Watering Baobabs – How to to do it properly

Little Baobab, germinated from seed in the wild

Little Baobab, germinated from seed in the wild

Your “baobab adventure” starts with the successful germination of the baobab seeds you planted. It is crucial for the little saplings to survive the first three months – until they are big and stable enough to continue on their own. One of the important factors to make it easy for them is watering them correctly. The little plants do not like “wet feet” at all. That means they should not be over-watered otherwise their roots will rot away since they are prone to root rot. Nevertheless, they need water on a regular basis.

Baobab Seedling, a few hours old

Baobab Seedling, a few hours old

How the roots of a baobab develop

In my short video, I explained how you can help baobab seeds to germinate successfully. Once you have removed the outer shell of the the seed kernels, you can see the leaves and roots developing. The latter is initially a single, white shoot which grows deeply into the ground. Therefore, baobab saplings need pots that require a depth of at least 10 cm. While the little taproot grows deep into the soil it develops a small tuber – usually during the first three months.In it, the baobab stores nutrients and water for the dry season which it would have to face in the wild. The little sapling in the pot on your balcony or windowsill behaves in the same way although it does not necessarily need the taproot to survive.

Baobab Seedling, one day old

Baobab Seedling, one day old

Parallel to developing the roots, the little baobab grows leaves. These support the production of its food through photosynthesis and absorbing water. Sometimes growing leaves works fast. Some baobabs seem to take some rest after they show their first two leaves. One of the reasons could be that the environment around the roots is too wet.

Baobab Seeds on “Turf-Muffins”, different perspective, definitely too wet!

Take the following into consideration when watering your baobab:

  • Baobabs that have just germinated need to get water regularly because they cannot yet store it in their trunk, branches and roots as large baobabs do.
  • The little plants are sensitive – use rainwater if possible
  • The amount of water is crucial: the pot should not get dripping wet – pour a fair amount of water. Usually I use between 100 and 200 ml per pot for small pots that are about 10 centimeters deep. If the pot seems really dry, I pour more water.
  • The frequency with which you pour water is crucial, too. The roots are prone to root rot, so they should not get too much moisture. It is important to take temperatures into consideration. If it is very hot at the location where you keep the baobab, you need to water it more often. On a summer day with normal temperatures I pour water every 2 – 3 days on average. At temperatures around 25 ° C and direct sunlight on the pot, I monitor how quickly the earth is drying. When in doubt, I poke my finger into the soil and feel whether it is still moist or nearly dry. With very small baobabs the soil should not dry out completely.
  • If the temperatures are very high – for example, above 30 ° C – I take the pots with freshly germinated baobabs out of direct sun, or cover the pots (not the plants). Although the plants can tolerate very hot and sunny circumstances the pots could heat up too much and dehydrate too quickly, which could damage the roots. After all, the roots should not “boil” in the sun.
  • Generally speaking, the cooler the site, the less water the baobabs need. Whereby the freshly germinated baobabs feel most comfortable at temperatures around 24 ° C. Even the older saplings in pots appreciate temperatures above 25 ° C. Temperatures above 30 ° C will get the baobabs going wild – then they sprout leaves without end. Cooler temperatures around 15 ° C to 18 ° C are good for the baobab resting phase, when they drop their leaves (e.g. winter in Europe). If it gets too cold for very young baobabs they can simply stop growing.
  • If you have a good feeling for your little baobab trees you can monitor their leaves: they clearly show when they need water as they start wilting slightly. Then, however, you need to pour water immediately. However, care should be taken with this method: be sure that the plants really need water and that their appearance is not the result of a beginning root rot. Because if they have caught root rot, their leaves might look a bit withered in the initial stage as well.

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