How Do Coconuts Grow?

How do coconuts grow is the question. With hard exteriors and rich, chewy interiors, they grow from humble beginnings. We'll take you on the coconut's journey from a towering palm tree to the coconut seed, and back again! If you've wondered about the whole process, we're about to let you in on it. 🫡

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coconut palm with golden fruitsSome Varieties of Coconut Palms Have Orangey-Red Coconut Fruit, Like This One

Where is the Seed in a Coconut?

Do you wonder about Palm Trees vs Coconut Trees? Something to understand for tracking how do coconuts grow. It all begins with the seed.

Where exactly is the coconut seed?

Would you be surprised to learn that the whole coconut is the seed? Yep, that's right, the whole thing! It's the Delicious Edible Fruit of Cocos nucifera. Including parts you're probably most familiar with: the outer husk & the inner creamy, chewy substance we love to eat. 

a bunch of coconuts, which are the seeds of the palmA Bunch of Coconuts - The Coconut Palm's Seeds

If the coconuts aren't being eaten, then, will coconut seeds grow into palms? That's quite possible!

But how exactly does it happen? 

Let's fill in your botanical boots. We'll talk about...

We'll be amidst the warm tropics for seeing where they can grow. So then you'll know: can it possibly Grow in My Own Garden? Of course, continue on here for the big picture of how coconuts grow on palm trees.

Coconut Birthing! Understand its Germination

Coconut Seed/Fruit Structure

A parent coconut palm can begin coconut fruiting processes as early as 3 years old. But usually taking 6-10 years. Then providing 50-200 coconuts over a year. Fruiting quantities begin a downward trend after the first 35 years. Old age (senescence) starts about age 80, when fruiting often stops.

The fruits are green, initially. Then while maturing, the thin stringy shell (exocarp) turns brown. The next layer is the mesocarp, a matted level, often called "coir." Next is the hardest layer: the endocarp.

You're likely most familiar with the next & innermost layer, the endosperm. That's the edible coconut meat, where the embryo is implanted.

Then there's an inner cavity, nearly filled with liquid, the coconut milk (or water). As the coconut ages, much of the liquid is absorbed. After about a year of maturing, there's still enough left to hear a sloshing sound when shaken. That's when it's ready for planting.

Steps for How Do Coconuts Grow

But maybe wait until the best time of year to start a coconut seed growing. That's the summer, in the warmest, wettest season. However, any time of the year is fine, as long as it's the right climate.

FIRST, soak the coconut in water for 2-3 days. While that's happening, prepare a planting hole. Dig it 3ft/1m around & about 1ft/30cm deep. (Don't forget to check locations of underground utilities!)

SECOND, one end of a mature coconut, has three "eyes". They're softer sunken areas. Important to locate, because the embryo is under the softest eye.

THIRD, place the nut/seed, in your dug-out hole. Cover the ends with about 4in/10cm of soil. Leave the middle third portion exposed. Keeping the eyes below the soil. Gently water the area, while ensuring the planting area has good drainage.

Normally it's quite happy with this environment. So it begins germination.

  • Unseen by you, the embryo starts expanding, creating a whitish cover around it.
Halved coconuts showing their edible meatThe endosperm's meaty layer of white copra serves as food for the growing seedling.
(Not to Mention People!)
  • A green shoot, the radicle, shows itself: beginning the coconut tree's trunk.
  • Soon the root appears! Over the next month or so, the coconut seed sends out more roots. Anchoring itself into the ground.

Your watering plan: at least twice a week. Be sure of good drainage. Coconut palms like lots of watering, but not soggy roots.

As long as they have their ideal conditions, they'll start youthful growth quite quickly. Then slow down a little.

The Little Sprout's Growth
The Coconut Palm Development

The coconut germination process takes 3-7 months. The first shoot you see grows upward with a few green solid leaves. It's the new growth spear. This stem gradually becomes the coconut palm's trunk, over about 5 years. Eventually forming frond clusters making up the crown.

Fruits can be produced even before that full growth height begins! Yellowish flowers are crammed along a stalk (inflorescence). Fertilized flowers become the coconut fruit/seed.

It's a continuous ongoing process. Coconut seed to sprouting growth. To producing flowers. To bringing new coconuts to life. Then starting all over again.

Flowers grow amidst the coconutsNew Yellow Flowers Pose Amid Already Formed Coconuts

Your coconut palm starts its upwards journey! Increasing its height to 15-30ft/38-76cm. While the leaves form the characteristic feathery look. As a pinnate leafed palm.

Fruit of Labor - Maturation & Harvesting of Coconuts

So, you see, a single coconut seed grows a towering, productive palm. A cycle going on for millions of years.

After a year, when ripe, mature coconuts fall to the ground. This can go on almost continuously now, as flowering & fruiting happens throughout the year. You'll also see some fallen coconuts beginning to sprout - right on the ground's surface! 

Coconuts on the ground begin growing their roots

That's why they say use caution when under a coconut palm. It's rare, but coconuts have crashed onto people's heads. Yikes! So be aware 👍.

Coconut dropping on a man's headOH NO! Watch out!! 😮

Beyond the Harvest - The Lifecycle Continues

Through the centuries, today's coconut palms still have the same traits as those original wild palms. Even though they're Grown for Many Products, coconut palms haven't been entirely tamed!

It's a cycle of the coconut palms producing fruits. They begin growth in nature or by human planting. Going through the process we've seen here. From palm to flowers, to fruits for planting which become palms. The circular life-cycle of how coconuts grow.

While attempting its palm growth, the germinating coconut cannot dry out. Yet their life continues, for the love of this big (2nd biggest of any seed), oily, chewy, milky fruit.

How Climate & Weather Affects Coconut Growth

Temperatures for How Do Coconuts Grow

Coconuts need warm temperatures for sprouting. That ranges from 81-100°F/27-38°C. So, think tropical weather. Meaning they grow between north & south of the equator to 26° latitudes. Doing well in the USDA Growing Zones 10b-11, or equivalent.

Their native environment isn't confirmed. But coconut palms probably originated on South Pacific Island coastlines. It's also a Palm for Full Sun, which is easy in the tropics.

Possibly they'll survive exceedingly short temp dips. But not less than 41°F/5°C.

How Much Moisture do Coconut Palms Need?

Coconut palms like rainfall of about 79in/2m yearly. They won't tolerate more than 3 days of flood. Waterlogged roots can't send nutrients up the palm. Yet they can tolerate limited drought.

Regularly watering the coconut palm is best. There's almost no such thing as overwatering for coconut palms. As long as there's good drainage. It's needed to grow quite tall (90-100ft/27-30m).

Coconuts also require high humidity. Think of the sultry, balmy feel of the tropics. Where we all can start sweating without much activity.

Nutrition Problems of Coconut Palms

When thinking how do coconuts grow, don't worry much for the soil the coconut palm lives in. You could test for pH first, but really, they're not fussy. But if you're planting one, mix in organic matter for even better growth & health.

Try to avoid Palm Health Problems from nutritional needs. Prevent that by using controlled-release palm specialized fertilizer. Ideally these proportions: 8N-2P-12K. Plus up to 12% Iron & Magnesium, with traces of Zinc, Boron & Copper. This Florida Source has good palm fertilization info you can download for reference.

There are at least nine form varieties. Growing up to various heights. With assorted fruit & leaf colors. Each has differing weaknesses for temp drops & being affected by lethal yellowing.

Coconut Palms Enduring Extreme Weather

Hurricanes & typhoons hit coconut palm growing areas yearly. These high winds aren't much of a problem. Especially if the palms are well cared-for, with solid roots.

During storms, lightning could strike them. Attracted by their tall structure. That event could kill a coconut palm.

Palms with their fronds blowing in the windWatch it! A storm's coming in.

Growing Your Own Coconuts

Isn't it tempting to have a go at Growing Your Own Coconut Palm? Being part of the coconut's journey from a single seed to a mature, fruit-bearing palm? A delightful thought, isn’t it?

Learning how do coconuts grow can be incredibly rewarding. Imagine inviting your friends over and serving them homemade dishes topped with fresh, tasty coconut, harvested from your own garden.

As long as they have their ideal conditions, they'll start youthful growth quite quickly. Then slow down a little.

Feeling a little impatient? Hang in there, because in the sixth to tenth year, your efforts will start bearing fruit - literally!

Takeaways for How Do Coconuts Grow

Understanding how coconuts grow opens a door to a fascinating world of horticulture and provides a deep appreciation for these ancient, complex fruits. From beginning as a seed reacting to moisture & warmth, to developing a sprout, then roots, a growing trunk, and finally fruit again. The life-cycle of a coconut displays nature's wonders. How about nurturing this wonder in your own backyard?

Even if not growing your own, or unable to grow your own coconut - you're occasionally thinking of being amidst all those coconut palms, in Some Tropical Place! Since we live in the desert, that's our style of travel.

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