Sausage tree, Kigelia africana – care tips

Even the unusual name catches the eye of hobby gardeners right away. The exotic habit actually keeps what the title promises. The 60 cm long, dark brown fruits, which weigh several kilograms and are dangling from a liver sausage tree, are actually reminiscent of this sausage specialty. Of course, they are inedible for humans, while elephants love to eat the fruit. The magnificent, violet bell-shaped flowers, which rise above the numerous leaflets, create a balance. This creates an exotic appearance that hobby gardeners with a fine sense for the unusual like to cultivate. The following care tips would like to make a contribution so that the demanding project succeeds.


  • Plant family of the trumpet tree family (Bignoniaceae)
  • Name of the species: liver sausage tree (Kigelia africana)
  • Native to the entire African continent
  • Grows up to 15 meters in the wild
  • Growth height in tub culture up to 2 meters
  • Not hardy, evergreen or deciduous
  • Deep green, pinnate foliage, up to 30 cm long
  • Huge, sausage-shaped fruits, up to 60 cm long and weighing 7 kg
  • Bell-like flowers of brownish purple
  • Flowers only open in the dark

Although the fibrous pulp, which is interspersed with countless seeds, is not very suitable for consumption, the animal world is very happy about the flowers and fruits. When the flowers open in spring, the sausage tree is surrounded by birds, insects and monkeys. Rhinos, antelopes and elephants are after the fruits. In the African art of medicine, on the other hand, the liverwurst fruits are used in various ways. However, there is a lack of scientific evidence of its effectiveness.


Since the minimum temperature for a sausage tree is 5 degrees Celsius, planting it out in the garden is out of the question. In a sufficiently large pot, the African tree thrives wonderfully in the local latitudes in the winter garden or large living room. He prefers to spend the warm season on the balcony or terrace in a clearly visible position, because not every gardener can present liver sausages on the tree.

  • Sunny location, warm and protected from the wind as much as possible
  • A place in the light penumbra is tolerated

In its natural range, the Kigelia africana thrives in the sun-drenched savannahs of Africa. The ornamental wood has arranged itself perfectly with the blazing sunlight. For example, the opulent flowers only open when it’s dark, only to fall to the ground in the early hours of the morning. Specimens over the age of three can therefore do without shading in the summer midday sun.

A sausage tree is of course suitable for year-round cultivation behind glass. In this case, however, the chances of the flowers being pollinated by insects or birds are poor; Especially not with African bats. The gardener takes on this task himself. During the flowering period, the pollen is transferred using a fine brush. If there are other trumpet trees in the conservatory, it is advisable to cover the treated flowers in gauze to prevent cross-pollination by stray bees.


It is obvious that only a rich substrate is suitable. The sausage tree is only able to produce the magnificent flowers and gigantic fruits if there is an adequate supply of energy in the root area.

  • High-quality potting soil based on compost with horn meal
  • Nutritious, humic, likes fresh to moist
  • Addition of perlite, sand, expanded clay or coconut fibers to improve permeability
  • Optionally a mix of compost, quartz sand, loamy garden soil and peat

Where the site conditions are given, there is nothing wrong with planting a liver sausage tree together with the pot in the ground from May. In the fall, get the bucket out of the ground in good time so that the exotic tree can move into its winter quarters. Depending on the age of the Kigelia africana, however, you are dealing with a considerable weight, so that this feat of strength cannot succeed without a helping hand.


During the growth period from April to September, the sausage tree is kept constantly moist. As soon as the substrate surface has dried, the tree receives another dose of irrigation water. It should be low-lime, not too cold water; preferably collected rain or pond water. If you only have tap water, put it in a 10 liter watering can, put a cotton bag with 1 liter of peat in it and let it sit for a week. Anyone who ignores the tree’s desire for low-lime irrigation water will be punished with a growth stop.


Beginning with the budding at the end of March/beginning of April, the nutrient requirement of a Kigelia aficana increases. From this point on, spoil the ornamental tree with a liquid fertilizer every 2 weeks. It is important to note that mineral fertilizer preparations are never applied to a dried substrate. First carry out the thumb test and water with a little water if necessary before administering the liquid fertilizer.
If you have decided to take care of the sausage tree in the bed during the summer, fertilizing with compost and horn shavings is an option. Happy the hobby gardeners who live near a zoo. Just ask them about elephant manure, the ultimate natural fertilizer for Kigelia africana.

To cut

The sausage tree does not keep the gardener in suspense for long, but grows at a rapid pace from an early age. In the open air, this may not be a problem. At the latest when moving to the winter quarters, a pruning is unavoidable if the wood goes beyond all dimensions. Since the Kigelia africana develops its flowers on hanging stalks that are up to 2 meters long, you can’t go far wrong with a topiary. The fact that the flowers usually only dangle on the lower branches plays a role in this approach. The tree crown can thus be wonderfully trimmed and thinned out. Ideally, you should carry out the cut in the spring, just before the fresh shoots. If the situation requires it, this measure can also be taken shortly before the conceding.

  • Shorten shoots that are too long by up to two thirds
  • Make each incision 1-2 mm above a sleeping eye
  • Cut dry and thin branches at the base
  • Remove branches that cross or grow inwards

Choose a dry, overcast day for pruning. Cuts cannot heal properly under direct sunlight. Only use freshly sharpened tools that have recently been disinfected with alcohol. Never cut the liver sausage tree when it is bearing the heavy fruit. Fatal accidents are said to have occurred in Africa because the ‘sausages’ killed people.


From October to February/March the Kigelia africana falls into a growth pause. Now he wants to regenerate and build up new energy reserves for another exhausting season. Prudent gardeners are now focusing on this:

  • Carry to the winter quarters if the outside temperature remains below 10 degrees Celsius
  • Winter light and not too warm, at an average of 15 degrees Celsius
  • The darker the location, the cooler it should be
  • Water only enough to keep the root ball from drying out

Up to the age of three years, hibernation is not recommended below 15 degrees Celsius. Older specimens get through the cold season even at 5 degrees. In this case, they shed all their foliage to sprout again the following spring.

The sausage tree does not receive fertilizer during the cold season. If the thermometer does not fall below 15 degrees Celsius at the location, give the wood a dose of liquid fertilizer every 4 weeks. From mid-March, gradually increase the amount of water until it reaches a normal level parallel to the budding. From this point on, the time interval between fertilizer applications is reduced from 4 to 2 weeks.


After the successful hibernation, repotting is on the annual care plan. After you have cut back the sausage tree, it is grateful for a larger bucket and fresh substrate. In view of the rapid growth, longer time intervals of two or more years are hardly possible.

  • The new tub may be 15 cm to 20 cm larger in diameter
  • A drainage made of potsherds or gravel is laid over the opening in the ground
  • On top of that comes a first layer of the fresh substrate
  • The potted sausage tree is repotted, pressing down the soil well

A pouring edge of 2-3 cm is helpful, which prevents water from overflowing. If the root ball is open in front of you, you should take the opportunity to examine it closely. Obviously dried up or rotten root strands can now be removed. If larger cuts occur, pure charcoal ash serves as a natural sealing agent.


If you have lured the extravagant fruits out of the sausage tree thanks to your professional care, you have a large number of seeds for propagation. Since a Kigelia africana is a pure species, there is nothing to be said against sowing in order to breed more specimens on your own. Since Mother Nature imparts germination inhibition to all seeds that develop within fruit, a simple pre-treatment is required as a first step:

Break the germ inhibition

  • Cut open a fruit, take out the seeds and wash them under running water
  • Roughen each seed with a file or sandpaper
  • Soak in lukewarm water for 24 to 48 hours
  • In a thermos with rainwater, the desired temperature is maintained

Since the seeds are large enough to put your fingers in, the majority of home gardeners choose this pre-treatment method. If that is too complicated, buy 0.2 percent potassium nitrate in the pharmacy and soak the seed in it for a maximum of 24 hours. This procedure also increases the germination mood of the seeds immensely. Without further delay, the actual sowing begins.


  • Fill small pots with coconut fibers, peat sand or commercial seed soil
  • Stick one seed about 1-2 cm deep into the substrate and moisten
  • Set up in a heated indoor greenhouse in a semi-shady place
  • At a constant temperature of 25-28 degrees Celsius, germination begins within 3-6 weeks
  • Don’t let it dry out during this time

After a small sausage tree has rooted through its growing pot, repot it in a bucket and then care for it like an adult plant.

Propagation by seed requires a little gardening experience. As a result, beginners tend to choose the following, simpler approach:


  • Cut off semi-lignified top cuttings in early summer
  • A length of 15 cm to 20 cm is ideal
  • Defoliate each cutting except for the top pair of leaves
  • Fill the growing pots with perlite, coconut fibers or peat sand
  • Use one offshoot each up to the remaining pair of leaves
  • Moisten and cover with a plastic bag

Now place the pots on the warm, partially shaded window sill or on the balcony. In the period that follows, a new root system develops in the substrate. It is important to note that cuttings and soil never dry out. If a new leaf appears at the tip of the shoot, everything is going according to plan. The plastic hood can now be removed to prevent mold from forming. When the small pot is fully rooted, plant the offspring in a larger pot filled with normal substrate for sausage trees.

With a liver sausage tree in the tub, every hobby gardener is sure to draw the attention of others. It’s not just the giant fruits dangling from the branches like big liverwurst; there are also impressive bell-shaped flowers in bright violet to dark red. The numerous, lush green leaflets provide a picturesque setting. Cultivation is not child’s play; She also does not present the interested hobby gardener with insurmountable hurdles. A balanced water and nutrient balance, tailored to the different requirements during growth and winter rest, represents the central care aspect. All other factors of cultivation are related to it.

Kira Bellingham

I'm a homes writer and editor with more than 20 years' experience in publishing. I have worked across many titles, including Ideal Home and, of course, Homes & Gardens. My day job is as Chief Group Sub Editor across the homes and interiors titles in the group. This has given me broad experience in interiors advice on just about every subject. I'm obsessed with interiors and delighted to be part of the Homes & Gardens team.

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