Whether you want to appreciate their magnificent size and beauty or enjoy their fruits, growing coconut trees at home is never a bad idea.
Being one of the most sought-after tropical plants, they demand little to no care and grow practically anywhere with a warm and even dry environment. But while the process is easy, it still requires several things to make it possible.
That’s why we want to teach you how to grow a coconut tree. Even if you’ve never grown any plant before, you’ll learn everything you need to know from this article.
We’ve assembled every piece of advice as well as all the general information about coconut trees you need. Without much further ado – let’s get into it!
What is a Coconut Tree?
Every coconut tree you’ve seen in the wild (beach or otherwise) is a “Cocos nucifera.” This species belongs to the palm family. It produces a coconut that can be eaten (its pulp) and drunk (the water). It’s also known as the “Three-Generation Tree,” implying that it can sustain a family for three generations.
Its most well-known appearance is the slightly curved and large trunk with a grey-bone tone, green to yellow palms on top, and shallow roots. And of course, the green or yellow coconuts in the upper part of the trunk can’t miss.
Each coconut is a seed, but it’s also a fruit. Without the coconut, it wouldn’t be able to propagate. These fruits come after several years, though. Most coconut trees only produce them after 4 to 7 years of growth.
On top of that, they are native to tropical islands. They originally grew in the Pacific. But they were eventually taken all around the world. Regardless of where you find a coconut tree, it can grow up to 100 feet. The palms can reach 20 feet in length. And the coconuts can weigh up to 8 pounds each.
The best about the coconut? It grows easily. As long as you can ensure proper conditions (warmth and humidity), it will thrive. More excitingly, a regular coconut tree can last over 80 years.
Types of Coconut Tree
While you most likely only have one type of coconut tree in your mind, it’s worth knowing that you can actually find several variations. They differ mostly in size and type of fruit. Depending on your garden needs, you may find different species more or less appealing. Here’s more about them:
East Coast Coconut
One of the most popular types of coconut trees in the world is the East Coast species. They’re easy to spot because their trunks tend to be relatively straight with a light grey-white tone. It can grow to 90 feet at its max.
This one requires well-draining soil but still requires a decent amount of moisture. But it can grow in dry soils without problems, even with little rain. In that case, it will barely produce fruits. Naturally, it will fruit at its 7th or 8th year.
West Coast Coconut
The tallest coconut tree there is the West Coast Coconut. This one can grow as much as 100 feet (or more). The trunk tends to have a light-brown color. In contrast with the East Coast coconut, this one has a slightly more curved trunk.
Of course, it also produces coconuts after 6 or 7 years. More importantly, it requires a lot of sunlight (at least 8 hours a day) to thrive. Its humidity needs are moderate. Yet, it also grows well in dry soils. With proper irrigation, however, it grows farther and produces more and bigger coconuts.
King Coconut Tree
If you aren’t willing to grow more than 20 feet of tree in your home, you can always opt for a small variety. In that case, few are as practical as the King Coconut. Yet, it has the same requirements as its larger cousins: moderate humidity in well-draining soil. It can handle dry environments if needed.
It generally grows to about 16 feet and produces yellow-to-orange coconuts with the sweetest taste (mainly the water) of all coconuts. This one, however, starts to flower and fruit after only 3 years. It can produce up to 65 coconuts yearly.
Another small but slightly more resistant coconut tree you can get is the Fiji Dwarf. As the name says, it is a dwarf tree that grows no more than 25 feet. It requires the same for growth, yet it has a slightly thicker trunk than most coconut trees.
This variety can produce coconuts as well. These nuts are often green and with a mild flavor and grow only after 4 or 5 years of life. Despite that, the plant tends to be one of the shortest-lived trees, as it often dies within the first 40 years of lifespan.
Another large and thick coconut tree is the Jamaican species. In contrast with other species, this one has dense and dark-green foliage. It also produces coconuts and can grow to 100 feet tall given the ideal conditions (a lot of moisture, well-drained soil, and over 8 hours of sun exposure a day).
Other things that set it apart include the thick trunk. Its base tends to be broad and swollen. And because it is one of the oldest species of the coconut tree, it’s also known to last over 80 years without problems. It can also produce over 100 coconuts per year.
What Does a Coconut Tree Need?
Now that you’re aware of the different types of coconut trees you may encounter, let’s take a look at their requirements:
Space & Pot
It is not a secret that coconut trees are enormous. For that reason, you won’t be able to grow them in the typical 5-inch pot like other plants. Instead, you will need something of at least 3 to 10 gallons of soil capacity. That’s why we recommend planting in a garden bed instead.
In case you’re planting in a pot, make sure it is at least 10 inches deep and wide enough for two coconuts to fit inside. For the garden, make sure it is at least 20 inches apart from other plants (unless you’re thinking of cutting them off later on).
Soil & Fertilizer
There’s no specific soil for coconut trees to grow in. As you may guess, they like sandy soils like the ones on beaches. But they also thrive in acidic potting soil, heavily manured soil, and even humid, tropical grounds.
Generally, we recommend mixing a bit of potting soil with sand, vermiculite, or perlite. A cactus or succulent mix may also get the job done. Some mulch can also be helpful.
As for fertilizer, you won’t need much either. It thrives with mild fertilizers in liquid forms. You can start by adding just a bit to the soil mix in granules. Eventually, you can spray liquid fertilizer every month or two.
Be sure it is a fertilizer rich in phosphorous, manganese, boron, and nitrogen. These are the nutrients most palm trees have problems with. A palm-tree fertilizer will work too.
Water & Humidity
As a tropical plant, the coconut tree requires a lot of water. It is so thirsty that it loves growing on beaches. That’s why you should keep its soil humid (but not damp). For that, it’s recommended to water once or twice a week.
This water is not only from the soil, though. The plant requires a humid environment to thrive (thus, it loves growing close to water bodies). For that, you can always use a humidifier if growing indoors. This also makes it an ideal choice for closed terrariums and greenhouses (if you take it out afterward).
Light & Air
Nothing is more critical for a coconut palm than a lot of sunlight. Even though growing it indoors typically has no problems, you need to ensure at least 8 hours of sun exposure a day. In the wild, coconut trees under shade tend to not grow to their full, sometimes dying for lack of nourishment.
Similarly, they require wind to thrive. This wind gives the trunk and leaves humidity they use for growth as well. It helps them reach higher when they’re well-ventilated. If you’re growing indoors, ensuring some air could also be helpful.
Temperature & Environment
Lastly, coconut trees require warm environments to thrive. This often means temperatures between 70 and 95 degrees. Anything lower than that could cause growth issues (sometimes not growing at all).
Even then, most coconut trees may thrive in cold seasons that go below 65 degrees. But this is only for a few days or weeks. Consistent low temperatures may cause issues over time.
An ideal environment would be a tropical area where temperatures don’t change much throughout the year, and it can receive proper sun and wind exposure.
How to Grow a Coconut Tree: 9 Steps to Follow
You already know the main requirements of most coconut trees. But you still don’t know how to go from seed to a large and sturdy coconut tree. Below, we’ll teach you all that in just 9 steps – check them out:
1. Pick the Ideal Seed
First and foremost, you need a coconut seed. As you may guess, the seed is the coconut itself. Regardless of the species, this coconut needs to have water inside as you shake it. Pretty much any coconut that falls from a tree and has water inside will work as a seed.
But it’s worth knowing that the ideal seed is a young one. The brown and hairy coconut you often get in supermarkets and see in commercials means it’s old, and its husk (tough shell) has been removed. You don’t want those, you should only use yellow, green, or orange-husked coconuts instead.
2. Prepare the Seed for Germination
The coconut is a seed, but not like other seeds. This one needs to germinate before you can plant it. And for that, you’ll need to pass it through a specific process.
This process accelerates the germination. You’ll have to place the coconut in water for about 4 days (completely submerged) and then inside a plastic bag with a cup of water for no less than 3 months. It should receive a lot of warmth when in the bag and in complete darkness.
The focus is to simulate the natural germinating conditions (moist soil, underground, and warm environment).
3. Wait for the Seed to Germinate
This seed will take a lot of time to germinate. But after 4 weeks or so, you should start seeing a small sprout coming off the coconut. This means it is growing roots.
We recommend wrapping the coconut once the roots start to grow. Use damp paper. This will simulate a wet soil environment. Keep it in the plastic bag until the first green roots come out.
In some cases, the green roots can take to 9 months to sprout. When this green root (the plant itself) comes out, you can proceed to plant it.
4. Prepare the Soil
Like we said before, there’s no ideal soil for coconut trees. But we still recommend preparing the best mix possible to ensure proper growth.
For that, we recommend a half of potting soil, half sand, and a bit of gravel or vermiculite to finish. This should ensure proper humidity and enough aeration for the roots to breathe and get nourished.
But overall, you can use any well-drained soil (cactus or succulent mix) as long as it is loose and not damp (too moist). That will help the coconut thrive.
Pour it into the pot or prepare the hole in the garden, and that’s it. You should be ready to start planting almost right away.
5. Plant the Seed
With the seed germinating and the soil ready, it’s time to plant it. As easy as it sounds, you just need to place the nut in the soil in a way that the small green sprout sticks out along with a third of the seed itself.
If you’re planting in a pot, it should fit loosely. This is to prevent the pot from breaking as the coconut starts growing big roots. And if you’re planting in a garden, just make sure there’s enough space around it for further growth.
6. Keep it Warm & Watered
Now it’s time to wait. The germinating seed will take anywhere from 6 months to 1 year to grow about 1 to 4 feet. Given the right conditions, it may take less than that.
Either way, we recommend keeping in temperatures no less than 75 degrees Fahrenheit. If you can ensure temperatures between 80 and 95-degrees Fahrenheit, that would be even better.
Apart from the ideal temperature, you need to ensure proper humidity. Keep watering once a day in arid areas. But if you live in a tropical place, watering once a week is more than enough. If it rains a lot, then watering once every two weeks will suffice.
The focus is to water when the soil gets dry. Even though palms are drought-resistant, it is wise to prevent them from going thirsty.
7. Repot or Transplant If Necessary
If you nurture the coconut properly in the perfect environment, it will grow a lot. This often means 4 feet or more in a year. And in that case, you will have to repot or transplant it (if you started in a small container).
Luckily, most palms are very transplanting-friendly. Meaning, as long as you don’t cut the root while transplanting or repotting, the coconut should be fine. Try to find a large enough place for the plant to thrive, and you won’t have a single problem.
8. Fertilize After Some Time
Once a year has passed, the coconut will need some fertilization. By now, the tree has eaten every molecule in the soil and everything inside its seed. Now, it’s time to fertilize it manually.
We recommend using a liquid fertilizer, preferably diluted. The more magnesium, manganese, and boron the fertilizer has, the better. You can keep fertilizing every month or two to keep the tree thriving.
9. Harvest the Coconuts
After 4 to 7 years of growth, the coconut should start producing its first fruits. Be aware, though, the fruits start as flowers and will take anywhere from 6 to 12 months to become full edible coconuts.
When that happens, you can take them off the top. Or if you prefer, just let them fall. Either way, you’ve already learned how to grow a coconut tree and enjoy its fruits. There’s nothing else to learn.
It takes a lot of time, some work, and a lot of dedication. But once you see that gigantic coconut tree hovering higher than any other plants in your neighborhood, you won’t regret a single second or drop of sweat it took.
Now that you know how to grow a coconut tree, it’s time to put all that knowledge into work. We are pretty sure it will be an entirely satisfying experience. And more importantly, it will be a lot of fun once the coconuts start falling around.
Are you ready to get those coconut flying? Don’t waste any time and start now. The sooner, the better!