How to Grow a Sandalwood Tree
Sandalwood is highly valued for its aromatic scent, which is used in incense and perfume. Tropical Indian Sandalwood and temperate dryland Australian sandalwood are two varieties that are commonly grown. If you are hoping to bring some of the exotic scent of sandalwood into your backyard, you’ll need to make sure there is a viable host species. Sandalwood doesn’t grow without a host plant. Once established, sandalwood is a sensuous and potentially profitable tree to grow.
EditSelecting the Site
- Pick a sunny climate with moderate rainfall. Sandalwood does best in places with lots of sun, moderate rainfall and fairly dry weather. They prefer a temperature range of 12-30 Celsius (53-86 Fahrenheit). The annual rainfall should be in the range of 850-1200 millimeters (33-47 inches).
- In terms of altitude, they can handle anything between 360 and 1350 meters (1181-4429 feet) but prefer moderate altitudes of between 600 and 1050 meters (1968-3444 feet).
- Choose soil with adequate drainage. You’ll want to avoid any soil that has experienced waterlogging, which sandalwood does not tolerate. If you are planting in a sandy soil, you’ll want to make sure the water doesn’t drain too quickly.
- Sandalwood prefers red ferrogenuous loam.
- Sandalwood can also be planted in black cotton, sandy, and red clay soils.
- The soil pH should be between 6.0 and 7.5.
- Sandalwood tolerates rocky ground and gravelly soil.
- Plant sandalwood beside a suitable host species. Since sandalwood cannot survive without a nitrogen fixing host species, you’ll need to ensure the host species is well established. You may be able to find a site with already established, suitable host species such as long-lived wattles or casuarinas.
EditGerminating the Seeds
- Soak and dry the seeds. Soak the sandalwood seeds for twenty-four hours. Let them dry under the full force of the sun. After one day in the sun, you should see a crack developing in the seed. At this point, it is ready for germination.
- Mix the potting soil. You’ll need some red earth, cattle manure, and sand. In a wheelbarrow or other container, mix two parts red earth to one part manure and one part sand. Fill the planting tray with this mixture.
- If you plan to sow the seeds directly outdoors, you can fill the planting hole with this mixture before sowing the seeds.
- Plant the seeds. You can plant the sandalwood seeds in a small container, such as a recycled carton or a planting tray. Fill it with the prepared potting mix. Place the seeds ¾’’ to 1’’ (1.75-2.54 centimeters) below the surface of the soil.
- Water the seeds. Give a bit of water everyday but avoid waterlogging the soil, since the sandalwood tree prefers dry conditions. You should see the seeds begin to sprout within four to eight weeks.
- To see whether water is needed, put your finger one inch into the soil. If the bottom of your finger feels dry, you’ll need to water.
- Avoid soaking the potting soil, since sandalwood seeds do not tolerate water-logged soil.
EditTransplanting the Seedling
- Dig a hole for the sandalwood seedling. You’ll need a small shovel or a trowel. Create a planting hole that is 30 by 3 centimeters (11’’ by 1’’).
- Put the sandalwood seedling into the ground. When the seedlings are around one month old, you’ll need to transplant them. Use your trowel to loosen the soil around the edges of the planting tray. Put your fingers along the sides of the tray and pull up the sandalwood seedling. Holding it by the root ball, gently place it in the planting hole.
- It is best to transplant the seedling in the morning before it gets too hot.
- You should ensure the space between the seedling and the planting hole is complete filled up with soil, since you want to avoid any potential water-logging.
- You can space the sandalwood plants between 2.5 and 4 meters apart.
- Avoid planting sandalwood in protected forest areas.
- In India, the best time to transplant sandalwood is between May and October.
- Plant the sandalwood seedlings close to the host plants. You’ll need to plant the sandalwood seedlings within one meter of the host plants. Unless the tree fixes onto the host species within the first two years, it will die.
- The host plants should be at least one-meter-tall prior to direct sowing of sandalwood.
- Weed thoroughly during the first year. You’ll need to remove any weeds that are competing for moisture around the sandalwood tree, especially during the first year. You should also make sure the host species does not take too much light away from the young sandalwood tree. If it starts to grow above the sandalwood, you could tip the host species to the side or prune it.
- Remove any weeds that climb up the sandalwood.
EditCaring for a Sandalwood Tree
- Water the sandalwood tree during dry periods. If you get a period of dry weather, you should water the sandalwood tree. Twice per week, you can give it half a litre (.5 quart) of water. It is best to water sandalwood in the evening, which prevents excessive evaporation.
- If your area gets below the recommended range of 850-1200 millimeters (33-47 inches) of rain per week, you’ll need to water the plants regularly.
- Prune the host species. If the host species begins to overshadow the sandalwood tree, you’ll need to prune it back. Otherwise, the sandalwood tree will not get enough light. Prune the host species so that it is a little bit shorter than the sandalwood plant, so that it gets adequate sun.
- Protect your sandalwood tree from wild herbivores. Since herbivores love the taste of sandalwood trees, you’ll want to protect your plants. Avoid damage to your sandalwood tree by putting up a fence around the perimeter, which should help prevent herbivores from eating it.
EditThings You’ll Need
- Potting soil
- Seeding tray
- Sandalwood seeds
- Host species
EditSources and Citations
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