The original frankincense plant is a rarity on the market and both seeds and plants are expensive. In the case of seeds, this can be explained by the low germination rate and in the case of plants by the very slow growth. The culture conditions are difficult. The plants are sensitive and react quite blatantly to changes. Frankincense is not suitable for beginners. The specimens thrive best in a very bright and warm conservatory. We have put together for you what needs to be considered when caring for and growing. Continue reading!


  • Belongs to the balsam tree family
  • Lat. Boswelia
  • Originally from the dry regions around the Horn of Africa, Arabia and India
  • There are about 25 species, depending on where they come from
  • Succulent plant – so it can store water
  • Not all of them are used to produce incense
  • Frankincense resin is produced from the milky gum resin by air drying
  • Rich in essential oils
  • Trees and shrubs grow 1.5 to 8 m tall
  • Papery peeling bark
  • Sparsely leafy
  • Quite gnarly growth
  • Inflorescences up to 25 cm long

The care of the frankincense plant / frankincense tree

The frankincense tree is often referred to as the most valuable tree on earth. The frankincense extracted from the resin is also called white gold, because this weight used to be weighed in gold. Even today it is still extremely valuable. How much, you also notice when buying seeds and plants. They’re pretty expensive. Many young plants are traded in the three-digit range.
The care of the real frankincense plant is not easy. In their natural environment, the plants grow under the most extreme conditions. We simply cannot offer them this in our climate. Many professionals consider these plants uncultivable outside of their natural environment, but it’s certainly worth a try. At rarity exchanges there are always individual specimens to buy, directly from the breeder. He did it too.

Frankincense trees grow very slowly. This is one of the reasons why purchased plants are very expensive. They are often offered as bonsai. The hardest part about culture is growing. Whoever succeeds and who then brings the plant over the first two to three years, will also grow it. The first time is the most difficult.

The location must be warm and bright. In summer, the frankincense plant likes to be outdoors. But since they are not sensitive to cold, they have to go back into the house in good time. The plant substrate is best mixed together yourself, from normal soil, sand and perlite. Transplanting or repotting should be done as seldom as possible, as this is often not well tolerated. Watering is important in summer, but not done in winter. You can cut the plant, but you should do it rarely. Hibernation is important. It should be light and warm.


In our climate, the frankincense tree can only be cultivated as a container plant, i.e. in a pot. It doesn’t even have to be big at first. The plants grow slowly. Warmth and lots of sun are important for such a plant to feel good, as well as pleasant humidity.

  • Warm and sunny to full sun
  • Like to be outdoors in summer
  • Frost-free and very bright in winter
  • At night, the plants like to be a little cooler. In their homeland, often in the mountains, it is very hot during the day and quite fresh at night. They like similar conditions here too.
  • Avoid cold feet!!!

plant substrate

As with other succulents, a predominantly mineral substrate is important. The soil must be very permeable. Plenty of sand ensures exactly that. It is best to mix the substrate yourself. It must be similar to cacti or succulents.

  • Stony, dry soil
  • Permeable and sandy
  • 1/3 normal soil, 1/3 sand and 1/3 perlite or similar substrates


The frankincense plant often reacts to transplanting by shedding its leaves. It is important not to injure the root, because even the smallest injury is not tolerated. In principle, the plants must be treated even more carefully, like raw eggs.

  • Very sensitive to repotting and transplanting
  • Drainage in the vessel is important. Excess water must be able to drain away.
  • Do not choose the vessels too large.
  • Don’t repot too often.

watering and fertilizing

As with all succulents, regular watering is required during the growing season. In the resting phase, on the other hand, the plants do not need any water at all. They then draw on their reserves. Too much water is harmful. The sensitive roots rot quickly and then the plant can no longer be saved.

  • High humidity
  • The plants grow in dry locations, but preferably near the sea
  • The humidity is high there, even if it is otherwise very dry
  • Water moderately during the growing season
  • Very drought tolerant
  • Does not tolerate any moisture
  • Stop watering from October
  • Only water again from April
  • One or two fertilizer applications at the beginning of the growing season are usually sufficient
  • Cactus fertilizer is well suited

To cut

I couldn’t find anything about cutting. But given how sensitive this plant is to other things, I can imagine what happens after a cut. Aside from leaking resin, I think it would do more harm than good. Since the frankincense tree grows very slowly, pruning will not be necessary.

On the other hand, cutting must work, because bonsai are also cut. They take it pretty well. Where a shoot is cut off, the plant will sprout again, often with more than one shoot.


Proper hibernation is important. Plants don’t like the cold at all. Temperatures should not fall below 15°C. There is no watering and no fertilizing. Otherwise, it must be aired regularly, but in such a way that the plants are not in a draft!

  • Winter warm
  • At least 15°C, preferably more
  • Very bright, best with additional lighting
  • Do not water or fertilize from October!
  • Watch out for pest infestation, especially spider mites, which like to spread a lot during the winter.
  • Only slowly start watering again from April
  • If the location is not really bright, only water from May!
  • Get used to the sun slowly. There are often sunburns, because the May sun is already very powerful.

Propagating the frankincense plant

Propagation is by seed. It’s not easy, but it’s definitely possible. Obtaining the seeds is difficult. In most cases, these are only offered during so-called rarity fairs for plants. It is important that the seeds are very fresh, otherwise they will no longer germinate. Propagation by cuttings is also possible.

Tip: To determine if the seeds are viable, they should be soaked. Grains that have sunk after 24 hours can be sown. All those who swim above bring nothing. Unfortunately, there are always a lot of them swimming up, around 95%, when you buy them.

Sowing – very difficult

  • Seeds must be very fresh
  • Usually no more than 1 or 2 out of 100 seeds will germinate
  • Germination time – about 7 days
  • Soak seeds in lukewarm water for 24 hours
  • Sandy substrate mixed with perlite
  • Cover only lightly with substrate
  • Very high germination temperatures – at least 27°C
  • Moist air is important, which is why a mini greenhouse is well suited.
  • Place on a south-facing windowsill
  • Don’t water too much. The moisture lasts longer in the greenhouse. Condensed water also ensures this.
  • Ventilate regularly to prevent mold growth


  • Cut when the shoots are not too lignified
  • Simply plug into the appropriate substrate.
  • They seem to root well and fairly quickly
Note: Prick out only after 2 years. Many young plants die after pricking out. If they are stronger, they tolerate it much better.

diseases and pests

Diseases of the frankincense plant are rather rare. They are mostly due to care errors. In most cases, the plants are overwatered and the roots rot because the soil is too wet. Pests are also not common. Spider mites are the most common . They attack the plants mainly during the winter. That is why regular checks are important.

spider mites

… settle first on the underside of the leaf and suck the juice out of the cell tissue. They can usually be recognized by the webs that they form on the tips of the shoots. These are also difficult to see with the naked eye unless you spray a very fine mist of water over them. Then the drops of water on the webs become visible. Spider mites are very difficult to combat because there are already many resistances and many plants do not tolerate the chemical agents well. It is helpful to shower the plants, also from below and with a fairly strong jet of water. The soil should be covered to prevent the soil from becoming waterlogged. The chemical control agents should be used weekly for 6 weeks so that all generations, including the eggs and larvae, are controlled. Use outdoors!

Frequently Asked Questions

Can ailing frankincense trees be saved?
While it depends on why they are ailing, it is definitely worth trying. I read something interesting about it. A plant lover put his plant in a terrarium to nurture it, with lighting, floor heating and temperatures between 40 and 50°C. That helped.

How can you tell that the plants need water?
Frankincense plants are often watered dead. The plants do not need a lot of water, although you have to differentiate between the growth phase and the resting phase. If you are not sure whether you need water again, just wait until the leaves start to droop a bit. This means that the reserves are needed and decreasing. Then water can be refilled.

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