Place the nursery pots indoors near a window with bright, filtered light or outdoors on a sheltered garden bed with light shade. Whether growing lychee indoors or outdoors, you need to shield the pots from direct sun since it will dry the soil and spoil the lychee seeds.
Prepare planting containers before removing the lychee seeds from the fruit. Fill 6-inch nursery containers with a moistened mixture of 3 parts potting soil and 1 part sand. Leave the top half-inch of each container empty.
Move the lychee seedlings into a ventilated, partly shaded cold frame once they reach 4 inches in height and have several sets of leaves. Continue lychee plant care by watering weekly to a 2-inch depth.
Use a Propagation Mat
Dig a planting hole in each pot of soil. Make the hole depth equal to 1 1/2 times the length of the seed.
Watch for germination in one to four weeks. Leave the propagation mat and plastic dome in place, but turn down the heat on the mat to 70 F and lift the dome every day to acclimate the seedlings to normal conditions.
Access the Lychee Seed
Prized for their sweet, fragrant fruit, lychees (Litchi chinensis) are tropical evergreen trees sometimes cultivated within U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 10 and 11. Although most commonly propagated by air layering, most lychee varieties will also grow from fresh seeds. Once planted, the seeds will germinate in approximately one month if kept under consistently warm and shady conditions. However, they must be sown immediately once removed from the fruit, since they quickly lose viability when exposed to air.
Maintain a constant level of moderate moisture in the top few inches of soil. Allow the soil to dry out mostly just beneath the surface between waterings to keep the lychee seeds from rotting.
Lychee seeds dry out and lose their viability in a matter of days and should be planted as soon as possible. Fill a 6-inch (15 cm.) pot with moist, rich growing medium and sow a single seed at a depth of 1 inch (2.5 cm.). Keep the pot moist and warm (between 75 and 90 F., or 24 and 32 C.).
Lychee seed propagation works best with mature fruit. Select several lychees that are plump, red, and fragrant. Peel your fruit and remove its single seed from the flesh. The seed should be large, smooth, and round. Sometimes, seeds are oblong and shriveled – these are rarely viable and shouldn’t be planted.
Lychees are a beloved Southeast Asian fruit that are steadily becoming more popular worldwide. If you’ve ever bought fresh lychees at the store, you’ve probably been tempted to plant those big, satisfying seeds and see what happens. Keep reading to learn more about lychee seed germination and growing lychee from seed.
If you just want to plant a seed for the fun of it, however, that’s a different story.
Can You Grow Lychee from Seed?
The good news is that lychee seed germination is usually very reliable. The bad news is that you may never get a lychee fruit out of it. The lychee fruit you buy in the store is often hybridized, and the likelihood that the resulting tree will match its parent is very low.
Also, the trees are slow to mature, and it could take as long as 20 years for your sapling to produce fruit, if it ever does. In other words, if you want a fruit bearing tree any time soon, you should buy one from a nursery.
Lychee seed germination usually takes between one and four weeks. Once the seedling has emerged, move it to a spot that receives partial sun. Over the course of the first year, the plant will grow vigorously to 7 or 8 inches (18 or 20 cm.) in height. After this, however, growth will slow down. Transplant it to a larger pot and be patient – growth should pick up again in a couple of years.