(Mexican Hand Tree)
These seeds should be planted immediately when received
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 24 to 36 hours (not more than 48 hours). Try to keep them between 60 and 75 degrees F (15-24°C). By the way, do not remove the fuzzy orange tip on the seed.
Planting medium -- Use a well draining mix. A typical mix is 2 parts potting soil to 1 part perlite or coarse sand. Fill 4 inch tall pots (10 cm tall) that have drainage holes. Add water so it's moist throughout (but not soggy). Place a seed on top and cover with 1/4 inch (6 mm) of soil and water the top layer lightly.
Ensure that the soil surface stays moist. If you enclose the pots in a plastic dome or bag to maintain moisture, leave it open a crack for some fresh air to enter. Try to keep the temperature between 65 and 75 degrees F (18-24°C). Avoid letting them get much warmer than this. 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 -- The seedlings may take a few days to throw off the seed shell. If it 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.
Move the seedlings into filtered sunlight, protecting them from strong afternoon sun initially. Each week, give them a little more sun until they are in full sun after 4 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, check to see if they're root bound, and if so, 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 Hand Tree has average fertilizing needs. Feed about once every 2 months, following the dosage on the package. If your potting soil contains fertilizer, your young seedlings shouldn't need any feeding for the first 2-3 weeks.
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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