Plant Care Guide

Seedlings.jpg-crop2.jpg

Care of a coconut
palm tree

Coconut palm (Cocos nucifera) is a tropical fruit tree. According to the University of Florida, coconuts have been known to float across oceans before landing and rooting on distant beaches. Coconut palms are easily grown from seed and will bear fruit after the age of 6. Once established, these trees need very little care.

Things You'll Need

  • Shovel
  • Peat
  • Sand
  • Topsoil
  • Mulch
  • Palm fertilizer
  • Sharp knife
  • Pole-handled pruning saw

Once your coconut tree has started growing, you need to do a few things to help keep it healthy.

  •  First, water the coconut tree frequently. As long as the soil drains well, you really can’t water it too often. If you decide to repot your coconut tree, remember to add sand or vermiculite to the new soil to keep the water draining well.
  • Second, growing coconut palms are heavy feeders that require regular, complete fertilizer. Look for a fertilizer that provides both the basic nutrients plus trace nutrients like boron, manganese, and magnesium.
  • Third, coconut palms are very cold sensitive. If you live in an area that gets cold, your coconut plant will need to come inside for the winter. Provide supplemental light and keep it away from drafts. In the summer, grow it outdoors and make sure you place it in a very sunny and warm spot.

Coconut trees that are grown in containers tend to be short lived. They may only live for five to six years, but even though they are short lived, growing coconut trees is a fun project.

Amend soil for coconut palms to a depth of 2 feet with a shovel if it does not drain well when you pour a bucket of water on it. Mix equal parts peat, sand and topsoil for a loose, nutrient-rich mix. Coconut palms will quickly die if left in standing water or are planted in soggy soil.

Water palms every few days in the first growing season after planting. After one year, water only during dry periods that last a week or more. Spread a 3-foot ring of mulch at a depth of 3 inches, 8 inches from the trunk of the palm. Mulch reduces competition from weeds, holds moisture near the roots in times of drought and regulates soil temperature.

Fertilize palm trees every three months at a rate of 1 lb. of formulated palm fertilizer per 100 square feet of canopy. Water deeply after application for best results. Watch the coconut palms for yellowing of the oldest leaves or throughout the canopy, usually an indication of nitrogen deficiency. If you see this, make sure you're using the correct proportion of fertilizer for the size of the tree.

Prune away wilted leaves with a sharp knife only when they are completely dead, brittle and brown all the way down the stem. Cutting even a partially green stem can cause injury to the palm. Leave a half-inch stub when you prune, to avoid injury to the trunk bark.

Harvest coconuts with care. If you are not an experienced climber, use a pole-handled pruning saw to cut coconut stems. Never climb coconut palm with tree-climbing spikes because they will puncture the bark and provide entry for insects and fungus.

Don't plant fast-growing coconut palms where they can overhang your house or driveway. It takes a long time for a coconut to grow, but it can cause serious property damage when it drops from the tree.