The part of a plant that contains its seeds is technically the fruit. This means that the avocado is a fruit, and so is a peanut or an almond. The seeds you find within fresh fruits are the best you can buy to start your own plants.
They haven’t been treated, dried, and stored before arriving in the market. Many people are familiar with the idea of taking an avocado pit and growing a new plant from it, but the seeds of such fruits as dates, grapefruit, and mangos can also be grown into attractive houseplants.
The date becomes a palm tree. Citrus seeds grow into beautiful small trees with shiny green leaves. The pineapple makes an exotic plant with long, sword-shaped leaves.
Once you start growing these wonderful plants, you will think twice before tossing away a pineapple top or the seeds of any other fruit that you might have eaten for lunch. Wonderful gardening and adventurous eating await you!
Growing plants from fruit seeds
The pomegranate is a red, spherical fruit, ranging in size from 3 to 6 inches; its skin is thick and leathery. In nature, pomegranates can attain a height of 10 to 15 feet. Indoors, they can be grown on a smaller scale, and their dainty leaves and woody trunk make them an ideal subject for bonsai (decorative dwarfed trees). The fruit is available in late fall and winter in most supermarkets.
How to Grow It
Cut the fruit open, and you will find lots of seeds, each inside a large, red, juicy aril (seed covering). Put on an apron and have plenty of paper towels handy. Roll the seeds gently on several thicknesses of paper towels. The red juice of the arils will squirt all over the place, but don’t worry, it doesn’t stain permanently.
Once you’ve removed the arils, place the seeds on a clean towel to dry. You may plant them directly, but if you wish to store them, let the seeds dry for 24 hours and put them in an airtight jar, where they will retain their vitality for at least a year.
Sow the seeds in moist peat pellets and place the pellets on a tray. You can also sow the seeds in a communal flat. Slip a plastic bag over the tray or flat, and give it good bottom heat. With proper heat, the seeds should germinate within 5 to 10 days.
If you cannot supply bottom heat, the seeds may take more than a month to sprout. Once they have sprouted, remove the plastic bag and place the seedlings in a warm, sunny location. Keep moist at all times.
When the seedlings are 3 to 4 inches high, it is time to transplant. Pomegranates are good plants to grow under a light unit or on a southern windowsill. Once past the seedling stage, pomegranates do not require the usual amount of humidity necessary for growing most tropical plants, which makes them ideal for the average American home that lacks humidity.
When the plant is actively growing, keep the soil moist, except in the fall when it should be kept on the dry side. To control the size, pinch off the top buds. Pinching also prevents the plant from becoming spindly. When the six true leaves appear, pinch back to four leaves. Soon new branches will emerge. Pinch the branches as soon as they have six more new leaves, and keep pinching until you have the shape you want.
The plant will probably not fruit indoors. If you have a garden, put your plant outside during the warmer weather. Pomegranates are hardy to Zone 7b where temperatures do not drop below 10˚F. When the plant drops its leaves, bring it into a cool dark basement or unheated garage until spring.
An almond tree grown from a nut makes a most unusual houseplant. The leaves of the plant are long and pointed. In nature, the five-petaled blooms are a beautiful white and pink.
How to Grow It
The edible part of the almond is the pit of the almond fruit, which looks like a dried peach. When the fruit falls from the tree, the fibrous outer husk splits, and the nuts can be removed from the husks.
Almonds do not germinate readily unless they are stratified. To accomplish this, put almonds, either shelled or unshelled, in a bag of moist peat moss and place the bag in the refrigerator for six to eight weeks.
Remove and then extract the seeds (better known as the nuts) from the bag. If the almonds are not already shelled, you’ll need to remove them from their shells. Plant one seed per peat pellet. When roots fill the pellets, transplant each pellet to a 4-inch pot.
Fill one-third of the pot with moist potting soil, place the pellet on the soil, and add enough soil to barely cover it. At this point, the almond grows with spectacular speed; it seems to jump by inches and becomes leggy very quickly. To keep the young tree shapely and encourage branching, cut back the main stem.
Chinese Star Apple
Also known as the star apple or carambola, the Chinese star apple is a stunning addition to any fruit-bowl display. It is ovoid and golden-yellow, with several prominent ribs. When you make a horizontal slice of the fruit, the pieces are star-shaped.
The leaves of the plant have seven to eleven heart-shaped leaflets, which give the plant a feathery appearance similar to the mimosa tree. At night the leaves close up. This is a truly graceful and charming plant. The fruit is available from the fall to the early winter in specialty food stores and some supermarkets.
How to Grow It
Not all Chinese star apples have seeds. The fruit is quite translucent, and if you hold it up to the light, you can see the shadow of the seeds, which are deep within the fruit.
Carefully remove the seeds and plant them in peat pellets. The seeds germinate within three weeks. When the first set of leaves emerges, remove the plastic bag covering them, and place the seedlings in a bright draft-free window.
When roots fill the pellets or the seedlings are 3 to 4 inches tall, it is time to transplant the seedlings. For each pellet, fill a 4-inch pot, one-third full, with moist potting soil. Place the pellet on the soil and fill in around it, just barely covering it. Return the pots to a bright, draft-free window.
The Chinese star apple grows slowly, about a foot a year, and will not bear fruit indoors.
The pods of the carob (also known as St. John’s-bread) look something like large lima bean pods that have turned brown. Inside are hard, shiny seeds. The plant’s oval leaves change from shiny, pink-bronze to dark, gray-green when mature. Carob is a slow-growing, stately tree that flourishes in an arid climate. The pods are available year-round in Middle Eastern markets.
How to Grow It
Remove the seeds from the pod. Nick each seed with a sharp-edged file or a piece of sandpaper, and soak them for one or two days. When the seeds swell, they are ready to plant.
Start in moistened peat pellets. Plant at least three seeds in each. Place the pellets on a tray, slip a plastic bag over the tray, and put it where it will have bottom heat (use a heat mat). Water the pellets regularly. The seeds should sprout within a week.
When the seedlings show, remove the plastic bag and put the tray in a sunny window. Transplant seedlings when they are 6 inches tall. Fill 4-inch pots one-third full with moist potting soil. Place a pellet on the soil, and fill in around it. . And barely cover it with more soil. Place the pots in a bright, sunny window, and keep the soil moist but not soggy. Repot when needed.
The dried pods of carob have been found in the ruins of Pompeii. When John the Baptist wandered in the desert, the “wild honey” he was said to have eaten may have been the pulp of these pods. The uniform seeds are supposed to have been used in ancient times by goldsmiths to verify the carat weight of gold
The date or date palm is a tree that can reach up to 100 feet in height, growing singly or forming a clump with several stems from a single root system. It is a slow-growing tree that lives more than 100 years if maintained properly. They can be successfully grown indoors if they have a good sun exposure and can become exotic decorative plants.
How to Grow It
The best way to start dates is to use the light golden-brown dates that have been cured in the sun rather than in kilns. You’ll see them advertised as “unpasteurized,” “non sulfured,” “natural,” or “imported.”
Select fresh dates in late October and early November when they are available in Asian and Middle Eastern markets. These germinate very quickly. Remove seeds from the fruit and start the seeds in peat pellets. Insert the seeds, making sure they are well-covered.
Place the pellets on a tray, and slide a plastic bag over the tray; give them a high bottom heat of 80˚F.
Frequently the first sign of growth is a large taproot protruding from the bottom of the pellet. Within three to six weeks, a small linear leaf will appear; it is time to transplant.
Using 4-inch pots filled with 2 inches of moist potting soil, place a pellet in each pot. Fill in around it with more soil and barely cover it. Date palms grow slowly, but they require relatively little attention.
Contrary to what you might imagine, they do not need full sunlight and are even likely to scorch with too much sun. They must be watered whenever the topsoil seems dry, as they do require a considerable amount of water.
While progress may be slow at first, this is a plant you can pass on to your grandchildren. Known for their longevity, it was said of them, “They still bring forth fruit in old age, they are ever full of sap and green.”
As avocado plants grow, they develop small clusters of leaves around 6-inch stems, which grow taller and taller without producing any branches. The avocado can become one of the most beautiful plants in your home. At one time, we had a 36-inch barrel into which we had set ten avocados in varying stages of development. It formed a cool, refreshing grove at the end of the living room.
How to Grow It
When I first experimented with growing avocados, there were two main types. The larger, grown in Florida, had shiny, dark green skins and a large pit that could be 2 inches across. This particular pit germinated quite readily — in fact, you often found it with roots already started.
Avocados from California were smaller, some with purple, nubby skin; others smooth and green. The pit found in the latter avocados was also smaller and more difficult to germinate. Within these two groups, there were over 400 hybrids.
Today, commercial selections are limited to the Haas avocado, a hybrid of the California type of fruit, and the large Florida avocado (a.k.a. alligator pear). The Haas has a rich, buttery texture and pleasant nutty flavor. After some experimentation, we found that the sphagnum bag method was easier and more reliable than the more common practice of puncturing the avocado seed and suspending it in a glass of water.
Germination time varies with each pit, but the average time is a few weeks. When the roots are 3 to 4 inches long, transfer the avocado to a pot 1 inch larger than the pit. Fill the pot one-third full with potting soil. Gently place the pit on the soil and fill in enough soil around it so that half the pit is exposed at the top.
Place the pot in a warm, bright spot (avocados do not require direct sunlight). Once established, avocados grow quite rampantly. Keep the soil moist but not soggy at all times. During their natural resting period from October to January, avocados need less water. As soon as the days lengthen, new leaves will appear, and you should give them more water.
Feijoas, also known as pineapple guavas, have ¾- to 3-inch long, oval, gray-green, leathery-skinned fruits. Each fruit has a distinctive calyx (the outermost whorl of the flower) at its tip. Within the creamy flesh, there are dozens of tiny edible seeds.
In nature, feijoa is a bushy evergreen shrub that can grow 15 feet tall and wide. In the warmer regions of the United States, it is used as a hedge plant. The leaves are oval, leathery dark green, with a silver underside; the flowers are bright red.
Feijoa should not be confused with its more tropical cousins, the tropical guava (Psidium guajava) and the strawberry guava (Psidium cattleianum); they are in the same botanic family (Myrtaceae) but thrive under different conditions. Feijoas are available September through November in specialty food stores
How to grow it
Once the seeds have dropped to the bottom of the container, pour off the water and flesh, and then dry the seeds on a paper towel. The seeds can be sown immediately or stored in an airtight jar. The stored seed is viable for months.
Sow the feijoa seeds in a container filled with moist potting soil. Scatter the seeds on top of the soil and cover them with more soil. Cover the container with plastic to retain humidity and place it in a warm, bright spot in the house. The seeds should germinate in two or three weeks.
When the seedlings have two sets of leaves, they can be transplanted to small individual pots. You can put established plants in the garden for “summer camp.” Otherwise, enjoy it indoors.
Here’s a trick for getting feijoa to flower. Because the plants need a cooling period of a month at about 40˚F, put your plant in your refrigerator if your fridge is large enough.
To be continued
Friday, we will publish the second part of this article with more plants that can be grown from fruit seeds. These plants will grow well if you learn the conditions they require and if you provide the correct light, water, fertilizer, and containers filled with a growing medium, such as water, soil, or peat. Don’t forget to check our website this Friday to discover 7 new plants you can grow from fruit seeds.
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