How to Grow a Balsa Tree
Ochroma pyramidale is the scientific name for the balsa tree. This evergreen tree grows naturally in warm, humid areas within Central and South America. Balsa trees require tropical climates with high levels of humidity. These trees can reach a mature height of 60 to 90 feet within 10 years. With proper care, you can enjoy this fast-growing evergreen in your own tropical landscape.
Fill a 4-inch biodegradable pot with potting soil in early spring. Scatter four or five seeds over the top of the soil. Use the eraser end of a pencil to press the seeds into the soil, inserting them to a depth about three times their diameter. Gently press the soil over the seeds.
Cover the bottom of your drip tray with a single layer of small gravel. Set your biodegradable pot on the gravel. Apply a thin stream of water over the surface of the soil in the pot until a few drops of moisture emerge from the bottom of the pot. Place a loose piece of plastic wrap over the surface of your pot, draping it over the edges of the drip tray to create a tent.
Place the pot in a location that receives at least 8 hours of sunlight. Keep the soil evenly moist by adding water to the drip tray whenever the gravel in the tray dries out. Remove the plastic wrap when the seedlings begin to emerge from the soil, usually within a week to 10 days.
Thin the young seedlings after they produce their second set of leaves. Pinch off the stems of all but the strongest seedling, leaving just one balsa plant in your biodegradable pot.
Choose a location for your balsa tree that provides good drainage. In nature, balsa trees normally grow on high areas of ground between bodies of water. Use a shovel to loosen the soil in your selected site to a depth of about 12 to 18 inches. Dig a hole in your loosened soil. Make the depth of your hole equal to the depth of the biodegradable pot. Set the entire pot in the hole and scoop the backfill around the edges, filling in the space around the pot. Tamp down the soil to remove large pockets of air.
Water your balsa tree regularly to keep the soil around the roots slightly damp. Prune your balsa tree to remove broken or overgrown branches. Remove trimmings from the area around your tree to avoid introducing fungal and bacterial diseases. Balsa grows quickly and easily, requiring little care.
- Balsa tree seeds
- 4-inch biodegradable pot
- Potting soil
- Drip tray
- Plastic wrap
- Australian Government: Balsa
- University of Coimbra: Interesting Facts About Balsa Wood
- “Botanica’s Gardening Encyclopedia”; Susan Page; 2001