Grow a SoapNuts Tree (SAPINDUS mukorossi)

  • Deciduous
  • Belongs to the Sapindacae family
  • Produces Soapnut berries in 9-10 years
  • The berries produced are the most widely used for washing, the seeds do not produce sapion
  • Small flowers turn to yellow leathery skinned fruit and turn black when ripe
  • May grow to 12-20 meters high in 70 years, will be smaller in cooler climates
  • It is a tropical/subtropical tree & enjoys warm climates with annual rainfalls of 150-200cm
  • Grows in deep clayey loam soil
  • Position in a sunny spot

The SoapNuts tree is deciduous and can grow between 12-20 metres with a trunk girth of 3-5m in 70 years and prefers tropical and subtropical conditions. In cooler conditions the tree grows smaller.

It is a handsome tree found throughout most of India, and also found in China, Hawaii and Florida. The leaves measure 40cm long. The tree resembles large Mimosa trees to some extent.

It takes 9-10 years for the trees to produce the SoapNuts berries. It flowers during summer and the berries are collected during winter months. When the tree fruits, collect ripe berries, sun dry, and then crack and deseed before use. Use the soapnut berry shell to wash, and replant seeds.

Germination

Plant as soon as you receive your seeds. Do not store.

1. You have to weaken the seeds coat. Use a nail file or sand paper to scarify. If you find it too tough, you can hammer the seed. Please be careful and do not to crush the seed. We just want to weaken the seed coat.

2. Soak the seed overnight in warm/hot water. Do not use boiled water, let it sit for 5 minutes. Then fill up a vacuum-insulated thermos with the seeds and water, and let it soak for 24 hours. The thermos will keep the water warm throughout that period. The soaking process is particularly important, as the water is what activates the germination.

3. Plant the seeds (best time of the year spring to early summer). Use good potting soil (not dirt - good quality potting/germinating soil). Plan the seeds at a depth of 2.5cm. Choose a pot that is deep, as SoapNut trees send down vertical tap roots. Put the pot(s) in a place where it will not be in direct sun, and where it can catch some rainfall. Water  the pots if the soil starts to dry, but don't water if it is still moist (that can promote fungal growth.) Also, avoid fertilizing the soil before germination occurs - high levels of nitrogen in the soil can actually inhibit germination in general.

4. Wait and watch the seeds growing. The germination process can take 1 to 3 months (in summer months) . In cooler months a little more patience will be needed, you will need to ensure that the seed mix is warm and provide sufficient light.

5. Look after your trees.

In time the seed will swell in size, almost to double its original size and forms a white powder coating around the seed coating. Don't be concerned when you see this, it is a good sign that the seedling is about to emerge.

As soon as the seedling emerges, you will need to re-pot into a large container or plant bag to protect the very long main root. This is a sub-tropical/tropical plant that loves rain, so keep in a sunny spot and water regularly.

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