About six or seven year ago, Grant and I went in on a few seed packs from eBay to grow bonsai plants.  Among these was the rare African (Adansonia) Baobab, which is apprently pretty hard to germinate.  The Baobab tree is known for its excessively large swollen trunks used to store water for 9 months of the year. This characteristic is very appealing for bonsai.  We planted 5 of the 6 seeds in the pack, but to our disappointment, none of them grew. 

Last summer¬†when I cleaned out my drawer for the move, I came across the lone remaining seed.¬† Despite the age of the seed, I decided it was still worth a try, so I made preparations to plant it.¬† I soaked the seed in water for 48-hours.¬† Then I planted the seed about two inches deep in normal potting soil.¬† I watered it everyday for about 2 weeks with little¬†anticipation that it’d actually grow.¬† To my surprise, it finally sprouted.

Baobab BonsaiI nutured the plant for the remainder of the summer into late September.¬†¬†At that¬†point I stopped watering it and stored it in a dark place isolated place, so it would remain undisturbed while I was at school–or so I thought.¬† I came home from school on spring break after the plant had been moved to the new house, only to find the tree laying the ground, pulled out of the pot,¬†with the top half¬†shredded, kudos to Samson (our Jack Russell Terror).

Again I found myself nuturing this plant with little hope that it’d come to life.¬† Sure enough, as you can see in the picture on the left, it is doing very well.¬† You can see the little portion of the trunk beyond the leaves that has died as a result of Samson’s attack.¬† I look forward to the Baobab getting a little taller.¬†¬†I used normal potting soil and I water the tree every day.¬†

The pot I used is from the Bonsai-Rosade Studio in New Hope, PA.  Though unapparently from the street, nestled deep in the woods this bonsai store has a lot of really nice trees both for sale and for show.  They offer classes and pots at pretty reasonable prices.  I will definately be going back.  The stand is actually a candle holder that I picked up from Pier1 years ago for a few dollars.

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4 Responses to “Summer Plant Projects Part I – Baobab Bonsai”  

  1. 1 Grant Pitel

    Excellent article.

  2. 2 Anton

    I have several the tallest _40cm tall as thick as a mans fist sorry cant put a pick for you. depending on where you stay they like lots of strong lite some direct sunlite and water every 3 to 5 days

    soil must never dry out completely keep some leaves or some of the arteficial type of pot filler that keeps moisture on top of potting sand not potting soil.

    kelp nutrition once every 2 months is fine


  3. 3 Alberto

    Hi Adam Pitel,

    Your African Baobab story is similar to mine. I tried to plant some Baobab seeds 2 plus years ago with no success. I attributed this to my not being a pro-level bonsai-ist. I ‘just do regular houseplants’ but have been lately growing easy to grow trees from seeds from my NYC apartment (lime, avocado)

    Well, exactly one year ago July 2008 I planted two remaining African Baobab seeds and each of them sprouted within a two week period. I planted each in potting soil only; one in a 5-6 inch tall clay pot and the second transplanted into a 3 inch tall temporary household container after I clipped off the one month old seedling’s main root and cut all of its leaves by 50-60%. Both have been alive and very green for a full year now and I’ve just kept them in the window getting combo of sunlight filtered thru white sheer curtains and direct sunlight and water at least 1-2 weekly.

    the one that was clipped is 9 inches tall with leaves about 1/4 the size of the larger sibling. The larger unclipped baobab is 14inches tall with good sized leaves. I keep reading everywhere that baobabs shed their leaves however, mine have not in their 12 months of life. Both have just one main stem but no branch outgrowth yet. The smaller one is not growing upwards because I clipped the main stem at the 9 inch height. However, the 14 inch tall which is not clipped has not grown upwards for a good 8 months but both look pretty healthy. I took a chance and once again clipped the leaves of the smaller one about 2-3 months ago by one half.
    The clipped leaves have retained their green and their are now 2 additional smaller leaves that have sprouted since. What should I do at this point? thanks.

  4. 4 Julia

    Hi there!

    Brought some Baobab seeds from Madagascar in july this year. Planted them and they are already growing pretty tall (i Have not pruned them yet).
    But I read that you would like yours to grow a bit taller?
    I realized that when I’m home and water it maybe every third day it does not grow so fast, but when I’m traveling away for 6 days and come back home its so much taller already. So I don’t think they need so much water.
    I not a pro in this, this is the first plant I have ever planted, and now I’m so exited, feels like I have two babies to take care of =)

    Anyway, I guess you posted this for years ago, so maybe my input is not so much for a help, but you never know.

    How is you baobab today?

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