In the first part of this article, we talked about how fruit seeds can be successfully sown to grow your own plants. Learning to make do with what’s available is a good habit because not only it teaches you to be frugal, but it also helps you figure out ways to outlast a crisis much easier.
That being said, let’s look at what other plants you can grow from fruit seeds, and perhaps, the next time you buy fruits, you’ll think twice before throwing the seeds in the trash can.
Growing plants from fruit seeds
Fig trees have large, deeply lobed, exotic-looking leaves that contrast with their somewhat brown, angular stem. They make large indoor plants. Nothing can rival the taste of your own home-grown fig.
How to Grow It
Buy Smyrna figs, available year-round, or calimyrna figs, available in the fall from speciality food stores and many large supermarkets. The seeds of these types of figs are fertile and can grow into new plants, while the seeds of the common fig have no embryos and will not grow.
Remove the pulp containing the fig’s seeds, and put it in a small bowl of water. With your fingers, separate as much pulp as possible from the seed, then pour off the water and add more clean water.
By the next morning, most of the remaining pulp will have dissolved, and the tiny seeds will be at the bottom of the bowl. Pour off the water carefully to retain the seeds.
To plant these seeds, fill a container half full with potting soil, and using a spoon, pick up a few seeds at a time and press them into the mix. Slip a plastic bag over the dish and set it in a warm place. When the fig seedlings are 4 inches high, select the best ones to grow into large-sized plants.
To remove a seedling from the dish, gently loosen the soil underneath it with a pencil and lift it out by the leaves. For each seedling, fill a 4-inch pot with moist potting soil and, using the pencil, make a hole deep enough to receive the roots. Cover the roots, but not the stem, with soil. Water well and place the pot in a sunny window.
The fig plants will grow fairly rapidly. You can transfer fig plants to the garden for the summer, but the plants are deciduous, and as soon as they drop their leaves, it is time to give them a good watering and put them in an unheated garage or basement (or other similar location that will drop to no lower than 15˚F) for the winter.
Citrus fruits (Grapefruit, Lemon, Orange, Tangerine, Kumquat)
Outdoors, citrus trees may grow as high as 25 feet. Indoors, however, a plant can reach 10 feet high. Actually, the height depends on the size of the pot and the amount of fertilizing you do. Citrus trees are slow growers — about a foot a year. They branch naturally and, with their dark, glossy leaves, make beautiful houseplants. With enough time and sun, flowers may appear.
How to Grow It
Select ripe fruit, extract the seeds, give them a rinse, and plant them immediately in peat pellets, one seed to each pellet. With your fingers, remove enough peat to place each seed in the soil and cover it with the peat you remove. Keep the pellets in a tray to which you can add water so that you can moisten them regularly. Slip a plastic bag over the tray to maintain humidity.
The seeds should sprout in two to three weeks. When the seedlings show, remove the plastic bag and put the tray in a sunny window. As soon as roots fill the pellets, transplant the citrus seedlings to 4-inch pots filled one-third full with moist potting soil to which a pinch of lime or broken eggshell has been added. Place a pellet in each pot and barely cover it with soil. Place the pots in the sunniest spot you have available.
With a shape like that of a large gooseberry, the kiwi is brown and hairy, with an almost woody texture to its thin skin; the flesh is a beautiful translucent green.
In nature, the kiwi is a deciduous vine attaining a length of 25 feet. Indoors, its size is easily controlled by judicious pruning and by limiting the size of the pot. It is a beautiful plant, with soft, fuzzy, pale green leaves.
How to Grow It
When you slice the fruit, you’ll notice hundreds of tiny black seeds. Scoop out a few and remove all traces of flesh by rolling them on a paper towel with your fingers. Fill a small plastic container with moist peat moss and scatter the seeds on the surface. Cover lightly with more moist peat. Slip a plastic bag over the container and put the container in the refrigerator, leaving it there for four to six weeks.
When you remove the seeds from their mock winter, put the container in a warm spot. The seedlings should sprout shortly thereafter. When they do, remove the plastic bag and put the container in a bright window.
When the kiwi seedlings are 2 inches high, transplant them. Gently loosen the soil under each seedling with a pencil and lift the young plant out by the leaves. Fill a 4-inch pot with moist potting soil. Use the pencil to make a hole deep enough to receive the roots, and cover about an inch of the stem with soil. Water well and place the pot in a bright window.
Young seedlings should be staked, and older plants should be given supports on which to twine. Attach the plant to its support with plant ties. Kiwis need careful care and pruning to bring them to fruit, but they are quite hardy and grow outside as far north as New York City.
The mango has been described as the “king of fruits” and the “apple of the tropics,” as well as “a ball of tow, soaked in turpentine and molasses, and you have to eat it in the bathtub.” As these quotations indicate, there are many varieties of diverse quality.
Some mangoes are bright yellow and no larger than a peach, while others are bright green, tinged with red, and can weigh as much as 4 pounds. The most common are oval in shape with waxy, thick skins.
When properly ripe, the flesh, which is orange and creamy, yields to the touch, and the fruit gives off a sweet perfume. Poor quality mangoes have a slight odor of turpentine and are very fibrous, but their pits create good house plants.
The plant’s new leaves are an intense red, as is the new trunk. As the leaves mature, they go from red to pink to copper and finally to a dark glossy green.
How to Grow It
Within the mango, you’ll find a large, hairy husk that must be scrubbed so that it can be handled easily. At best, this is a very messy business. Scraping with a serrated steak knife speeds up the process, but you still need a lot of paper towels and running water. Having cleaned the mango husk, let it dry out overnight.
The next day, to get to the seed (which looks like a large cashew nut), clip off a tiny piece of the husk where there is a slight indentation around the narrow edge of the husk. Then, insert the point of a small knife and work it back and forth until you can grasp the edges of the husk and pry it apart.
Care should be taken at all times to avoid hurting the seed inside the husk. You can also try simply cleaning the husk and planting the seed still in it. A friend who doesn’t want to put up with all the mess of drying and prying swears by this method.
Mango seeds may be germinated in several ways. My preferred method of germination is to use the sphagnum bag. Seeds treated this way develop enormous roots in two to three weeks. Using a 6-inch pot half-filled with moist potting soil, place the sprouted seed on the soil.
You will have no trouble deciding which end is down because the roots and shoots will have formed by the time you plant. Fill in around the seed and cover it with a ¼ inch of soil. Tent the seedling with plastic to ensure humidity.
Gradually remove the plastic over several days to allow the plant to adjust to the dry conditions of the home. In the early stages of growth, the seedlings should be sheltered from the direct sun. Either place them among other larger plants or grow them in fluorescent light units.
A large pear-shaped fruit, 8 to 10 inches long, the papaya is usually sold green, but it turns yellow when ripe. To ripen, keep it in a warm, dark part of the kitchen. At its best, the papaya is a fast-growing, single-stemmed plant that grows to the size of a small tree.
In the tropics, papayas can reach a height of 10 feet in 10 months and bear their first crop. Indoors, growth is slower, and there will be no fruit. Papayas are dioecious, which means that they require both male and female plants to bear fruit.
Although there is no way to tell the sex of your seedlings; however, their deeply lobed, maplelike leaves add an exotic touch to any plant collection. The solo papaya is self-pollinating, and it is possible for it to produce flowers and fruit indoors. The fruit is slow to ripen in a northern climate, but once it does, the taste is terrific.
How to Grow It
When you slice the papaya, you will see enough seeds to start a plantation. The dark brown seeds are each surrounded by a gelatinous sac called the aril. Gently squeeze the nubby, brown seeds onto a paper towel; they look just like peppercorns.
You can dry the seeds and store them in an airtight jar Plant a few seeds in moistened peat pellets and place them in a tray. Slip a plastic bag over the tray and place it over bottom heat. The seeds will germinate within two weeks; at this time, remove the plastic bag and put the tray in a bright but not too sunny location.
Papaya seedlings sometimes suffer from sudden wilt, which is caused by a fungus. If this happens, the safest thing to do is throw them out and buy another papaya. When the seedlings are a few inches high, pinch out all but the sturdiest plant from each pellet.
Transplant to individual 4-inch pots. From this point on, the plants need a lot of water and fertilizer and should be kept in a sunny, warm window. High humidity helps a great deal; a draft does not.
Sapodilla is sold under many different names, including chicle, naseberry, and sapote. The fruit is round to slightly oblong and about the size of a small apple. The rusty brown skin has a thin, woody texture, and when ripe, the flesh is a pale golden brown.
Each fruit has five to eight shiny black seeds about ½ inch long. In its native habitat, sapodilla can attain a height of 30 to 40 feet. Indoors, a tree will grow about 6 inches a year and be compact and erect.
The attractive, 3- to 4-inch-long foliage is a dark glossy green on top and pale green underneath. The fruit can be found year-round in specialty food markets.
How to Grow It
Sapodilla seeds germinate easily. They can be sown in individual peat pellets or together in a flat. The germination process succeeds about 100 percent of the time, so plant only as many seeds as you want plants. Place a plastic bag over the tray or flat. Because sapodilla is a tropical tree, its seeds benefit from bottom heat. Germination takes 10 days to 3 weeks.
When the seeds sprout, remove the plastic bag and put the container in a bright window or under fluorescent lights. Be sure to keep the sprouts moist. When roots fill the pellets, or the seedlings in the flat have two sets of leaves, transplant to 4-inch pots.
Place the pots where they will get bright light, but not direct sunlight. Keep the soil slightly moist at all times. Early in the first year, the plant develops an attractive cinnamon-colored bark. Natural branching should occur during the second year, but if it doesn’t, pinch the central bud. Grown indoors, the plant will not bear fruit.
The peanut is a pretty plant with compound, oval leaves; it grows to a height of 1 to 2 feet. At night, the leaves fold up into a “sleeping” position, which children find especially interesting. The yellow flowers look like small peas.
How to Grow It
Be sure to get fresh, unroasted peanuts. These are available in Asian markets and other specialty food markets. Remove the shells, and plant four peanuts in moist potting soil in a 6-inch pot. Cover the peanuts with about an inch of soil.
After the plants have germinated and grown to a height of about 4 inches, remove all but the sturdiest plant. Place the pot in a sunny location. Wait until the plant flowers.
After it has pollinated itself and its petals have fallen off, the ovary will swell, and the plant will start to grow down.
It then will push into the earth, and eventually, a peanut-containing two seeds will emerge. If you plant your peanuts close to the outer edge of a clear plastic pot, you’ll be able to watch this unusual process.
If you have a garden, start several peanut plants indoors in March in small individual pots. Low plastic cups are excellent for this, but be sure to make a drainage hole in the bottom of each cup.
When the outdoor temperature levels off at 55˚F at night, transplant the peanuts to the garden. You should have a small crop by Columbus Day or when the foliage begins to yellow.
As you can see from this two-part article, there are many plants you can grow from fruit seeds, and the process of collecting and sprouting the seeds is quite easy. As long as you follow the recommendations we listed for each plant, you should have no problem growing your own plants.
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