Grow palm trees from seed

La Palmeraie gb

Unfortunately, the answer to this frequently asked question is ‘no’. Palms cannot be propagated using the techniques commonly used for other plants in the garden. Taking a cutting will therefore not result in a new palm tree. Palms can only be grown from seed. Certain species do however form several foothills such as the Chamaerops. Such a offshoot can be cut off if it has sufficient roots of its own. But without its own root system, this operation is pointless.



The palms sold in the garden centres are often several grouped individuals planted in one pot. This is because several seeds have been germinated on a small surface. The seedlings were then potted together. The best-known examples of this are the Areca and the Kentia. So every stem is in fact a separate palm. When each stem gets enough space, each palm would grow into an adult palm with a nice trunk. But of course it never comes to that point in the living room.

For the enthusiast it is possible to separate these individual palms from each other. As soon as each palm gets sufficient space of its own, the growth will increase considerably. To illustrate the palms below. It concerns the Washingtonia robusta. The palms in the picture are equally aged (22 months). The palm on the right side has however shared a pot with a second one. As a result, it remained considerably smaller. Below you will find a step-by-step explanation of how the two palms (right) were divided.

How to separate palm trees

Step 1

Carefully remove the palms from the pot. The roots have grown together enormously. Pulling the root ball apart or cutting it would cause too much damage causing the palm to die.

Step 2


Rinse the root ball with lukewarm running water until all potting soil has disappeared. This also causes the roots to detach from each other. Unravel the entangled roots where necessary.

Step 3

Pot each palm separately. Try not to damage the roots. Provide plenty of water to ensure that the earth is properly coupled to the roots and the remaining air disappears.

© La Palmeraie

Palm Seed Germination

By Ken Neugent
Nursery Manager

We’ve all seen palms loaded with seeds, ranging in size from those of the amazing double coconut (Lodoicea maldivica), the largest seeds of the plant kingdom to tiny grains just a few millimeters across, like those of the lady palm (Rhapis excelsa). Their shape can be round, oval, or even irregular. The sight of all these seeds with their tempting potential may have led you to think about trying to germinate them.

The method we use to sprout our palm seeds at the Garden’s nursery has proved itself over time, and you may enjoy trying it. Whatever species you choose, you should start with fresh seed. Seed should be collected as soon as it is ripe, when the fruit is showing some color or has fallen freshly from the tree. The number of seeds you collect is not as an important factor as the freshness, as freshness will almost guarantee good results.

Palm seeds develop within some form of fleshy fruit which needs to he removed from the seed before you attempt to plant it. In nature this cleaning is done when the fruit is eaten and passes through the gut of a bird or animal. The removal of the fleshy part of the fruit increases your odds of good results by eliminating the chance of fungus growth and subsequent contamination of the seeds.

In some species the fleshy fruit can simply be rubbed away from the seed under running water. In others, however, a knife will be needed to gently separate the fruit from the seed. Be careful to avoid damaging the seed coat that protects the interior of the seed. You don’t want to provide a way for insects or fungus to enter your seed.

Caution should be used in cleaning seeds as some contain an irritant that may aggravate your skin. You may want to wear rubber gloves when cleaning fishtail palms (Caryota), royal palms (Roystonea), and Chamaedorea.

Palm seeds tend to have a short term viability after maturing, especially if any type of drying is involved. At the nursery, we soak seeds in water for 24 hours after we receive them. Dried seeds germinate erratically or not at all. To test your seed for viability you can perform the float test. Good quality seeds tend to sink in water, while seeds which are not fully developed or are pest-infected will float. Mind you, this is only a test, as some seeds float as a means of dispersal. But if some seeds float while others of the same species sink, the floaters are likely to be infertile.

After soaking, we treat the seeds with a 10% solution of bleach (one part bleach to ten parts water). We dip the seeds into the solution to disinfect them and then rinse thoroughly.

The endosperm, which is the major portion of a palm seed, contains the necessary food tissue for the young seedling. Within the endosperm is the plant embryo itself. If the seed is allowed to dry, the endosperm may shrivel and lose contact with the seed coat. This prevents the embryo from absorbing any water through the seed coat from the soil.

At the nursery a “community pot” method is used, planting many of the same species in each pot. We use common clay pots with enough depth to allow for proper root development. The seeds are spaced far enough apart to allow for future growth.

The soil used is our “nursery mix” but any good soil mix that is well drained with moisture-holding ability is fine. Your goal is a happy medium – dampness is vital for seed germination, but overly wet soil leads to rotting, and allowing seeds to dry out is a disaster.

How deep to sow the seeds is open for debate. At the nursery we plant our seeds rather shallowly, often with the top of the seeds exposed above the soil. Do use enough soil to prevent the seeds from drying out.

Palm seeds require high temperatures, usually 70° to 100° F. to properly germinate. We have these kind of temperatures during summer here in South Florida, but if you collect your seed in any other season, some way must be found to keep them warm when planted. One method is to use some form of bottom heat.

The amount of light is not a factor in germination. Any shady location will do, as long as the requirements of temperature and moisture can be maintained. The temptation to locate your seeds in the sun should be avoided. While this will give you the needed high temperatures, drying out will be inevitable. Remember, seeds which fall from the parent tree in nature normally germinate in shady locations.

Palms are well-known for their erratic behavior in germinating. Some take weeks to show any sign of sprouting. Different species will give different results. But follow the guidelines above, be patient, and the sequence of cues generated internally from the embryo and externally from the seed environment will result–eventually–in a majestic palm.

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Growing palm trees from seeds is a long process but it is doable. (Photo David Grunfeld, The Times-Picayune)

QUESTION: There are some big palm trees near my house, and I was wondering if they would grow from seeds. I picked up some seeds from underneath the trees and need to know how to plant them. — Jimmy Mentz

ANSWER: Sure, you can try growing palm trees from seed. It’s a long process, but it’s doable. Thoroughly remove all of the fleshy fruit from the seeds, and then plant the seeds in containers of potting soil. Plant the seeds just below the soil surface, very shallow. Keep the potting soil moist but not soggy, and keep the pots warm (indoors). Light is not important at this stage. It may be weeks, months or over a year before the seeds come up. Just be patient. When the seeds come up, move the pots to bright light. As the years go by, shift the young palms to larger containers as they outgrow the one they are in. Eventually, when they are large enough, plant them in May.

Send gardening questions to [email protected]

germinated nut sprouted nuts

In order to raise your own oil palm seeds yourself, you need to get the high yield seed from the Nigerian Institute for Oil Palm Research (NIFOR) or any other places you can find it and make it germinate.

Note you can’t just take the seed and plant directly on the field like your maize seed. The oil palm seed required special care and treatment because if you do not take care of the seeds, it will take several years before they germinate. In order to ensure that your oil palm seed germinate fast, the seeds should be kept in a very hot room. Doing this we make the seeds to germinate in about 90 to 100 days (smiling).

Do you have the patient to wait for over 3months? If yes, then continue reading.

germinated nut

When the seeds have germinated, you transfer them into small plastic container with black loam manured soil. They will grow new leaf every month. The young seedlings will stays in the plastic container for about 4 to 5 months. When the seedling begins to bring out new leaf with two points you can then start transplanting to the nursery.

In raising oil palm seeds, you germinate it first in the pre nursery before transplanting to the nursery. The seedlings will stay in the nursery for 1 year before transplanting it to the field.

By that time, they will have about 15 green leaves. This is when you can finally transplant them into your prepared farm land.

Is it compulsory to wait till the seedlings have 15green leaves? Well, doing so we reduce mortality rate (probability of seedling drying out when you move it to field and also prevent transplanting shock)

The overall period it will take before the seedlings are transplanted into the farm is 15 to 17 months old.

You don’t really need to go through all this stress when you can just go to the agricultural institute to buy already prepared seedling at about N300 per seedling, before it was usually sold for N120. If you are planting 10,000 palms, you will have to have 300 x 10,000 = N 3 Million. So, germinating your own seedling is less costly but takes some times.

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