Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Repotting and Growing Instructions for your Frankincense Tree

Guild Supplier Trygve Harris of Enfleurage with Frankincense Tree in Oman - read more about Frankincense on her blog

EXCITING update!  Trygve has sent me about 20 photos of different-looking Boswellia sacra frankincense growing in different regions in Oman.  I'll be adding them as I post more about my little tree. 
Here's the very informative email I got from Bob at Arid Lands:

Most of our customers are used to dealing with bare root plants and general care of succulent or "special" plants, such as Boswellia, so thank you for reminding us to include care instructions. They are on our website, www.aridlands.com, and I will repeat some of them here.

Boswellia sacra/carteri is considered to be the same species by taxonomists. This hemisucculent plant stores water in its trunk, thus producing the aromatic sap, but that also allows it to be shipped out of a pot. That species is a summer growing one and will go dormant in the winter (now); as well, it tends to shock when bare rooted anyway, so you can expect the leaves to dry and fall off. That is in no way shape or form a bad thing, it is normal but it scares a lot of people not used to this type of plant.

We generally use a soil mix that is roughly 50% pumice, 20% organic material (usually compost), some peat moss, around 10-15% sand, and several additives, such as vermiculite and some pH balancing compounds. You can simply buy what is known as "cactus mix" at most nurseries or home supply stores and use that. You can substitute small gravel or other things, such as perlite, for the pumice. The important thing is to have a fast-draining mix that retains water but does not stay saturated. Good drainage is essential for these plants and other ones that we grow.

We may use fertilizer during the growing season perhaps 3 of every 4 waterings. We always use fertilizer high in potassium as a natural fungicide and aid to growth of strong stems and roots; that is the third number. So while maybe 20-20-20 is the normal fertilizer, we would use something more like 11-17-29 or thereabouts.  In Tucson, where it is very hot and dry, our maximum watering frequency is every 3-4 days. During the winter, that grows to every week to every month, depending upon conditions. Boswellia tends to be watered more frequently at our nursery but not much more.

There is a new book out on cultivation of Boswellias, but unfortunately it is rather expensive. Feel free to ask questions if you want to know anything in more depth.

Bob Webb


  1. Obviously, boswellia developed in arid, tough climates. Would they survive in a maritime climate, such as in the Seattle area, and if so, would they still be able to produce? Also, how would cold and/or wet winters affect the plant?

  2. I respectfully disagree. Frankincense (Boswellia sacra/carterii) does much better in a differnt type of soil.

    Please see www.halevonah.com


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