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Care of a coconut palm tree houseplant

Updated November 21, 2016

Perhaps no tree recalls tropical beaches and warm sun like the coconut palm tree. From the unique palm fronds to the distinctive flavour of the coconuts they produce, coconut palms often bring to mind fond memories of vacations and getaways. Many gardeners in recent years have desired to bring a little bit of the beach home with them by keeping coconut palms indoors as houseplants. This is relatively easy to do, but gardeners ought to have the right set of expectations before planting the tree.

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Don't expect coconuts next year

Though many individuals might not think it, coconut palms are especially slow growth trees. According to Cooky Coconuts, an online retailer specialising in coconut palms, it often takes many months for a planted coconut to even sprout. Even then, your coconut palm will likely not produce coconuts for another 7 years or so. Therefore, before you envision yourself making Pina Coladas from your tree in the middle of a cold climate winter, be sure you have the right expectations. Your plant will likely be an indoor/outdoor plant, and you'll need to plant it in a sizeable vessel. Currently, the coconut palms being grown indoors by many gardeners are the same species that grow to 18 m (60 feet) or more in the tropics; in other words, the tree you raise will grow to fill the pot it is planted in. Decide early on whether you intend to do the back-breaking work of transplanting a heavy coconut every couple of years into a larger pot, or if you are simply going to start big and let the tree grow into it.

Set up the pot

Coconut palms in their natural habitats can live for many years; in some cases, according to Cooky Coconuts, they have remained in families for three generations. However, indoors they are less likely to thrive (or produce coconuts, for that matter). They can grow reasonably well inside, but will need a few care specifics. Even if you do everything right, remember that you are taking a plant native to the tropics and relegating it to a relatively small pot inside. Don't expect similar results. With that in mind, fill your pot with rocks in the bottom for drainage. Then, as the Garden Tips and Advice Database of Britain states, use "a well-drained sandy soil rich in lime and potash." Watering your palm is important, but overwatering can be lethal, particularly in the early stages. The coconut is highly susceptible to rotting early on, so be sure the soil has good drainage. Water frequently, but with less water to prevent soggy soil.

Substitute good soils for fertilisers

Fertilisers may help, but the best kinds for coconuts tend to be manure based. Since this may not be a popular decision for the home, defer to the soil recommendations from the Garden Tips and Advice Database (see Resources). Sandy loam with potash may be the wisest additive you can provide your coconut palm.

Be patient

Ultimately, coconut palms can be raised successfully indoors. As long as you don't expect the same fruitfulness and lifespan that the tree might achieve in its native habitat, those planted indoors can provide a unique feel to your home, especially during dark and dreary winters. Use patience in the early months while your coconut sprouts, and water with caution. The normal warmth of your home should suffice to keep the coconut healthy and growing. The plant should perform quite well until its size catches up with the capacity of the pot you plant it in. At this point, you can expect it to dwindle, but this only comes after many years of beautiful indoor growth.

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