(Mexican Hand Tree)
Growing the seeds
» These seeds have good viability for only about 2 weeks once they are removed from the tree. Please plant them the day you receive them.
Pre-treatment -- I've gotten the best results by soaking the seeds in water first. Drop them in at least 8 ounces (250 mL) of water. If any are floating after 4 hours, stir them up to help them sink. Soak them for a total of 12 to 24 hours (not more than 48 hours) at room temperature. By the way, do not remove the fuzzy orange tip on the seed.
Planting -- For soil, use a well draining mix. I use a mix of 1 part coir fiber to 1 part perlite (use fine- or medium-grade perlite, not coarse-grade). An alternate mix is 2 parts quality potting soil to 1 part perlite.
Fill pots that are 4 inches tall (10 cm) and have drainage holes. Place a seed on top and cover with 1/4 inch (6 mm) of soil and add water so it's moist throughout (but not soggy).
Ensure that the soil surface stays moist. If you enclose the pots in a plastic dome or bag to maintain moisture, leave it open slightly for some fresh air to enter. Try to keep the temperature between 65 and 77 degrees F (18-25°C). Avoid letting them get warmer than 80° F (27°C) for prolonged periods. I recommend placing a minimum/maximum thermometer near the pots.
Most of the seeds should sprout between 4 and 10 weeks after planting, but allow up to 5 months for any slow ones.
Seedling care -- Once they sprout, give them bright, indirect light. A fluorescent bulb kept 4 inches (10 cm) away provides the right amount of light. Give good air circulation once they sprout. Stagnant air may lead to rot for small seedlings.
The seedlings may take a few days to throw off the seed shell. During this time, drip some water on the seed shell once or twice a day, to keep it soft. If the shell is still attached after 4 days, try to gently separate the shell with your fingernails. You don't need to remove the shell, just separate it a bit. If you are unable to do this, leave it alone and the seedling will probably back out of the shell all by itself.
Once they are 2 weeks old, you may give them some morning sun. Each week, give them a little more sun until they are in full sun after 4-5 months. In hotter climates, you may need to continue giving them some afternoon shade to avoid burning.
When the seedlings are a few inches tall, transplant them carefully to a larger pot. A deep pot is preferred. Water the soil before repotting, so the soil ball doesn't break apart, which can damager the roots. A 1 gallon (4 liter) pot can hold each plant until it is about 2-3 feet tall (1 meter), and 5 gallons (20 liter) until it is 5-6 feet (2 meters).
Watering -- The soil should be kept moderately moist throughout. Avoid keeping the soil soggy, but don't let it dry out completely either. Mature trees are more drought tolerant, but they appreciate occasional, deep watering.
If your tap water is very high in minerals ("hard" water), i recommend using bottled water or rain water for at least a few months.
Temperature & humidity -- The Hand Tree comes from a climate that is moderate throughout the year - neither too cold nor too hot. It is said to be hardy down to about 20 degrees F (-7°C), but frequent, prolonged frosts may stress the tree, especially when young. I recommend protecting your seedlings from all frost the first year or two. The trees appreciate humidity and might not thrive if the air is very dry.
Fertilizing -- The first 6-8 weeks, feed every 7 days with a very dilute (1/8 strength) liquid fertilizer. Hydroponic fertilizer is ideal for this, because it is easily absorbed and contains all essential nutrients. I use General Hydroponics Flora fertilizer, using 1 teaspoon/gallon (5 mL per 4 liters). After 6-8 weeks, you may switch to a granular fertilizer that contains micronutrients, following the dosage on the package. Or continue feeding weekly with liquid fertilizer at 1/8 strength.
Pests -- Watch for any insects that have affected your other plants.
By the way, the leaves tend to hang downward, looking as if the plant needs to be watered. This is normal!
Have fun growing them!
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