to meagre soils in most of the areas where they come from. I hope that this helps you. Let me know how your seedlings are doing – if you like. Good luck and all the best, Heike

  3. Dear Heike,

    This the most helpful information that I have received to date.
    I have been collecting Zim Baobab fruits for years and then trying to grow them at home in South Africa with little success.
    I have tried countless methods to seed preparation all with 98% germination success. The issue comes in a several days later when the saplings are unable to break away from the hard shell entirely and die.
    Peeling the seeds as per your instruction is definitely going to work – I was always under the impression that if I did that the seeds would rot.
    I have just laid several seeds on damp cotton and things are looking good.
    Shall keep you posted.

    Thanks a gazillion.

    • Hello Storme, thank you so much for your positive comment – you made my day as I read it early today. I’ll keep my fingers crossed that your baobabs seeds will grow into healthy strong and huge trees. In case of any questions feel free to contact me and I shall see what I can do. All the best during these challenging times & kind regards, Heike

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