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Old 6th August 2008, 09:06 AM
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Default Growing a Date Palm from seed

Salaam everyone - I thought I would add to the list of exotic fruits/plants keen gardeners have been talking about on this really helpful website!

It's easier than you think (apart from cleaning the seed!) but the key word I will keep using is PATIENCE!

1. First thing I did was to buy a packet of dates from the supermarket - there are usually 2 types, deglet nour (smaller more chewy) and the Medjool (much larger and meatier) - choose the smaller ones as I've struggled to germinate the larger ones! With Ramadan coming up in Sept there should be plenty in the supermarkets.

2. Eat the dates and put the seeds into a plastic tub (or anything with a lid) of tepid water for 3 days to soften the fruit / flesh off the seeds to prevent them from going mouldy when they are sown in compost.
If any of the seeds float don't use them because they might not germinate.
Leave the tub on a window sill preferably with plenty of light and sun (see picture B) .
Change the water every 24hrs but before changing it cover the tub and give it a good shake for a few minutes - this helps loosen off more sugary flesh off the seeds.

3. After 3 days put the dates on a warm, light windowsill to dry off - 24hrs is more than enough.

4. Next the tricky bit, Scarification or cleaning - the seeds that i've successfully germinated were the ones that I scarified or cleaned thoroughly.
The method is simple, take a small sharp knife or a scalpel (I prefer scalpel becoz its easier to handle) and scrape off the medium brown outer layer (endocarp). Under this layer should be a whiter / lighter coloured layer (see picture C - cleaned dates on the right hand side). This will help water penetrate the bony shell of the seed which in turn will help it swell up hopefully speeding up germination by a week or two. Now I did say this was very tricky becoz of the size of the seed and having to use a sharp object between your fingers so be careful and patient! Also be careful not to cut into the seed as this will damage it.
Other safer ways are to rub fine sandpaper on the seeds or to place them in a lidded tub with small gravel / stones (see picture D) and shake it for a few minutes but neither is as effective.

5. Once cleaned place the seeds into a decent sized pot (at least 5-6 inches deep) with a 50 / 50 mixture of compost and sharp sand or any mixture with good drainage as palm roots tend to rot quickly if too much water is present. The seeds need to be planted no more than a couple of centimetres from the soil top.

6. Add a small amount of water and place in a warm spot such as sunny windowsill or conservatory and water once a week or when the soil is drying out but don't be tempted to over water them.
I've read many different ways (on the net) of trying to germinate palm seeds from placing in a tub in vermiculite (light sterile material) to wrapping in damp tissue and placing in the airing cupboard or a sealed bag - none of these worked for me - doesn't mean you shouldn't try them! Also some people say you need really high temperatures to germinate palm seeds - this isn't true - my seeds germinated at normal room temperature.

The compost / sand method is the only method that worked for me - maybe becoz I live in the colder north!

7. The long wait - I almost gave up! The first seeds germinated in about 3-4 weeks so PATIENCE is a must. There will be a small green leaf (see picture F) that takes about 2-3 weeks to become longer like a blade of grass (see picture). At this stage you should repot as the main root of the seedling will grow quite long (see picture) and a deeper pot will help to maintain strong growth. I waited too long to repot my seedlings and you can see how the main root has curled up!

Palm seedlings grow very slowly so don't expect rapid growth and only water when the soil is almost dry.

I've not put my seedlings outside yet - too scared! Maybe next summer I'll put them outside with the larger palms I have in the garden

I've now started trying different palm types such as the difficult windmill palm and with great success - the first seedling has come out last week (about 5 weeks to germinate - see picture G). Next I will retry the Medjool but the main problem I've had is the seeds going mouldy!

I'm waiting for the 2nd leaves to come out and I'll post more photos in the next few months as the palms grow bigger!
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Last edited by tahir_phoenix; 6th August 2008 at 09:11 AM. Reason: updating information
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Old 6th August 2008, 01:22 PM
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Tahir..

This is an excellent tutorial.. Did you ever consider a heated propagator to germinate them ( i dont have one myself at the moment) you have done really well with this variety i often wondered how best to germinate them and now i know,, its ramadhan soon aswell so i am sure i will have lots of date seeds at my disposal, i shall try some using your method...
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Old 6th August 2008, 01:45 PM
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Default Thanks!

Thanks for the feedback Riz - and yes the heated propagator is on the shopping list!

Also hopefully the missing pics should be attached of what the seedlings actually look like!
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Old 6th August 2008, 04:39 PM
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is that how big they are now ?

you probarley dont feed them anything at the moment as regards to nutes and fertz,

I am slowly getting into palms i was thinking of buying the tree fern (log) that you can plant in the garden, but i shall try to germinate some palm seeds over ramadhan, Keep the pics coming tahir

ps.. how big are the ones in your garden ?
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Old 7th August 2008, 08:29 AM
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yes - the leaves on these are now about 10cm and growing slowly! And yes you're right I don't give them anything other than plain water at the moment, maybe next summer (if they survive the winter) I'll start feeding them.

Tree ferns are great and I was tempted to get one but they next extra attention through our frosty winters/springs.

I've attached a few pics of the larger palms I have in the garden (to give an idea of scale thats a 7ft high fence behind them), as u can see I'm a little bit mad about palms - ps: ignore the messy garden, it needs a lot of work which I will inshallah start next year after I've finished working on other people's gardens!

I've also got a red abyssinian banana plant (ensete maurelli) which is currently growing like a rocket - 3 feet in 3 months!! I'll try and get some pictures posted next week.
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Old 8th August 2008, 09:39 PM
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Just spotted a date seed..thinking to do this myself! I shall go and soak the seed soon inshAllah..
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Old 9th August 2008, 02:01 PM
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Jackpot Discovered a ton of date seeds waiting for me soaked them, cleaning them as I go along (when I change the water) and I have no idea which type they are! got quite a few though so inshAllah at least one will germinate
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Old 11th August 2008, 11:06 AM
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Good luck and let me know how u get on with them!
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Old 11th August 2008, 01:55 PM
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Will do InshAllah. I have been cleaning them as I go along, but when it comes to the middle I'm slightly confused, shall I scarify (? - funny word that) that too? I won't damage anything if I do?

(Edit- scarify reminds me of scalariform! Xylem cell wall )

Last edited by ~Obsidian~; 12th August 2008 at 08:58 AM. Reason: Unbelievably dodgy grammar
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Old 12th August 2008, 08:51 AM
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The middle bit (around the groove) doesn't need too much scarification as the root will come from the other side of the seed.
Your right scarify is a strange word but i see it the same way as scarifying a lawn ie. raking the moss and weeds off the surface of the grass to give the new grass blades a chance.
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