Boutique Biologiquement.comGrowing baobab tree propagation fertilisation harvesting methods

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The organic baobab powder extracted from baobabs –

Growing baobab tree propagation fertilisation harvesting methods

Scientific name: Adansonia digitata
Common names: Baobab, Monkey bread, Ethiopian
sour gourd, Cream-of-tartar tree
(English); Kremetartboom (Afrikaans);
Muvhuyu (Tshivenda); Shimuwu
(isi Tsonga); Isimuhu, Umshimulu
(isiZulu); Mowana (Setswana); Moyo
(Northern Sotho).


Baobab is a deciduous tropical fruit tree ranging in height from 5 to 25 m and is distributed in belts in low-lying areas across Africa, Madagascar, India, Sri Lanka and Australia.
It belongs to the family called Bombacaceae. It is a very long-lived, fast-growing tree and has a lifespan of hundreds to thousands of years. The growth of the baobab is mainly managed and protected by local people. Baobabs are widespread throughout the hot, drier regions of tropical Africa, extending from Mozambique, the northern provinces of South Africa and Namibia to Ethiopia, Sudan and southern fringes of the Sahara. In South Africa the tree is found in the frost-free areas near Waterpoort in the Western Soutpansberg of the Limpopo Province.

Climatic and soil requirements

Baobabs occur in semiarid to subhumid tropical zones.
They grow on many different soils including sandy loam but develop best on calcareous substrates and on deep, slightly moist sites. They thrive where the average annual temperature is 20 to 30 °C. Germination is achieved only when soil temperature exceeds 28 °C. Baobabs are extremely susceptible to frost throughout their life cycle.

Cultural practices

Soil preparation

Land preparation is done in the summer or at the onset of the rainy season to preserve the soil structure. The soil
should be ploughed 3 to 4 weeks prior to transplanting, then again after 15 days, and then again just before planting the seedlings. The soil should be leveled and have good drainage.


Seedlings are mainly raised and transplanted into the field at 10 m x 10 m spacing. The hole size is 60 cm x 60 cm x 60 cm, but smaller may be suitable (40 cm3). The trees, planted in a row, should be given weekly volume of water which vary from 10 l for the first tree, 15 l for the second and 30 l for the third. Planting is done when the rainy season has started. Cuttings should be 5 cm to 10 cm in length and pushed straight into the soil to a depth of about 2.5 cm. For leaf production only, planting should be done 0,2 m x 0,5 m and for leaves and fruit it should be 4 m x 4 m.


Baobabs can be propagated from seeds as well as vegetatively.
Vegetative propagation involves the growth of a new tree from a shoot, bud or cutting from a good-quality mature tree. The trees have traditionally been propagated by transplanting naturally regenerated seedlings.

Wild baobab Tree
Wild baobab Tree


Organic and mineral fertilisers can be used and it is recommended to use farmyard manure, compost or green legume manures, especially at the time of planting for intensive leaf production.


The volume of water required varies with the size of the tree and is dependent on local climate. In general, during establishment, about 1 l to 2 l of water should be applied twice a week to the base of each young tree. The small trees can be irrigated regularly to produce higher returns from intensive leaf production and better growth. Mature baobab trees require no irrigation.

Weed control

The weeds should be removed from around the tree during the early stages of growth.

Disease and pest control

Few small baobabs are ever seen nowadays because they fall victim to grazing by cattle and goats, ground fires, or picking by overzealous individuals (for soup leaves) but mature trees have few enemies. Neither cattle nor goats do serious harm. Not even overzealous pickers can seemingly set back a healthy old baobab. There are no serious pests and diseases of baobab. However, some fungal and viral diseases have been recorded and several insects attack the wood, fruit and young shoots. The most investigated common pests are:
• cotton bollworms Heliothis armigera, Diparopsis castanea and Earias biplaga;
• cotton-stainers (bugs) such as Dysdercus fasciatus, D. intermeius, D. nigrofasciatus, D. suberstitiosus,
Odontopus exsanguinis, O. sexpunctatus; • Oxycarenus albipennis as well as fl ea beetles, Podagrica spp.


The newly emerged larvae feed on the leaf and foliage of the plants. Cotton bollworms tunnel into the fruits of the baobab. They suck the sap of the leaves and young foliage.
The immature fruit drops.


Registered chemical fertilisers are recommended for use. A decoction of the kernels of Azadirachta indica (neem) can be used for insect control. Weeding can also be used as a control measure.
The baobab is a host for members of the Pseudococcoidae, the mealybugs, which can be vectors for virus diseases of cocoa and the cocoa capsid, Distantiella theobroma. In the Limpopo and Mpumalanga provinces of South Africa, a caterpillar, Gonimbrasia herlina, can feed on the leaves.


The caterpillar sucks the sap of the leaflets, mature and tender shoots, leaf petiole bases and young foliage. The
immature fruit drops. Chlorotic leaves and defoliation can be observed. The caterpillar feeds on the leaves.


The affected parts should be removed. The caterpillars can be removed by hand and crushed.

Harvesting methods

The age of trees when leaves can be harvested for processing into leaf powder is variable and mainly depends essentially on site conditions. Trees can be harvested from any age. In general, leaf utilisation could start before the sixth year when site conditions are favourable. Women traditionally start harvesting when leaves begin to develop and the period varies according to agroecological zones (April to May). Mass leaf harvesting is done in September and October. The bark is also harvested at the same time as the leaves. The fruit is harvested when the shell is brown, between December and April. The tools used in harvesting the leaves are the sickle and dolé. Harvesting by hand picking is done less frequently since it is difficult to climb a baobab tree.


Baobab provides food, emergency water and fibre. It has also medicinal uses. Fibre from the stringy inner bark provides items (or is used for items) such as rope, thread, basket, nets, snares, fishing lines, strings for musical instruments, and a paper stock tough enough for banknotes. The fibre is even used for weaving. Some is woven into fabrics that are valued for making the bags used for carrying and storing everyday goods. Baobab trees supply food and traditional medicines for both humans and their livestock.
A refreshing drink, prepared from the pale yellow or whitish fruit pulp called cream of tartar, has been used to treat fevers, diarrhea and apparently also haemoptysis. The leaves are used against fever, to reduce perspiration and as an astringent. They also come in hardy in treating other afflictions: asthma, kidney and bladder diseases, insect bites, fevers, malaria and sores.
In the Limpopo Province the powdered seeds are given to children as a hiccup remedy. Under survival stress man can use many parts of the baobab as food or obtain water from its roots, branches or leaves. A crude, coffee-like beverage can be prepared by baking the baobab seeds. Many people find shelter from the blistering sun in the ample shade provided by its sturdy trunk. Young leaves when mixed with pepper and salt and added to a stew give it a good taste.
Young, fresh leaves are cut into pieces and cooked into a sauce. Sometimes the leaves are dried and powdered and used for cooking.

Boutique Biologiquement.comHow to Care for a Baobab Bonsai

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How to care for a baobab bonsai?

A baobab (Adansonia digitata) is an interesting addition to a bonsai collection. These trees are native to Africa and have an unusual structure and appearance. Some legends say that the tree was cast down from the heavens and landed upside down, where it began to grow. This story is no doubt a result of the tree’s appearance in the winter, when the upper branches of the tree look more like roots than treetops. The baobab has some specific needs, but if you pay careful attention to its requirements, this tree is not difficult to grow and makes an excellent bonsai specimen.

How to Care for a Baobab Bonsai
How to Care for a Baobab Bonsai

Step 1

Keep the baobab tree warm, since it is sensitive to the cold. This tropical tree grows in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 10 and up, but in most areas of the United States, a baobab bonsai is kept only as a houseplant. You can set it outside on warm days, but if the temperature drops below 54 degrees, the tree may die.

Step 2

Place the tree in a bright, sunny window. Baobabs need at least six hours of full sunlight per day, so a window with a western or southern exposure is best. If your house doesn’t get enough light, supplement natural light with artificial grow lights for 16 hours daily, or less if the tree receives partial sunlight.

Step 3

Water the tree well about once a month during the growing season or whenever the soil is dry. Never water the tree when it is dormant, since to do so is likely to cause root rot and kill it.

Step 4

Feed a baobab bonsai a good-quality liquid fertilizer about once a month, applying the fertilizer when you water the tree. Due to the nature of the bonsai pot and root system, the fertilizer must be diluted to no more than half the normal strength, or you risk burning the roots and killing the tree.

Step 5

Prune the branches of your baobab bonsai as often as they need it to give the tree the shape you desire, pruning or pinching off branches that are growing at odd angles or are too long. Trim early in the spring before new growth appears.

Step 6

Repot the baobab bonsai every two years in the spring. Remove it from its pot and trim the roots back by one-third to two-thirds of their length, completely removing any that are damaged or dead. Place it in a container that is twice the size of the root ball and fill the pot with a mixture of 70 percent compost and 30 percent salt-free sand. Water well to minimize shock and be sure to keep it warm.

Boutique Biologiquement.comGrowing a baobab

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Baobab powder is very nutritious. To obtain it, you can plant and grow your own baobab. We’ll explain you how to do it.


Baobab is the common name of a genus (Adansonia) with eightspecies of trees, 6 species in Madagascar; 1 in Africa and 1 in Australia.

  • Adansonia gregorii (A.gibbosa) or Australian Baobab (northwest Australia)
  • Adansonia madaf Zascariensis or Madagascar Baobab (Madagascar)
  • Adansonia perrieri or Perrier’s Baobab (North Madagascar)
  • Adansonia rubrostipa or Fony Baobab (Madagascar)
  • Adansonia suarezensis or Suarez Baobab Diego Suarez,(Madagascar)
  • Adansonia za or Za Baobab (Madagascar)

The name Adansonia honours Michel Adanson, the French naturalist and explorer who described A. digitata.

Growing a baobab
Growing a baobab

General Background

One of the earliest written references to the Baobab tree was made by the Arabic traveller, Al-Bakari in 1068. In 1592, the Venetian herbalist and physician, Prospero Alpino, reported a fruit in the markets of Cairo as “BU HUBAB”. It is believed that the name is derived from the Arabic word Bu Hibab which means fruit with many seeds.

Common names include bottle tree and monkey bread tree. Baobab – derived from African fokelore “upside-down-tree”. The story is after the creation each of the animals were given a tree to plant and the stupid hyena planted the baobab upside-down.

The baobab is the national tree of MadagascarWatering Baobabs.

Once the leaves start turning yellow at the beginning of autumn – gradually slow down watenng. Stop watering when plus minus 50% of leaves turn yellow. Do not water trees during the dormant (winter) period. However, some people do water in winter, mainly in hot areas, but according to experience chances are very good that trees will rot and may die.

Slowly start watering again when the trees are sprouting new buds, usually mid September.

Do not over water during this period but gradually increase water and fertiliser (preferably organic) as more and more leaves develop.Only once the tree is in full leaf can it receive as much water and fertiliser as other trees. Always let the surface soil dry out a bit before watering again. Adjust watering during rainy periods.

Where to keep Baobab

Baobabs like direct sunlight for as long as possible during the active growing period. The more sun the better they grow. Preferably keep under a hail net or not more than 30% shade net. Never keep indoors during growing period. During winter the tree MUST be kept anywhere indoors, on a wall unit or even under the bed or in a cupboard. The tree does not need any sunlight during the cold winter months as it is completely dormant. Protect the trees from cold (below 10 deg C) and frost – It is recommended keeping them indoors, this solves the problem of cold and frost and the temptation of watering them where they can also be displayed.

Transplanting Baobabs

Baobabs are easy to transplant as long as you stick to the basics. Baobabs can be transplanted from September to December. Baobabs have potato like roots – it is edible (some very sweet others not). Always make sure the cut through the root is done with a sharp tool and the cut is clean – the cut should at a right angle (90 degree) with the root to keep the surface of the scar as small as possible. Always seal the cut with a mix of wood glue and flowers of sulphur to prevent rotting of the root. Some bonsai growers burn the freshly cut root. Place the cut root after the application of the flower of sulphate mix in direct sunlight to dry out for about an hour. Transplant in a deep bonsai pot and make sure the tree is anchored if a lot of roots were removed. Do not water for 7 to 14 days, keep in full sun, thereafter water sparingly in the beginning until the tree is full of leaves. Baobabs prefer a well drained soil mixture. Soil mixture of 2 parts coarse aggregate, and one part compost.

Diseases in Baobab as Bonsai

Baobab trees have very few pests. Be careful of rootrot – too much water at the wrong time. Trees with root rot can be rescued if discovered early – cut back until there is no more sign of rot and treat the same as a newly transplanted tree. Regularly feel the base of the tree, it must remain hard because rotting always starts from the roots upwards. They may also be attacked by fungi.

Training Baobabs as Bonsai

To obtain the quickest results, the young seedlings should be transplanted in a big container. The bigger the better. The container should stand on the ground to give the roots the opportunity to grow through the enlarged drainage holes into the ground. Alternatively on top of another large pot filled with soil. This will result in very fast developing trees. The roots inside the pot must be watered to keep them alive. When the tree is transplanted the roots in the ground (larger pot) will be sacrificed and only the roots inside the growing pot will be used. The top growth needs to be trimmed back to compensate for the loss in roots. If planted to grow into open ground, in areas that are very cold and frost occurs during the winter months, the roots should be cut off just below the container and the cuts treated with flowers of sulphur.

All Baobab trees should be moved somewhere indoors to protect them from the cold.

This process should be repeated year after year until the desired development is reached.