Grow Baobabs From Seeds at home

Baobab Seedling, one day old

Baobab Seedling, one day old

Follow these steps to grow baobabs from seeds successfully:

  1. Baobab Seeds: nowadays it is easy to buy baobab seeds online. The seed coats or shells are very hard and make germination difficult. Slightly crack the outer seed coat and let it soak for two days in lukewarm water.
  2. Give it a “Boost”: Take the seeds out of the water. After soaking them they should have reached twice their original size. Look for the spot where you have cracked or scratched the outer seed coat. Carefully peel the brown outer shell off the seed with your fingernail. You should see where the seedling has started to build a root and where the leaves will be.
  3. Support Germination: Take a bowl with a lid. Soak a paper tissue (or similar). Put the seeds in and cover them with another soaked paper tissue. Leve them for another 1 – 2 days. The moist and warm environment helps the seedlings to get stronger. If you do not want to wait that long you can skip this step and proceed to step 4 immediately.
  4. Soil: Your best choice is cactus soil. Mix it with sand (preferably coarse-grained river sand because it helps with drainage) . The ratio should be 2:1. Garden soil is ok as well – the mixing ratio is the same as with cactus soil.
  5. Pot: From early on, little baobabs form taproots. Thus, the plant needs plenty of room. Therefore, take a pot that is at least 10 cm high, a higher pot than this is even better. Fill it with soil and spare the top three centimeters.
  6. Sowing: take the soaked seeds and put them on top of the soil in the pot. Cover them with a two-centimeter-thick layer of sand. This helps to avoid waterlogging which baobab do not like at all. In addition, it keeps away little black flies (Dark-winged fungus gnats).
  7. Care: Water the seeds regularly – about every two to three days should be alright – at the latest when the sand gets dry. Do not allow the seeds to dry out. If possible use rainwater.
  8. Light: to germinate, baobab seeds need a combination of warmth, nutrients and sufficient water. Best place the pot on a sunny spot at a window, on the balcony or the terrace.
  9. Heat: Seeds require a warm environment – make sure that the temperatures are around 20°. I have read that they need constant 24 °- I cannot confirm that. My baobab seeds have germinated despite somewhat lower and varying temperatures.
Baobab Seeds

Baobab Seeds

Being patient is very helpful for your “Baobab” project. Sometimes it may take weeks and months for the seeds to germinate – they follow their very own schedule. From others I have heard that they have watered their seeds for up to one year on a regular basis and had almost given up when the seeds finally germinated.

Baobab Seeds soaking in water

Baobab Seeds soaking in water

It seems that I was lucky this year: one of the seeds drove out a leaf after about a week, the second a week later. After six weeks, the third seed germinated.

Baobab Seedling, a few hours old

Baobab Seedling, a few hours old

Even after germination the little baobabs need to be watered regularly. But they have a tendency to develop root rot if drainage of the pot is not good. If they have made it through the first three months they are likely to survive.

Baobab Seedling, two days old

Baobab Seedling, two days old

Although they grow rapidly during the first few weeks, they invest a lot of energy in their taproots. There they store water and nutrients that will help them in times of scarcity to ensure their survival.

Baobab Seedlings 2016

Baobab Seedlings 2016

If you planted several baobab seeds in one container, you can repot them after about three months. Baobabs are “loners” and do not like the close company of other baobabs – even if one sees small groups of baobabs in the “wild” every now and then.

Baobab Seedlings 2016

Baobab Seedlings 2016

A word about the pests that affect baobabs outdoors. As you water the small seedlings regularly, Dark-winged fungus gnats might settle in. The flies like it warm and moist and place their eggs in the soil. The larvae attack the roots and can cause damage. As mentioned above distribute a two centimeter thick layer of sand on top of the soil in the pot. Flush lice and other pests from tender baobab leaves with water. More options are described here.

40 Replies to “Grow Baobabs From Seeds at home”

    • Dear Stef, Dear Stefan,

      yes, correct: take the seeds and place them on the soil. Cover with a layer of approximately 2 centimeters of sand. That helps the drainage. Once sprouted, the seeds get nutrients from the soil and do not dry out because of the sand and do not get too wet either.

      Good luck with your baobab project!

  1. I was very lucky I planted 4 seeds and one germinated the 5th May which was very unusual to me.
    I am in Gauteng area S.A.

    • Dear Johann, congratulations, that sounds awesome! Sometimes none germinate – I am still waiting for those I planted this year to show some signs of growth. Enjoy your little Baobab. All the best, Heike

      • I got two other Baobab trees 3 months old must I water them, because the leaves are still very green.

        • Hello Johann, that is difficult to say from far away. I think in your part of the world you are approaching the cold period when baobabs mostly do not have leaves. The little ones need water regularly but should not be watered too often to avoid root rot. It helps to test the soil (not only the surface) with your finger whether it is still wet. Water them when the soil is dry. Hope that helps 🙂 Heike

  2. Hello Heike,

    you said you cracked the seeds open carefully, can you explain how? Using a nutcracker? I had only heard about filing them to make soaking easier. Im about to have my second try to get them to germinate, the first time all of my seeds rotted away, i guess my soil was too compact 🙁

    Thanks, Yannik

    • Hi Yannik, thank you for your question. No, I do not use a nutcracker. I learned from people in a Namibian nursery that they crack the seeds open carefully with secateurs. I have tried it myself but I find it difficult because you have to find the right spot for clipping a piece off and it is kind of a challenge to hold the little seed. I usually scratch the seeds open at one spot and for that I use a little saw. Then I soak the seeds for 2-3 days and place them ON TOP OF THE SOIL and cover them with a layer of 2 cm of river sand. Keep the sand wet – but not soaking wet. That should do the trick. Hope this helps & good luck with your second try! Heike 🙂

      • Using varous methods (sandpaper, scratching with secateurs and just soaking) 4/6 of my seeds have germinated. On 2 of them I tried your method with sand (1 has germinated, on the other one I’m still hopful), the other 4 I planted in coconut humus. Any dos or donts for the time after germination? Yannik

        • Hi Yannik, congratulations! That is quite a success! I am not so sure about the ones growing on coconut soil – I have not tried that. Best is to monitor how they develop and maybe replant to regular soil or cactus soil at a later stage. The sand method on top of the regular or cactus soil usually provides good drainage and helps to prevent root rot. You have to water the littel baobabs frequently but make sure that they do not stand in water. Particularly during the first 3 months they are prone to root rot. Replanting is best done after three months when they have grown a little tap root and can survive the procedure easier. All the best. Heike

  3. Hi
    I gave one baobab seed which has germinated a few days ago. The problem is that I did not realise that the seeds should have been planted into a cactus compost mixed with sand. Mine is now just in the normal all purpose compost. Should I repot asap? What would be the best way to get it into a best suited soil?
    Thanks,
    Ivan

    • Dear Ivan, thank you for your post. The baobab seed has germinated in the soil you have used. If it looks healthy you could leave it. The best time to repot it is after approximately 3 months when the plant has formed a taproot. If you disturb it now you might hurt the little roots. Make sure it has enough water but not too much. Little baobabs tend to catch root rot if they get too much water. That is why the cactus soil helps – it has a higher amount of sand in it which helps to drain the soil. Maybe you can place a layer of river sand around the little plant to help the drainage. Hope this helps & good luck with your baobab! 🙂

  4. Hi Heike,
    I have a few big pods – as it is winter & cold (Highveld), should I rather wait until Spring before planting the seeds?

    • Hi Francois, thank you for contacting me. In their natural environments baobab seeds germinate with the onset of the rainy season because they like it hot and they need water on a regular basis. You might be lucky if you plant them indoors now but maybe it is a better idea to wait for end of September/October and start with your baobab project then. The little seeds like temperatures around 24° C and you need to water them daily in the beginning.

  5. Hello Heike,
    In S.A. Gauteng we start planting baobab seeds the end of Aug, i plan to plant a 100 seeds for this comming season.
    Johann.Strauss

    • Hello Johann, thank you for your comment! That sound like a lovely project. I have just returned from 6 weeks in the “bush” in Baobab country. Good luck with your boababs – I do hope they will all germinate! 🙂

  6. Thanks for all the explanation. I have also started a small baobab project in Kenya. I am worried about the gnat fungus things, and where you say they like to inhabit around the roots. How best to get rid of the gnats once and for all. many thanks, Nashon Wuon Hawi gi Teko

  7. There is a youtube video that shows a woman starting them by planting in soil in cups and watering them with BOILING WATER. She says they all germinate in a few days. Any experience or insight on this?

    Thank you, LJ.

    • Dear LJ, thank you for your post. Yes, I have heard that people throw the seeds in boiling water for some minutes or proceed as you described above. Some use acid to make germination easier. I have not tried those methods because as I write above scratching/opening the seeds works fine for me. Whether treating the seeds with boiling water helps to make them ALL germinate and survive I do not know. From my experience and what I hear and read from others: treating the seeds before planting usually leads to a higher rate in germination as if only planted in soil. All the best, Heike

  8. Hi everyone
    This is very interesting ive been growing adasonia digitata the African baobab since spring 2011 in Edinburgh Scotland and out of around 60 seeds i got 50 plants which were fast growing and had no space for them and gave away them all apart from four which i keep to this day and they are doing well. Let them almost dry completely between watering and if you don’t live in a tropical climate don’t put them outside they don’t like a cool breeze. They can take cool or even cold temperatures but don’t like any wind or breeze.

    • Hello Blair, thank you very much for your comment – yes, baobabs do not like wind although I have seen them grow on extraordinary windy places. But well, they grow where their seeds germinate in the wild… With respect to cold: they can tolerate it to a ceratin degree but I saw that some got affected and dropped their leaves. What was your method of making baobab seeds germinate? Best regards, Heike

  9. Also i use a sandy john innes peat bassed compost 1/3 to 2/3 grit sand mix and give half strength soluble fertilizer once in the middle of the summer to be safe not to burn the roots. Repot is best done every two years and take all earth away from the roots to start fresh to prevent mold or rot. Contrary to what you may of read these are very fast growing succulents not trees and take in a lot of nutrients.

    • Hello Blair, you are right with the repotting and that baobabs grow fast – this is up to approximately 200 years. After that their growth “speed” reduces drastically. With respect to succulents or trees: baobabs contain wood which makes them trees with very special features. I know there is a debate whether they are succulents or trees – I have spoken to several baobab experts and they agree that baobabs are not succulents.

  10. I grew a baobab a few years ago, from a twig bought in Dakar. It grew well, but when we moved house it complained and left us.

    I thought I’d have another go, from seed. I bought five on line, and followed the instructions to the letter, planting them individually in gritty soil in pots, and then putting clear plastic bags over them to prevent them from drying out. Placed on a warm windowsill I sat back and waited. And waited. And waited.

    At the beginning of the summer I got fed up with them cluttering the place up, took the bags off, and stuck them out in the garden, which is sunny and walled. I forgot about them. But a visitor spotted a shoot yesterday, one year and one month to the day since I planted them.

    We are having a warm and moist Autumn here in London, which undoubtedly helps. I wonder if the others will follow?

    • Dear Jonathan, thank you very much for your comment. Yes, it can happen – as your baobab has just proven – that they lie dormant in the soil for more than a year and suddenly decide to grow. I have heard that from different sources. A friend who run a nuresery told me once that whenever she planted baobab seeds some would not grow in the first year but grew shoots in the following year. Mostly as soon as the soil was disturbed when she tried to plant something else. Maybe you are lucky and the others grow as well. To germinate they like to have temperatures around 20°C and more. So – they would have to be quick… You write that you live in London – maybe temperatures get too cold for residing in the garden in winter. Are you planning to take the baobab inside? Otherwise it might freeze to death. They do not thrive in temperatures below 12° C. All the best, Heike

  11. I live in Exmouth Western Australia. I have planted 22 seeds (Adansonia Gregoria) spelling may be wrong 4mounths ago in temps 24-28. so far 18 have germinated and growing well. In the first 4 weeks I placed pots in deep water just below top of soil for three days and left in the open until seedlings appeared. how can I transplant to larger pots 20cm high and avoid damageing seedlings. Started with 1/3 Pindan (red course soil) 1/3 cheep potting mix and 1/3 good potting mix

    • Hello Jim, thanks very much for your comment & question. Congratulations for your success with germinating Adansonia gregorii – that seems to be quite an impressive quota!
      Once the baobab seeds have germinated they need to get water regularly but they should not be left in water as you describe above because that can cause root rot. The container you keep them in should get dry inbetween watering the little baobabs.
      Generally speaking it is best if you leave the baobabs in the environment they germinated in for the first three months – this is the time when they produce the little tuber roots that help them store nutrients & some water for “winter” (dryer times). Then carefully dig the little plants out but leave enough soil with their roots. That helps to avoid damage. With respect to the soil – I am not familiar with Pindan soil and I would not use cheap potting mix although I think that the baobabs will be able to cope with the latter. I use a specific cactus soil and river sand mix for my baobabs and the results are very good.
      Good luck with your treasures & all the best.
      Heike

    • Hello Kim,
      I am sorry to hear that your boab has died. Yes, overwatering can cause severe problems – particularly root rot. Baobabs do not like standing water at all over longer periods. Adelaide sounds Australian – boabs should grow there quite well I assume. If you want to make sure that your next attempt is a success check with your finger before you water the plant: poke your finger into the soil – if it is dry you can water. After watering leave it for a few days (depending on the heat) and check with your finger again. Hope this helps & good luck with your next try. Best regards, Heike

    • Dear Adebayo Joseph B., I am sorry but I do not understand the question – what exactly would you like to find out?

  12. Dear Heike I live in Queensland Australia , a friend has given me 11 boab seed pods to see if i can get some of the seeds to germinate… however she just told me that she collected them 7 years ago … will they be too old to even try now ?

    • Dear Cheryl, wow, what a wonderful gift your friend gave you! Boab fruit pods can be kept for a long time if the shell is intact and they are stored in a dry place. Nature has arranged that they can be kept for a long time – I think it is the same for the Australian boab and for the African baobab. 7 years though sounds a bit long – I would probably not eat the fruit powder any longer. But why not give it a try with the seeds? I would certainly go for it! Good luck & please let me know if you succeed! All the best & greetings from Berlin 🙂 Heike Pander

  13. I tried opening the seeds which worked for 3 out of 5 the others i broke a part of the white soft inside will the seed still be able to sprout?

    • Dear Jakob, thank you for contacting me. I would suggest you do not try to open them but rather scratch the surface that it gets a little crack and soak the seeds in warm water for 24 hours. I had the same problem with some seeds – some still sprouted, others did not. It depends whether you have damaged the spot inside that makes the seed sprout. I suppose you’ll have to try and see if they still are strong enough to sprout. Good luck! Heike

    • Dear Jakob – have you tried to water the seed that broke apart and put it in water? The same happened to me and the seed still germinated. It really depends at the spot where it broke. Best regards, Heike

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