The coconut tree, also known as the coconut palm, grows in rain forests and tropical climates in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Pacific region. In the United States, coconut trees grow in Hawaii, Florida, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands where temperatures stay warm year-round. Coconut trees thrive near water since they can get moisture in those areas. Coconut trees also grow in containers kept indoors, giving almost any gardener the opportunity to try his hand growing the tree.
Coconut trees feature long trunks culminating in fronds at the top of the tree. Coconut trees grow for five years to develop a trunk. At that time, they also sport their first set of flower clusters, followed by green nuts. The nuts mature in nine months, turning brown with hairy husks surrounding a hard outer shell covering white fruit inside. Each fruit contains a hollow center filled with coconut milk.
Coconut trees germinate from a huge seed inside the fruit. Coconut trees grown in the garden or landscape require warm temperatures day and night without the threat of frost. The shallow-rooted plant grows best when planted in well-drained areas in partially shady areas. Plant the whole coconut on its side in a shallow hole and cover the lower half with soil. Water thoroughly a couple times a week until the plant sprouts, about three months later.
Coconut tree make an interesting plant when grown in containers. Soak a whole coconut, including the husk, in a pail or water for several days. This helps soften the tough husk. Plant the coconut, point down, in potting soil in a container at least 10 inches deep. Keep 1/3 of the nut above the top of the soil. Place the container in a warm spot that stays above 70 degrees F. The trick to getting the coconut to sprout relies on keeping the soil moist with frequent watering. The coconut take a few months to germinate. The plant will grow to about 5 feet in height in a container.
People on Pacific islands use the coconut tree for many purposes, including food made from the white meat of the coconut. The liquid from the fruit makes a refreshing drink. The leaves and branches of the tree are used in a variety of household goods including containers, baskets and mats.
One of the major uses for coconut involves pressing oil from the fruit. The oil gets used in soaps and margarine. Once all of the oil is pressed out of the meat, the remainder provides a food for cattle rich in protein and vitamins. The meat of the coconut also gets used, going through a drying process before its use in cookies, pies and cakes as well as a variety of other recipes.