The coconut palm plant (Cocos nucifera) is characterized by a tall, gray-brown, slightly curved single trunk, sprawling green palm fronds, and, of course, coconuts. It also loves lots of warmth, sun, and humidity. This can be difficult but not impossible to replicate for an indoor palm.
The palm has a moderate growth rate. Outdoors it will mature and reach its full coconut production in around 15 to 20 years, and it can live for decades beyond that. Indoors these palms are generally short-lived, they remain small, and they often don’t produce fruit. They can be planted at any time of year.
|Common Name||Coconut palm|
|Botanical Name||Cocos nucifera|
Can You Grow Coconut Palm Inside?
If you're looking to transport yourself to the beach—even if only in your mind—then consider growing a coconut palm (Cocos nucifera) indoors. But a word of warning: This plant is fairly finicky to keep unless you live in its natural climate.
Native to islands in the Western Pacific, the coconut palm is probably what comes to mind for many when you say the phrase "palm tree." These trees thrive in warm, humid environments around the world. Thus, it's important to give your palm as much sunlight and warmth as possible when growing it indoors, along with ample humidity and moist but not soggy soil. Coconut palms also need regular fertilization.
In addition, you will have to repot your palm as it grows. It's also ideal to bring it outside as much as possible in warm weather, so it can receive direct sunlight. The palm generally does not require much pruning to maintain its form, but you can remove dead or diseased fronds as needed.
How to Grow Coconut Palm Indoors
Coconut palms thrive in full sun, meaning at least six hours of direct sunlight on most days. Even palms found in nature can struggle in the shade, so it's extremely important that any indoor coconut palm receives ample sunshine. Depending on its placement in your home, consider moving your plant's location throughout the day to "chase" the sun and ensure proper exposure.
During the fall and winter months, consider placing your palm under a grow lamp or another artificial light source to help make up for the loss of sunlight.
Temperature and Humidity
Coconut palms prefer temperatures that are at least 70 degrees Fahrenheit. They grow best in temperatures between 85- and 95-degrees Fahrenheit and they might fail to thrive if the temperature dips below 64 degrees Fahrenheit. High humidity is an important factor, too. Maintain a moist environment for your palm with the addition of an in-room humidifier, as well as frequent spritzing of the plant with warm water. You also can keep the container on a tray of pebbles and water to raise the humidity around the plant. Just make sure the bottom of the container isn't touching the water.
Like many plants that love warmth and humidity, the coconut palm is a thirsty tree. Keep the soil consistently moist but not soggy by saturating it with warm water once or twice a week. Make sure the container does not become waterlogged, as this can result in root rot.
Feed your palm year-round with a liquid fertilizer. Coconut palms are known to have several nutrient deficiencies, including a lack of phosphorus, nitrogen, manganese, and boron. So seek out a fertilizer blend specifically made for palm trees to supplement these losses, and follow label instructions for the amount and frequency of fertilization.
Pruning and Maintenance
Pruning of your coconut palm is only necessary when there are decaying or dead leaves. Gently cut these from the tree with a sharp knife or a pair of pruning shears.
Container and Size
Coconut palms will grow to a robust size, so start with a pot that of about 3 gallons. As it grows, you'll need a pot that holds at least 10 gallons of soil. This will need to be a quite sturdy pot to handle the pressure of the large root system, so look for something that won't give under pressure, such as a sturdy plastic or even a well-made wooden barrel.
Potting Soil and Drainage
Coconut palms are used to growing in a variety of soil conditions and are therefore not terribly picky about their planting mixture. That said, soil that closely mimics the coconut palm's natural environment is always best. A well-draining palm soil mix works well for potted coconut palms. Additionally, you can add a layer of mulch to the top of the soil to help it retain moisture.
Potting and Repotting Coconut Palm
Sprouted coconuts can be potted in 3-gallon containers with about 12 inches of soil. Their root balls are fairly small and shallow to start, and as a result, they don't need a lot of soil in the early growing months. However, once your coconut palm's roots grow to be about 6 to 8 inches long, repot the plant into a vessel that holds at least 10 gallons of soil. A clay container with ample drainage holes is best to allow excess soil moisture to escape through the container walls and bottom.
Moving Coconut Palm Outdoors for the Summer
Coconut palms thrive in the heat. They want to be in temperatures of no less than 70 degrees Fahrenheit. The hotter the better! As soon as the temperatures rise to that level, take your coconut palm outdoors. There is no need to acclimate it to the warmer weather.
Take care to keep your coconut palm safe from lower temperatures. Anything about 64 degrees Fahrenheit or below can damage the plant.
When to Bring Coconut Palm Back Indoors
Let your coconut palm enjoy the heat and sunlight for as long as possible. When temperatures begin to dip below 64 degrees Fahrenheit or so, it's time to bring the tree in to avoid damage.
Is it easy to propagate coconut palms?
If you can't find a coconut palm at a nursery, you can still grow one indoors using—you guessed it—a coconut. You can start this process at any point in the year. To sprout a coconut palm, start with a coconut that still has some of its husk on and sounds full of water when you shake it. Then take these steps:
- Place the coconut in a bucket of room temperature water, and soak for up to three days to help jumpstart the germination process.
- Next, bury the nut in a moist but well-draining soil mixture, leaving the top half exposed above the soil.
- Move the pot to a warm, well-lit area, and continually water it every three days or so to keep the soil lightly moist.
- With the right environment, you should see a seedling appear through the shell of the coconut within three to six months.
What plant pests are common to coconut palms?
In their native habitats, coconut palms are fairly resistant to insect predators. But in the home, you might see common household pests, including mealybugs and spider mites, on the leaves. They usually can be treated with insecticidal soap.
How do you harvest the coconuts?
Unfortunately, a coconut palm grown indoors will likely not reach a size that allows it to bear fruit. If you do happen to get coconuts, harvest them by cutting them at the stem with a sharp knife.