Young baobab length of dormancy

ChinampaTomMay 5, 2014

I grew a baobab (a. digitata) from seed last spring (April or May). Only one out of 12 seeds sprouted, but the little guy flourished. Kept it in a relatively sunny, but sheltered (from rain) location. We had a mild winter down here this year, unlike everyone else...not wet and not very cold...even my cacao was fine.

Anyway, back in Dec or January the baobab, about two feet tall, started to lose all its leaves and I moved it under a protective patio roof so it would stay dry from any cold, damp days that might happen, but with good southern exposure. I may have accidentally watered it lightly once in a while while tending to other plants...negligible splatterings at worst.

That being said, we're now here in May and no new leaf growth has occurred. The stems are still plump and vibrant, seemingly not dry and dead. I was aware of this species' dormancy, but, with the intention of perhaps hastening the reawakening process, I potted it up from a three- to a 10-gallon container with very coarse sand, perlite, pea gravel and compost mix. After transitioning I watered it copiously for about three days. Was this a mistake?

Should I keep drenching it every day for a period to simulate a rainy, warm season in Africa (the temps are already summer-like here)? Am I being too precocious with the process? I'm patient (as I was with my paulownia, which did eventually bounce back spectacularly last month), but I want to encourage this plant. I'm thinking of ordering more seeds and trying again, so even if this was a mistake, I can learn from it and not repeat.

Thank you in advance...

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Just a thought: our madagascar palm was dormant for about seven months, with infrequent watering, until one weekend we lightly misted the crown, and by the next week it was growing again. We were inspired by a practise at a succulent nursery here in NorCal - they told us that on order to propagate some succulents (eg alluaudia) they keep them in mist rooms. So maybe a bit of mist is not a bad thing.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2014 at 5:36PM
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Interesting, I will follow up on this. From a hydraulic standpoint, the temp changes in a desert from night to morning might allow a layer of moisture or dew to form, but not so much that it seeps below the surface....evaporating in the hot, dry early morning. Maybe this is why so many dry weather plants have a way for water to accumulate into them (some bromeliads/ pineapple and members of the asperagus family)...or that could just be highly imaginative pseudo-science on my part...haha. Thanks again.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2014 at 6:08PM
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In my experience my baobabs have taken a couple of years to settle on a good dormancy cycle. Here in SF I get about 6-7 months of dormancy starting in Sept and ending in March. I assume the reason for irregular dormancy is because I germinate the seeds at atypical and random times over the year. Where they grow in west Africa the rains typically come over the summer so it stands to reason that seedling tend to germinate in the middle of the summer.

I only water mine when they have leaves. I let the plant break dormancy on its own and then I start watering. Extra water is worse than not enough. They have a lot of reserves and are pretty tough. I'd stop watering it until it is ready for it.

Since you are in south Florida you should go looking for established baobabs growing there and see if there are seed pods. Where did you get your seeds?

There are several growing near Ft. Lauderdale and in the Miami area. Also most of the botanical gardens have them around there. If you see any I'd be really interested to hear if you can collect seeds. I've only got digitata and am looking out for other species.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2014 at 3:08PM
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Okay, I have two Baobabs that I did not grow from seed but are about 2 years of age. This was my first overwintering.

I was told to keep it indoors away from temps lower than 50F and to not water fro 3 months- did that. I too finally lost all leaves around January.

As soon as it warmed up I was told to start watering it twice a day every day until new leaves started. Did that. And a few weeks ago I started getting new Spring leaves.

So at this point... water, water, water, light, light, light. Maybe give it a little weak fertilizer too. It should start growing again soon.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2014 at 5:16PM
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Here's a Baobab for reference. The powder is Sevendust for pests.

One day it'll be so big I'll be forced to sell or trade it. :( It wont survive in the ground here I don't think.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2014 at 4:11PM
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