If you live in a tropical location, such as Florida, you’ll want to consider growing a coconut tree, also known as coconut palm, in your backyard. When people see or think of this tree, they associate it with sunny beaches and warm seas.
This plant, however, is more than just an icon of the tropics. This wonderful tree has been a vital source of shelter, clothing, fuel, and food for thousands of years.
Coconut Tree History
Do coconuts grow on trees? They sure do! Everyone’s favorite coconut tree has been around for millennia, according to recent fossils found in New Zealand. As time progressed, coconut trees spread across all continents. Because the tree’s fruit is fairly light, the marine currents helped its spread across the globe.
According to some legends, Polynesian voyagers introduced coconuts to Hawaii. Today, you can even find these lustrous trees up north in Norway — that’s how widespread coconut trees are.
Name-wise, it’s believed that the Spanish and Portuguese explorers named the coconut plant el coco, referring to a mythical, hairy monster. We’re guessing the kernel and the hair probably inspired the explorers to deem the plant el coco. The name evolved to coconut because the plant bore nuts, much like other nut-bearing plants.
Throughout history, the native Hawaiians used coconut shells as food containers, toys for the kids, buttons, roof shingles, brooms, and musical instruments. Moreover, after they would delight in the sweet coconut juice and juicy meat, they’d use the fibers from the husk to make ropes they would later use to hold their man-made canoes together. For some time now, people have been asking how to grow coconut trees by themselves, adding to the overall popularity of the plant.
Coconut Nutritional Facts
Nutritionists and doctors will recommend coconut oil and coconut as a great source of good-for-your-body fat. The meaty part of the coconut is abundant in fiber and protein, iron, copper, manganese, and magnesium. In essence, by incorporating two tablespoons of fresh, shredded coconut, you are feeding your body the following nutrients:
- 35 calories
- 1 gram of fiber
- 1 gram of sugar
- 3 grams of fat
- 2 grams of carbohydrates
- Less than 1 gram of protein
Coconut Tree Varieties
If you’re wondering how to grow a coconut tree, you should also know that coconut trees come in two main types: tall and dwarf. In general, you’ll see coconuts in green, orange, or brown color, and the color depicts the level of ripeness.
Green coconuts are unripe and contain more water; brown coconuts are ripe coconuts that contain more meat than water. Orange coconuts are related to the King coconut tree variant, packing super-high levels of carotenoids, which gives them a unique orange color.
For those wondering how long a coconut tree takes to grow, the answer is 6–10 years. In general, dwarf coconut trees tend to produce more coconuts per year than tall coconut trees. Even though smaller in stature, dwarf coconut trees yield coconuts earlier than their taller counterparts. Those curious about how to plant coconut palms in their backyard without asking for help should go for dwarf coconut trees.
Many people wonder how coconuts grow, while others are more interested in the types of different coconut trees. Some of the most popular dwarf coconut trees include the following varieties.
Orange Dwarf Coconut
- Grows up to 16 feet
- Native to India
- Needs plenty of sun, medium water, and drained soil
- Produces plenty of meat and sweet liquid
Green Dwarf Coconut
- Grows up to 30 feet
- Native to Malaysia
- Needs a lot of sun, and drained soil, and can grow nicely without much water
- Produces more liquid than meat
- Grows up to 16 feet
- Native to the Philippines
- Needs plenty of sun, well-drained soil, and little moisture
- Produces practically no liquid and plenty of meat
As opposed to dwarf coconut trees, the tall ones live longer. Take a look at some of the most popular tall coconut tree varieties.
Jamaican Tall Coconut
- Grows up to 100 feet
- Native to Jamaica
- Needs drained soil, a lot of sunshine, and medium to heavy moisture
- Produces more liquid than meat
East Coast Tall Coconut
- Grows up to 90 feet
- Native to South/Southeast Asia
- Needs medium moisture, plenty of sun, and nicely-drained soil
- Produces a lot of oil, significantly more than meat
West Coast Tall Coconut
- Grows up to a 100 feet
- Native to India
- Needs hardly any irrigation, plenty of sunshine, and drained soil
- Produces more oil than meat
What is Special About the Coconut Tree?
Some people call the coconut tree the tree of life. The reason is that every part of this tree benefits both humans and animals.
Not convinced? Let’s take a look at the uses of each part of the coconut palm:
The fibrous root system of the coconut tree goes beyond supporting the tree. The Chinese use the root as a home remedy for common ailments. Also, some rural folks use this part of the tree as a natural dye.
The wood industry sees the coconut palm as a good alternative wood source, especially when hardwood supply becomes scarce.
Coconut lumber is more affordable than traditional hardwood. You could use the trunk for fires in a traditional kitchen. Alternatively, you could use the lumber as material for a home renovation project.
The central vein of the coconut tree holding the leaves together isn’t useless. You could tie a bunch of slim sticks together to make a broomstick. This handy household cleaning tool can keep the lawns and houses lawn.
The leaves of the coconut palm are also useful. Fishermen, for instance, weave the leaves to help propel their boats at sea and protect them from direct exposure to the sun.
If you’re creative enough, you could use the fronds of the coconut to make the following:
- Fish Traps
- Fruit Trays
The flesh of the coconut is edible dried or fresh. It’s rich in fiber and other nutrients.
You could use the fruit to make coconut milk if you’re allergic to milk or dairy products. You also have the option to use coconut milk to condition your hair.
Last but certainly not the least, you can turn the fruit into coconut flour, which some use as a gluten-free substitute.
What is the Difference Between Palm and Coconut Trees?
Differentiating palm tree vs. coconut tree can be tough for many. There are several species of palm trees but only one type of species can produce coconuts.
When distinguishing coconut and palm trees, remember that coconut trees are a type of palm trees — but not all palm trees bear coconuts.
The main difference between the two plants is the leaves. Coconut trees have wide leaves. On the other hand, palm trees feature fan-shaped leaves.
Identifying a Coconut Tree
If you come across palm and coconut trees and want to easily differentiate the two plants, take note of the following distinctive characteristics of the coconut:
- The top capped by the base and the growth of fronds is thick.
- Coconut palms have a textured and slender trunk.
- A coconut tree has a fibrous-covered fruit.
- The columnar trunk of a coconut palm is usually 15 to 17 feet long.
How to Grow a Coconut Tree
Botanically speaking, there are two types of coconut trees. The first one is the tall variety, which people plant commercially. The draft variety, which is approximately a third the size of the tall coconut palm, is difficult to grow and has a shorter lifespan. This plant, however, produces coconuts earlier than the tall variety.
When growing a coconut tree, start with a fresh coconut that still has the husk in it. The fruit should sound like it still has water when you shake it. Soak it in water for a few days.
Then, place the coconut in a container filled with well-draining potting soil. The container should be approximately 12 inches deep to let the roots grow properly. Plant the coconut point side down and leave a third of the fruit above the soil.
Next, transfer the container to a warm and well-lit spot. Coconuts thrive in areas that are 70 degrees Fahrenheit or warmer. Water the coconut frequently, but see to it that the container drains well.
Once the coconut palm has begun growing, you’ll need to do the following to keep it healthy:
- Keep the tree away from drafts and provide supplemental light if needed. Coconut palms are highly cold-sensitive.
- This plant requires regular and complete fertilizer. Purchase a fertilizer that offers basic and trace nutrients, such as magnesium, manganese and boron.
- Use a soaker hose to irrigate the soil around the coconut tree.
How to Get Coconuts from a Tree
First things first — never shake a coconut tree. Falling coconuts can injure people.
Instead, use a pole pruner with a length that lets you reach the coconut easily. Position the pole’s serrated blade just above the top of the fruit.
Then, cut through the thin stem with a sawing motion. Do this at a safe distance. Avoid nicking any fronds with the blade. Once the coconut falls, get the freed fruit quickly.
Growing a coconut tree on your property will benefit you, as practically every part of this plant is useful. The coconut palm is what you’d call a VIP — a Very Important Plant.
Coconut Tree Companion Plants
Planting a coconut tree in your backyard can add to the visual appeal and give you an abundance of coconuts each year. But, did you know there are specific plants you can plant to keep your coconut tree growing big and healthy?
Cocoa, nutmeg, pineapple, banana, and pepper plant are great coconut tree companions. The reason some plants make great allies in growing a healthy coconut tree is that they are great nitrogen-fixing plants, as well as great insect repellents.
White hydrangea, red and white clovers, fennel, lavender, and Queen Anne’s Lace make great insect repellents to keep the coconut growing worry-free. Nitrogen fixation is primarily important for the synthesis of proteins.
Fertilizing Coconut Trees
Fertilizing coconut trees is a method that shouldn’t be skipped as part of a regular maintenance schedule. If the tree isn’t fertilized, it will have difficulties maturing. You can use many macro and micronutrients to help the coconut seed stay strong and healthy.
Special fertilizers contain an NPK of 8-2-12, magnesium, boron, and other micronutrients. Use this compound to spread under the canopy at 1.5 lbs per 100 square feet of canopy ratio. Fertilize your coconut tree with this compound every one to three months when there have been no rains in the last 24 hours.
If you are wondering how to grow a coconut tree from a store-bought coconut, you should remember one thing: buy a coconut with a husk and ensure there’s the juice inside. When at home, place the coconut on the ground, see which way it naturally leans, and then plant it in that precise position inside a 3-gallon pot. A combo of 60% soil and 40% coarse sand will make great soil.
Storing and Preserving Coconuts
If you can’t find a way to use up all of the fresh coconuts you have at your disposal, there’s a way to keep them fresh by storing them properly. You can either refrigerate or deep freeze coconut chunks and shreds. Many of us shred the coconut meat before storing it away, but slicing it in small chunks is also OK.
Before storing away the coconut, separate the coconut water from the meat; in other words, never store an entire coconut unopened. Now, sliced or shredded, store it in air-tight containers, and you’ll have fresh coconuts in the fridge for 3-4 days.
More specifically, refrigerated coconut meat will stay fresh for 3-4 days, whereas coconut water is safe in the fridge for 2-3 days, no longer than that. You can use coconut meat for over 8 months if you deep-freeze it.
Potential Health Benefits of Coconut
Speaking of the health benefits of coconut, it’s worthy of mentioning that throughout history, people tended to use coconut as an inseparable part of traditional medicine to treat the following issues:
- As an antidote to certain poisons
- To lessen inflammation
- To eradicate bacteria
- To enrich the body with antioxidants
- To revert diarrhea
- To relieve fever, pains, etc.
As a great source of fatty acids, coconut will stimulate the body to burn fat and yield more energy. A lot of people compare coconut oil to avocado oil, but they differ in the fact that avocado oil mainly helps with monosaturated acids that are primarily good for maintaining optimal cholesterol levels. Use it in smoothies, pastries, butter lettuce salad dressings, curry recipes, etc. Fresh coconut is a great paleo or keto snack, too.
10 Amazing Tips and Precautions While Growing Coconut Tree
- Be creative with preserved coconut in recipes: Use shredded, sliced, sweetened, or raw coconut to add texture, aroma, and flavor to cookies, cakes, pies, granola bars, etc.
- Cultivating a coconut tree in the right location is key: Find an area with a lot of sunshine and loose, sandy soil. Avoid piling up soil around the trunk. And, always follow a step-by-step how to grow coconut trees — it will help with understanding cultivation, too.
- Considerations for soil type and quality: Choose alluvial, laterite, red sandy loam, coastal sandy, and reclaimed soils. Each should have a pH from 5.2 to 8.0. Any soil with a 3.9 feet depth and solid water-retaining capacity works well for cultivating coconuts.
- Watering requirements for coconut trees and how to avoid over-watering: Coconut trees need anywhere from 15-30 gallons of water daily. Stick to these requirements to avoid over-watering your tree.
- Pest control methods for common coconut tree pests: Swab the base up to 2m in height with 5% nee oil, or spray 1% copper sulfate or 80% cashew shell oil to keep pests under wrap.
- Pruning and maintenance techniques for healthy growth: Prune the coconuts every 3 to 4 months. Prune any smaller ones to prevent them from turning into a hazard when falling. Be careful when removing the fronds — leaving the green ones is best. Manuring is another maintenance technique that helps vegetative growth, flowering, bearing, and massive yields. Use up to 66 lbs a year per tree. You can find organic manures like bonemeal, compost, farmyard manure, neem cake, etc.
- Protective measures to prevent coconut tree damage during storms or high winds: Protecting coconut trees is as important as growing coconuts. Use windbreaks, wind walls, and windscreens to ensure your tree stays tall in the face of wind storms.
- Best practices for harvesting coconuts safely and efficiently: Look for heavy and big coconuts with a light-brown husk. Check the green ones, too — if the husk is hard and there are a few brown flecks, it’s ripe and ready for harvesting. Also, mind the shape of the coconut; dome-shaped coconuts are usually ripe for harvesting.
- Precautions to take while climbing coconut trees to avoid injury: Always use an arborist rope to climb your coconut tree. To amp up the safety, wear a helmet and never leg spikes — they might cause damage to the tree and become a fertile ground for bacteria and fungi to form. You can also use a power tiller-operated ladder or other climbing equipment and have a knife to cut off the ones you want to harvest.
- Importance of safety measures when working with coconut trees: You can never be too safe around coconut trees, especially if you are growing a tall one. Being safe when working with coconut trees is as important for the climber as it is for those nearby. Never tap on the bunch if people are under the tree — the nut is heavy and may fall onto someone, causing serious injuries.
In Conclusion: Coconut Tree Growing Dos and Don’ts
Whether you want to spruce up the look of your backyard with a dwarf coconut tree or a tall coconut palm, you’ll have access to your fresh coconuts just in time when they ripen.
So, how do you grow a coconut tree, exactly? Well, it takes some soaking, waiting, some fertilizing, and some more waiting. If you’ve been wondering how to plant a coconut tree, we hope our article has helped you. If you live in a sunny area and follow our tips and advice, you can grow coconut palm trees quickly. With a little help from our tips and guidelines on how to plant a coconut palm tree seed, the process will be as easy as planting a flower.
1) Where do coconut trees grow?
Growing a coconut tree is possible in any place with a tropical climate. Coco palm plants are found in the Caribbean, South America, India, Southeast Asia, Africa, Indonesia, Australia, the Pacific Islands, and the southern parts of North America.
2) How tall does a coconut tree grow?
By growing coconut palm trees, you can expect to see them grow as high as 60 and 80 feet, with leaves measuring a length of close to 15 feet.
3) Are coconut trees good for the environment?
A coconut tree plant is particularly beneficial as a carbon reservoir, boasting fantastic carbon-retaining properties. Coconut seeds planted in large areas will grow into a young coconut tree that will help enclose carbon.
4) Can coconut trees survive in cold weather conditions?
Planting coconut seeds is best done at over 32°C (89°F). So, can you plant a coconut in Oregon? Probably not.
5) What is the difference between coconut and palm trees?
Coconut trees grow coconuts, and not every palm tree grows fruit.