Phoenix dactylifera/canariensis - How to sow'n'grow a date palm from a date stone

Trying to find a Phoenix dactylifera - Date palm to buy is not easy, as commercial growers propagate vegatively to ensure the best fruit. The growing of Date palms from seed is largely left to the amature gardener. However, growing a Date palm from a date stone is one of the easiest plants to grow from exotic fruit. What is more you can buy dates from almost any supermarket in the run up to Christmas, and mony places all year round.

There are two main types of date, Medjool and Daglet Nour. The main producers are North Africa and the Middle East, although the US also produces dates.

Having bought your dates, eat them as normal but save the date stones. These are cylindrical, up to an inch (2.5cm) long, with a groove along one side. Soak in warm water (25C) for 48 hours, Then thoroughly clean the stones taking care to remove any fruit flesh from the groove. If this is not done there is a possibility that the stones will rot. Soak again for 24 hours and scrub with a nail brush. The stones are then ready to be sown.

Seed Sowing

There are numerous methods of germinating palm seed/stones, but I prefer to germinate before potting them up.

Use a plastic sealable tub and line the bottom with several sheets of kitchen towel. Moisten the towel, and drain any excess water. Then place the pre-soaked stones with the groove upwards, onto the towel. See picture. Then cover with another folded, moistened kitchen towel, and seal with the lid. This should then not need any further water. Place the container in a warm place. 18C to 25C and monitor for root formation every few days.

There is a misconception that date palms need high temperature to germinate, this is not the case, and they germinate quite adequately in the low 20Cs. The picture was taken after 9 days at between 19C and 24C on top of the kitchen wall cupboard.

Once germinated plant the stone, root downwards, in a deep pot in well drained compost. Adding some loam such as John Inns No1 will help improve drought tolerance and retain fertilizer. Dates produce a long first root, to get down to the moisture before the soil surface dries out.

This is just the start of the rooting process, and as dates are remote germinators, where the young palm starts a few cm away from the stone, not from it, there could be a 4 or 5 week wait before the first leaf spike emerges from the compost.