Here’s How Far Apart You Should Plant Coconut Trees

Landscape of green tropical forest with many coconut palm trees - coconut forest on siargao island, philippines

Coconuts are a popular tropical food, which can grow in regions that range from warm subtropical to fully tropical. If you are looking for information on how to successfully plant and sustain your coconut trees, you are in the right place! While thinking about planting them, you may have wondered how far apart you should plant coconut trees.

Coconuts are a unique yet versatile crop that can thrive when planted and spaced correctly. A good rule of thumb is that coconut palms should be planted about 20 feet apart from each other. This ensures enough room for each individual coconut tree to thrive.

Before we continue our discussion about how far apart coconut trees should be planted, it is important to understand the classifications that coconuts hold. Let’s dive into what a coconut is before we focus on just how far apart you should plant coconut trees and the best ways to grow one yourself. Let’s get to it!

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What Exactly Is A Coconut?

Exotic tropical coconut palm trees at summer, view from bottom up to the sky at sunny day

Okay, so it’s all well and good that this is a tropical food that grows on trees in warm regions, but does anyone know how coconuts are actually classified? 

Are coconuts a fruit, are they a nut, maybe a seed? What classification best fits this popular tropical food?

Is A Coconut A Fruit?

Coconuts grow on trees, fall off of them, and are edible. That sounds like a fruit to me, or does it?

Coconuts have an inner flesh and a ‘seed’, although it may not look like one would traditionally expect. But, it can be considered to be a fruit. 

We might be on to something here, but let’s go through the other options before getting to the real explanation. 

There’s an even more in-depth explanation for this? Of course, there is!

Is A Coconut A Nut? 

Coconuts could be compared to almonds, pistachios, and cashews based on the way that the edible ‘fruits’ grow and spread. The hard shell around the internal ‘meat’ of the coconut only furthers its comparison to other nuts.

Also, coconut, right? It’s in the name so how can it not be a nut? 

The answer to this is that the way that coconuts are not considered true nuts.

What is a true nut, then, you ask?

A true nut is different in the way that it releases its seeds and spreads throughout the soil. 

This type of ‘true nut’ does not open at maturity to release its seeds, which includes things like acorns, chestnuts, and hazelnuts.

Thanks to the hard-shelled pods that enclose the fruit and the seed of a plant, the nut does not ever have the opportunity to open up at maturity. Coconut seeds are spread through the animals that consume them. 

Say, for example, that a squirrel takes an acorn to eat, breaks open the outer shell and then eats the inner contents. The squirrel will either leave a bit behind (not as likely) or will dispose of anything left of this nut after it has been processed by the squirrel’s body. 

Either way, the seed is spread and the species of tree (an oak, in this case) can continue to live on and spread across a viable area. 

While a coconut might not be a ‘true nut’ in this sense, it is still technically able to be classified as a nut.

Is A Coconut A Seed?

So, a coconut can sort of be a nut, and might technically be a fruit, but what about the plain and simple notion that a coconut is a seed meant to create more trees?

In short, the answer is that yes, coconut is technically the seed for a palm tree. 

According to the Universities Space Research Association, the ‘coco de Mer’ or double coconut, is actually noted as the largest seed. How about that? 

So, which one of these three titles does a coconut actually hold?

Perhaps It’s All Three!

Field of coconut trees in thailand

Aside from the confusion of how coconut is really classified, is the idea that all of these classifications have the potential to be correct.

When we loosely define a coconut, in the way that real average humans would, as opposed to professionally trained botanists, a coconut can be all three of these things. 

So, coconuts are a fruit. Coconuts are a seed. Finally, coconuts are a nut. 

There must be some way to describe this that doesn’t rely on multiple classifiers, right? Right!

Let’s talk about the technical term that you may hear when referring to a coconut: a drupe.

A Coconut Is A Drupe

As defined by the Library of Congress, coconuts are technically fibrous, one-seeded drupes. 

What on earth even is a drupe? Good question. 

A drupe is a word that describes a hard fruit whose seed is enclosed by a hard, stony covering. 

All drupes have three layers. The three layers are defined as the outer layer, or the exocarp, the fleshy middle layer known as the mesocarp, and the hard, woody layer that surrounds the seed and is known as the endocarp. 

Does a coconut even have a seed, though? What would this look like?

The part of the coconut that you are likely used to seeing among the aisles of your favorite grocery store is that inner layer, the endocarp, that surrounds the coconut meat and the water within this drupe.

With the fibrous outer layer removed, as well as any other external layers, the coconut is prepared for easier consumption.

You can read more about these drupes in our guide on the most common places where coconut trees grow!

How Far Apart Should Coconut Trees Be Planted?

Field of coconut trees in thailand

Penn State University research discusses the benefits of a multi-storied cropping system in which coconut trees are planted in rows of a North-to-South orientation.

The distance between two coconut trees in any direction (in the same hedgerow of trees or to the East or West in a neighboring row) is about six meters in this model. 

The IFAS Extension at the University of Florida confirms this spacing model, noting that coconut trees should be planted anywhere from 18-30 feet apart to maximize space and soil quality at the same time.

The reason for this spacing requirement essentially boils down to the fact that sunlight is a key factor in the success of palm trees, as is the quality of the soil. 

So, for example, if another tree was too close to another tree it might have soil that is not fully helping to nourish it but is also supporting another tree. More than that, that tree might end up being partially shaded by another tree that is too closely spaced, causing it to lack the sunlight it so deeply needs to flourish.

While there are other factors, the point is that coconut palms should be planted about 20 feet apart, which is between 18-30, so this is a good bet to rely on when you find yourself unsure.

What Equipment Might You Need To Plant A Coconut Tree?

Field of coconut trees in thailand

So, now that we know a little more about the classification of a coconut, what one might expect while growing this type of tree, and how far apart coconut trees should be planted, let’s talk about the resources necessary to keep the coconuts coming!

Water

If you are planning on planting a coconut tree from the coconut itself, water is going to be an essential part of the process. Especially at the start!

You will want to soak your whole coconut (damaged, cracked, or otherwise no longer filled with its coconut water will not do the trick) in a large bowl of water for 2-3 days.

You’ll need to practice regular watering when it comes to your coconut tree. But, what does regular really entail?

Your coconut palm tree should be receiving at least one inch of water weekly. Whether this comes in the form of natural precipitation, or as the result of an irrigation system of your choice, at least an inch of water every seven days is essential to the wellbeing of your coconut tree.

Something like a simple Drip Irrigation Kit can do the trick if you want to have a plan in place to back you up if rain doesn’t come.

You can also read our guide on how much water coconut trees need for more in-depth info!

High Quality Potting Soil

When your coconut has soaked for a long enough period, you’ll want to move it from the water to a pot full of potting soil in which it can begin to grow and thrive. 

This soil should be able to drain well, have a loamy texture, and have a relatively acidic pH. The pH should be somewhere between 5-8, to be specific.

Soil is still important no matter if you are already planting a sapling directly into the ground. You’ll still want to ensure that your maturing coconut tree is planted in the right conditions to promote a healthy level of growth.

As long as you remember that loamy, drainable soil is essential for these trees and you’ll be fine!

Potting Your Coconut Tree

When you plant a coconut itself to begin the process of growing into a tree, you’ll want to make sure to utilize a pot that is about 12 inches deep. The main thing, though, is that your coconut should be placed inside about 10 gallons of soil that is well-draining.

Now, we know that this is just the start and that many of you will be planting many coconut trees over a wide plot of land. So, there are many other tools that you will want to plan on utilizing during this process. 

Especially if you are planting a coconut palm from a container, whether or not you originally planted the tree from a coconut or purchased a bunch of saplings to relocate to your property, you’ll want to use the planter as a reference for the size of the hole you create in the ground. 

The easiest way to do this is by grabbing a shovel, something like this Radius Garden Rootslayer Shovel will do, and then digging a hole that is roughly the same depth and width of the space that the tree was already beginning to grow in.

The good thing about having such a heavy-duty shovel is that you can use it for many other types of planting in other environments, should you ever need to. Or, just be that friend with the really good shovel that people borrow, who are we to decide!

Fertilizer For Coconuts

One of the absolute most important aspects of maintaining healthy coconut trees is going to be enriching the soil in which they live. 

This comes into play as well when we talk about how far apart you should plant your coconut trees, because the more space between trees the more nutrients each tree can get from a section of soil. 

However, if you do have to plant your trees relatively close together, adding fertilizer can be a game-changer when it comes to the growing progress that they make. 

Even if your trees are planted miles apart (yes, that is a very extreme example), you should still keep fertilizer in mind. Its value is priceless for your trees!

There is a reason that we always come back to the topic of fertilizer, and that is because of the immense benefits and support that it can offer your tree.

Thankfully, obtaining the right kind of fertilizer is as easy as opting to order a Miracle-Gro Palm Tree Food fertilizer that is both inexpensive and can be bought online with same-day delivery for when you are in a pinch!

Keeping Your Coconut Tree Healthy Long-Term

Coconut palm tree garden

Keeping your coconut tree healthy over a long period of time is going to take a couple of things, really. 

Nothing too high maintenance, but just a little extra TLC from time to time.

Great, what a relief! What kind of care should be given regularly to a coconut tree throughout its life?

General Maintenance

General maintenance can include everything from watching your tree to checking for any sort of infestation or disease, to knowing when it is time to prune some leaves or branches. 

The thing about general maintenance is that it is commonly overlooked or undervalued while it happens to be the most important thing you can do in the long-term. Paying attention to your coconut trees, just like any other crops or personal plants you may own, is vital to the success of the plant itself.

We’ve got even more information on coconut trees for you! Check out more our article about how tall coconut trees grow!

Healthy Soil, Happy Tree

What, did you expect that to rhyme or something? No way!

Anywho, keeping your soil healthy is going to be the biggest factor that supports your coconut tree into maturity and throughout the rest of its life. 

This can look like everything from proper watering practices to fertilizer to help promote the absorption of nutrients and keep other species (and individual coconut trees) from getting too close to your tree’s source of life. 

That’s All For Now!

Field of coconut trees in thailand

Well, that’s pretty much what we have for you today. Thanks for sticking around to learn a little more about the nuances that come with growing and sustaining a coconut tree. 

Don’t forget to plant them about six meters, or 19-20 feet apart!

I hope this piece helps you feel confident in maintaining your coconut trees to the best of your ability. 

To end, here is a gentle reminder that we are all at different stages of our tree journeys, and we are wishing you the best of luck as you continue to navigate your own!

If you want to continue your coconut tree journey, check out our article all about palm trees 10 Best Steps For Transporting Palm Trees (And How To Do It)!

References

Pandey, S., & Gupta, S. (2020). Diversity analysis of ACC deaminase producing bacteria associated with the rhizosphere of coconut tree (Cocos nucifera L.) grown in Lakshadweep islands of India and their ability to promote plant growth under saline conditions. Journal of Biotechnology, 324, 183-197.

Swezey, O. H. (1952). Insect fauna of a coconut tree.

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