Growing Palm Plants from Seed

Palm Plants from Seed - Seedlings of Oil Palm (Elaeis guineensis)
Seedlings of Oil Palm (Elaeis guineensis)

The article Growing Palm Plants from Seed is the first of two tributes to the production by plant lovers of these species through -what else? – seeds.

In this first part emphasis is given to the quality characteristics and the preparation of the seeds for planting, while in the second part the means, the methods and the sowing techniques will be presented.

The sexual reproduction of the Palms is almost one-way, since the vast majority of them can be propagated -even professionally- only with the seeds.

This is a mostly slow process that requires basic knowledge and of course patience from the sowers. But the result will probably satisfy them, because they will have the pleasure to boast and boast justly, for the cultivation from the beginning to the end Palm plants of their own production.

And whether they are trees or shrubs, their architectural style and tropical texture will adorn their gardens and courtyards for many years, as well as most interiors.

The fruits of the Palm plants, apart from the fact that many of them are edible, have varius colors that often contribute to the ornamental value of these species – as is the case with the Manila Palm (Adonidia merrillii).

Red Fruits of Manila Palm (Adonidia merrillii)
Red Fruits of Manila Palm (Adonidia merrillii)
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Fruit & Seed of Palm Plants

Each Palm produces fruits that differ in size, shape or color, but have the same structure. Thus, morphologically, the fruit of the Palms, the pericarp, is formed from outside to inside by three distinct layers:

  • The exocarp
  • The mesocarp
  • The endocarp

The seed is contained in the endocarp and consists of:

  • The seed coat (ie the outer thin layer)
  • The endosperm

The embryo is located within the endosperm, while depending on the action of the latter, the seed may be externally homogeneous or ruminate – that means irregular and uneven outer coat surface.

Growing Palm Plants from Seed

Longisection Through Seed of Manila Palm (Adonidia merrillii)
Longisection Through Seed of Manila Palm (Adonidia merrillii)

Seeds Suitability

For Palms plant lovers, the source of the seeds is either purchased from reputable seed companies or reputable importers, or collected directly from the trees themselves.

In both cases, in order for the sowing of the Palm Trees and plants to be successful, the seeds must be suitable for such work. Among other things, are characterized as suitable the seeds that are:

  • Healthy
  • Fresh
  • Mature

Healthy Seeds

The seeds of Palm Trees and Palms should be free from parasites and pathogenic microorganisms, as well as not show any infections or lesions, as well as decomposition, rot, or discoloration.

Fresh Seeds

It is assumed that the sooner the seeds are planted after harvest, the greater the chances of successful germination. There are some empirical ways to chek the freshness of seeds, but for ruminate seeds – where the seed coat is infolded – is more or less difficult to access it.

Mature Seeds

Seed collection should take place as soon as the fruit falls from the plants or when they are fully mature.

The maturity of the fruits, which also demonstrates the maturity of the seeds, is empirically determined by the acquisition of their normal color, as it corresponds to each species.

And the normal color of the fruit may be black, brown, orange, yellow, red or even white, but it is never pure green. The green color is an indication that the fruits have not passed the ripening stage – and are therefore unsuitable for harvesting.

Nevertheless, if there is an urgent need to harvest even relatively immature fruits, there is always the possibility of artificial ripening. By placing the unripe fruits in a closed bag, and exposing it to a relatively warm environment for about a week, this can be achieved.

Growing Palm Plants from Seed

Palm Plants from Seed - Seeds of Manila Palm (Adonidia merrillii)
Seeds of Manila Palm (Adonidia merrillii)

Seeds Viability

The viability of Palm Plants seeds lasts from a few weeks to more than a year – under proper storage conditions.

Empirically the viability of the seeds can be checked in various ways, some of which are mentioned immediately below.

Soaking Seeds

The cleaned seeds of the Palm Plants are soaked in water at a temperature of 32 to 34 °C (89.6-93.2 °F), usually for 24 hours. During this time, those who sink are considered viable, as opposed to those who will float.

However, this method is not always reliable, because there are palm seeds (eg Metroxylon vitiense) which, although floating, retain their viability intact.

The same is true for the seeds of species that are mostly sink, but for many of the floats it has been shown that they can easily, if sown, germinate.

Check Through Pressing

The viability of the seed is proven, if pressed between the index finger and the thumb, it still retains its shape and texture.

Otherwise, if it is transformed, deformed, or melted it means that it is unsuitable for sowing – unripe, old or dead.

Check Through Cutting

Cutting longitudinal in the middle of the seed offers the possibility of direct visual control of its interior, in terms of viability.

Any observed discoloration, alterations, and rot, lead to its rejection.

Growing Palm Plants from Seed

Palm Plants from Seed - European Fan Palm (Chamaerops humilis) Fruits - © Patti Anderson, Identifying Commonly Cultivated Palms, USDA APHIS PPQ,
European Fan Palm (Chamaerops humilis) Fruits - © Patti Anderson, Identifying Commonly Cultivated Palms, USDA APHIS PPQ,

Seeds Germination

The germination of Palm Plant seeds is often a slow process, accompanied by their uneven sprouting.

In relation to slowness, it has been estimated that for the vast majority of Palm Plants (> 25%), seed germination is observed 100 and / or more days after sowing.

In terms of germination capacity, the average germination rate of seeds, in most cases, does not exceed 20%.

Growing Palm Plants from Seed

Preparing Seeds for Planting

Before sowing, certain treatments of the seeds are necessary, so that those selected will be able to germinate in the shortest necessary time while remaining healthy.

For this reason, the seeds, among other things, are cleaned of fruit residues, and accept the application of various plant protection preparations as a precaution.

Growing Palm Plants from Seed

Seeds Cleaning Techniques

Before sowing, the part of the fruit that surrounds the seed is removed. Such work is necessary because the cleaning promotes the hygiene of the seed and facilitates its germination – since, among other things, in this way various substances that act as inhibitors of germination are removed.

There are several techniques for cleaning palm seeds. Immediately below is a reference to some of them, which for the most part are less painful and more friendly to the amateur grower.

However, at this point, it is worth noting that the mesocarp of some species (eg Ptychosperma macarthurii) contains calcium oxalate crystals, which contact with the skin can cause allergic reactions and irritation. For this reason, the use of gloves by plant lovers is recommended, when the cleaning of this type of seeds is to follow.


Soaking seeds in water is perhaps the most common technique for cleaning the surrounding parts of the fruit.

The technique consists of placing the seeds of the Palm Trees and Plants in a container with water at a temperature of 32 to 34 °C (89.6-93.2 °F), and for a period of 24 to 48 to 72 hours. For seed hygiene, water must be renewed on a daily basis.

With soaking, the fleshy or fibrous parts of the fruit are softened, a process that results in their easier removal.

Also, the hydration of the seeds leads to the revitalization of the older ones, facilitating their germination.

Cleaning with a Sharp Tool

Any sharp tool or knife is suitable for removing the seeds from the surrounding parts of the fruit.

When applying this technique, which of course can not be described as the fastest, special care and diligence need to be shown, so that the cleaning of the seed is complete, but also the hands are safe.


This technique consists of placing a quantity of seeds in a closed container with water and sharp stones, and shaking it.

From time to time the container is opened, the water is emptied together with the removed parts of the fruit, and the process ends when the seeds are completely cleaned.

The shaking technique is not suitable for all Palm Plant seeds, as some of them are particularly vulnerable to this type of treatment.

Mechanical Scarification

For the seeds of Palms with a very hard seed coat, and to help their germination, it is recommended to break its continuity or reduce its thickness.

The mechanical scarification is one of the ways to achieve this and is done with:

  • Sharp tools (pruning shears, knives)
  • Impact tools (hammers)
  • Friction on a suitable surface (sandpaper)

Protection from Pests & Diseases

Even the most thorough cleaning of the seeds does not guarantee possible infestations by pests.

Moreover, some of them, such as some boring insects, may have already infected the seeds of the Palm Plants, without manifesting the symptoms of their action until planting.

Also some fungi, under the same conditions that ensure the germination of seeds, may infect them, resulting in partial or total sowing damage and destruction.

Therefore, and to avoid all the aforementioned possibilities, it is recommended the preventive application of appropriate insecticides and fungicides, which will offer adequate protection to the seeds, at least from the respective pests and diseases.

When using pesticides, the instructions on the package are followed to the letter.



The References of the rather Tropical character article entitled Growing Palm Plants from Seed are presented by the musical ensemble UWaterloo Balinese Gamelan, with the traditional composition from Bali, Indonesia, Hujan Mas.

With Pomp and Circumstance

From the Humanities Theater of the University of Waterloo, and in the spring of 2017, the UWaterloo Balinese Gamelan ensemble presents the traditional Indonesian composition Hujan Mas.

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