Growing Clove - Syzygium Aromaticum - from seed

(http://www.jach.hawaii.edu/~maren/plants/cloves.html)

For the time being, when I have clove seeds available they can be found here: http://www.zibbet.com/hilobeads/section/tropical-plant-seeds, (the tropical plant seeds section of my Zibbet shop), http://www.artfire.com/ext/shop/studio/hilobeads/1/1/16393// (the tropical plant seeds section of my Artfire shop), and/or https://www.etsy.com/shop/hilobeads?section_id=6358045 (the Tropical seeds and herbs section of my Etsy shop). Occasionally you may find some on Ebay, user hilo_beads. Right now, as of Jan. 12, 2014, I get a few (under 10) seeds per day and listings of 10 seeds will show up every so often - this may change, it is partly dependent on our weather.

Clove seeds are not widely available outside of areas where cloves are grown. The reason is that clove seeds don't remain viable for a long time, as well as constraints on what can be shipped. It would be better for the survival of the clove seed if it could be shipped inside the fruit, but for shipping from Hawaii this is against the regulations. Clove seeds don't like plastic, they need air, and they have to be kept in a moist environment. Once clove seeds are dried out they won't germinate anymore.
Most clove seeds will germinate in a matter of a few days to weeks, but even if planted properly germination can still take weeks to several months in some cases.

The spice clove is an immature flower bud that is not pollinated - and not suitable for planting. Pollinated clove seeds are something different from dried cloves that are used in cooking.

To grow cloves from viable clove seeds - if you can find them - select a well draining medium that still holds a reasonable amount of moisture. Cloves will die when drying out but will also rot if kept too wet.

If the clove seed already has a root when you plant it, you may want to stick that into your potting medium, but be gentle. Otherwise, as all plants, they know where "down" is. Do not cover the seeds. They will germinate on the surface, just like in nature.

At this point it is more important to keep the clove moist than how much light it gets - it may be a good idea to keep it in partial shade as that makes it less likely for it to dry out.. If you don't have a suitable planter and growing medium when you receive your clove seeds "plant" them anyway. Putting them on top of a layer of moist paper towels, root (if any) covered, will do for a while. Temperatures between about 60 (at night) and 85F are suitable. Cloves may grow in temperatures outside this range but I have no experience with that.
Cloves will sprout roots before they start growing upwards. If you have planted seeds in a common seed flat or planter it is time to - very carefully, as the roots are somewhat brittle and you don't want to lose more of the hair roots than absolutely unavoidable - transplant when the vegetative growth has reached about 1". You can transplant earlier, but transplanting much later is not advisable as the roots will get too long. It is somewhat important to keep the seedling at the same height and not plant much deeper or shallower, and by any means do not cover the cotyledons, or at least don't keep them covered. - It doesn't matter if a bit of soil gets sprinkled on the cotyledons as long as it doesn't stay there and cover them. -

If you have kept your seedling in partial shade or shade until now it is good to leave them that way and get accustomed to full sun very gradually otherwise they will burn.

At some point the seedlings will outgrow their planters. Cloves have a bit of tap root, but not a really big one. As mentioned above, they have a lot of hair roots, and those are somewhat brittle. When transplanting, make sure to not disturb the roots (or disturb them as little as possible). In our soil here, which is best described as "organic clay" as, while mostly organic, it forms something resembling a solid brick when dry, I tend to let them dry out almost completely so that I can lift the whole of the root ball out with all attached soil and transplant the whole block. Make sure to water well afterwards - I haven't drowned a clove yet, but I have lost many due to lack of water. -

Once your clove tree has several dark green leaves you can gradually get it accustomed to full sun.

The pictures of the seedlings are from Terry in North Carolina.

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Last modification: Jan. 12, 2014
Maren Purves (hilobeads at gmail dot com)