The decorative tamarind embellishes warm conservatories and light-flooded living rooms with exotic flair in the bucket. Elegant feather leaves adorn the supple branches. Extravagant flowers catch the eye by changing from soft pink to creamy white. The finale is created by refreshing fruits in a bizarre, elongated pod shape. Successful cultivation doesn’t just fall into anyone’s lap. Once the central aspects of caring for the tamarind tree are familiar, the hobby gardener and his exotic companion form a well-rehearsed team. The interaction is by no means one-way. Rather, the Tamarindus indica is very good at demonstrating discomfort and the need for sleep: it unmistakably rolls up its pinnate leaves.
Table of Contents
- Legume family of plants (Fabaceae).
- Name of the species: tamarind tree (Tamarindus indica).
- Natural occurrence in all tropical regions of the world.
- Growth height up to 6 meters in culture, up to 25 meters in the wild.
- Evergreen and extremely sensitive to cold when young.
- Dark green, pinnate leaves, up to 12 cm long.
- Racemes inflorescences in red, later changing to creamy-white.
- Cinnamon-colored, 25 cm long legumes with sour-sweet flesh.
- Use as a useful and ornamental plant, rarely as a source of wood.
- Trivial names: Indian date, sour date.
The wood of a tamarind is considered very valuable because it is unusually hard. However, since the tree only grows very slowly, its economic importance is of secondary importance.
Due to the slow growth rate, the tamarind tree is dependent on a high-quality substrate that remains structurally stable for years. Reaching for cheap offers here would be a savings measure in the wrong place. Quality soil is characterized by a high humus content and coarse-grained materials such as expanded clay, lava granules or chippings. Optionally, a garden owner mixes the bucket soil himself:
- Good garden soil (approx. 50%).
- Sieved compost (approx. 30%).
- Perlite, Blähton, Sand (ca. 10 %).
- Wood or coconut fibers as a peat substitute (approx. 10%).
The larger the wood, the higher the proportion of clay is determined in order to give the bucket more stability.
A Tamarindus indica feels extremely comfortable in a warm, sunny conservatory or bright living room. Here he can safely spend the whole year and will not throw off his decorative foliage. Under glass, the chances of lush flowering with a rich fruit set are also excellent.
- Sunny to partially shaded position.
- Temperatures between 20° and 25° Celsius.
- Avoid cold drafts.
Fresh air is welcome with an Indian date. Consequently, the ornamental tree can spend the summer on the balcony and terrace. When the temperatures crack the 15 degree mark in spring, it’s time to go outside. The younger the tree, the more sheltered the location is chosen.
watering and fertilizing
In order for the tamarind tree to be able to serve its countless pinnate leaves, the flower clusters and fruits with a sufficient amount of water, the substrate should never dry out.
- Keep the root ball constantly moist without waterlogging.
- Water only when the substrate surface dries.
- Apply liquid fertilizer every 2 weeks from April to September.
- Alternatively, press fertilizer sticks into the soil according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
In order not to expose the tamarind to a cold shock, the irrigation water should be at room temperature. Ideally, collected rainwater is available. Of course, this is not a mandatory requirement, because the tree is considered lime-tolerant. It is always watered directly onto the substrate and not over leaves and flowers. If the bucket is in a saucer, it will be emptied after 30 minutes at the latest to prevent waterlogging.
The sour date grows so slowly that the hobby gardener is usually happy with every centimeter that it grows. If there is still a desire to cut the ornamental wood, the measure is carried out after the hibernation.
- Use freshly sharpened, disinfected tools.
- Each incision is made 3-5mm above a sleeping eye.
- A slight incline allows water to drain better.
- Cut off deadwood and obviously diseased branches at the base.
- Remove criss-crossing or steeply upright branches.
As the work progresses, an experienced gardener repeatedly takes a few steps back to check the shape. The tamarind does not forgive cutting errors so quickly. Holes in the contour close very slowly. It is therefore advisable to proceed in several small steps.
Even an older, established tamarind tree can only tolerate a confrontation with frosty temperatures for a short time. For young trees, 15° Celsius already means the absolute minimum temperature. As a result, the timely move to the winter quarters must be observed if the tree spent the summer outdoors.
- Bright and warm winters at 15° to 20° Celsius.
- Adapt watering to the lower demand, especially when leaves are falling.
- The gift of fertilizer is omitted in winter.
It is not always easy to provide a Tamarindus indica with ideal light conditions during the dark season. The requirement can be regulated within certain limits in connection with the temperatures. The less light is available, the cooler the environment should be.
At the earliest every 2 to 3 years, the tamarind signals that the space in the bucket is getting too tight. Immediately after the winter break, just before the new shoots, the hobby gardener tackles the repotting. The new tub is chosen so that there is a maximum of 3 cm between the root ball and the edge of the pot. Plastic containers are rather unsuitable for larger trees because they tip over quickly. Clay pots have the advantage that they offer more stability.
- Loosen the root ball from the edge and pot out.
- Shake off the used soil as much as possible.
- Lay some potsherds on the bottom of the pot as drainage.
- Fill in a first layer of substrate.
- Place the tamarind in the middle, surround with soil and water.
In any case, it makes sense to have a pouring edge of approx. 5 cm. Nobody likes to wipe up overflowing substrate after every watering.
It’s tempting to use a much larger pot to avoid having to repot for 5 or 6 years. The disadvantage to consider is that the Tamarindus indica immediately gets busy rooting through the container, which of course is at the expense of height growth. In the worst case, even the energy that should actually be available for flowers and fruits is used up.
It is understandable that a natural beauty such as the tamarind arouses the desire for more specimens. If the pretty tree pleased its owner with the edible legumes, there are enough seeds available for propagation by sowing. If the fruit crop is still a long time coming, the gardener keeps an eye out for ripe tamarinds in Asian shops or brings them back from vacation. On average, one fruit contains 4 very hard seeds, which take on a dark brown color when ripe. The hard-shell and waterproof cover serves as protection against germs. In order for germination to start at all, a pre-treatment is required:
- Clean the pulp from the seeds or suck them out.
- Roughen with coarse sandpaper or a file.
- Fill a bowl with hot water and soak the seeds for 12-48 hours.
A constant warm temperature has a beneficial effect on the procedure. Therefore, knowledgeable hobby gardeners fill water and seeds in a thermos flask or place the bowl over a radiator. The swollen seed must be sown immediately and must never dry again.
- Slightly moisten coconut hum or sphagnum moss and squeeze out by hand.
- Put the material with the seeds in a ziplock plastic bag and seal.
- Lay out the bag in a semi-shady, warm place and wait for germination.
The blazing sun must not shine on the seed bag because it gets too hot inside as a result. After an average of 2 to 8 weeks life stirs in the seeds. During this time, the prudent plant lover regularly checks the material to moisten it if necessary.
- Fill small pots or a bowl with nutrient-poor substrate.
- Lay out the germinated seeds and sieve thinly (1-2 cm).
- Place the seed trays in a warm, bright spot that is not in full sun.
- Ensure constant moisture in the coming weeks and months.
- It is watered with a spray bottle or hand shower.
After 2 months at the earliest, the gardener administers a first dose of liquid fertilizer in a highly diluted concentration. The next phase begins after 3-5 pairs of leaves appear above the cotyledons. Now the seedlings are cultivated in slightly nutrient-rich transplanting soil after they have been isolated. The hobby gardener examines the roots to shorten tendrils that are too long. This measure promotes increased root formation. Between the cotyledons and the substrate he pays attention to a distance of 1-2, because otherwise there is a risk of rot. On the other hand, if the seedlings are too high, they will tip over. The blazing sun is still harmful, as is a cold draft.
From now on, patience is required, because the little trees take their time with growth. When summer is just around the corner, the gardener treats them to a revitalizing stay in the fresh air on mild days.
As an evergreen tree, the tamarind tree is not suitable for propagation using sticks, especially since the branches are too thin anyway.
Care as bonsai
The tamarind tree harmonises wonderfully with Far Eastern bonsai art. The shapely habit and the pleasant undemanding qualify the wood as a suitable candidate. Another advantage is the delicate root system, which is made for the typical bonsai pot. If the cultivation from seeds was crowned with success, there is nothing wrong with selecting a specimen for cultivation as a miniature tree. In terms of location requirements, there is no difference to its ‘big brothers’. A tamarind can also spend the summer outdoors as a bonsai and moves to a suitable winter quarters in autumn. In some care aspects, however, divergences must be taken into account:
Ideal is the typical bonsai soil, consisting of Akadama, lava dust and humus. Optionally, a garden owner mixes clay with sand and pricking soil. Experienced bonsai gardeners do not want to do without the addition of Akadama, also known as red ball soil. The mineral granules have excellent water storage capacity and at the same time have an airy, fluffy consistency.
Watering and fertilizing
With regard to the water and nutrient balance, the dosages are simply adapted to the smaller proportions. Instead of a complete fertilizer, the use of special preparations for bonsai is recommended.
Unlike the large tamarind trees, regular pruning is required in bonsai cultivation. Shoots, branches and twigs are trimmed back every 6 to 8 weeks during the growing season to maintain shape. The roots are pruned in connection with repotting so that they are in balance with the crown.
A unique method of affecting the silhouette of a Tamarindus indica is wiring. Aluminum wire is wrapped in a spiral around the branches, gently directing them in the desired direction. When thick growth begins in mid-May, the wire is removed so that no traces form on the bark.