How to Grow & Care for Macadamia Nut Trees
The macadamia tree is a genus of four different species of trees, two of which are mostly used for nut production. Native to Australia and New Zealand, this sub-tropical evergreen tree has a very limited range in the continental United States. While known for its delicious fruit, the tree is notoriously stingy when producing nuts, so — unless you are prepared to plant multiple trees to cross-pollinate or take steps to ramp up production — the tree might be more suited as an ornamental or shade tree than a crop tree.
30 to 50 feet high 20 to 40 feet wide
Rich Well- Well Drained Soil
White to Pinkish-White
New South Wales
Macadamia Tree Care
No matter your tree's desired purpose, you will want to follow a certain set of guidelines to give your tree the best chance to thrive. Here is a brief list of key points to keep your macadamia tree happy and healthy:
Provide your tree with full sun.
Plant in regions with moist to wet conditions with at least 50 inches of rain annually.
If looking to use it for nut production, choose a grafted plant to shorten the time to maturity.
Amend your soil to reach a pH level of 5.5-6.5.
Fertilize annually with low nitrogen, low phosphorus, and high potassium fertilizer once mature.
When planting your macadamia tree, sun exposure is one of the biggest conditions to consider when choosing where to plant your tree. If planted in a spot that receives too little sun, this already slow-growing tree will suffer and not produce a tremendous amount of foliage, and later, when mature, produce fewer flowers and less fruit. To ensure you get the best growth out of your tree, plant it in a location that gets six to eight hours of sun daily.
While the macadamia is somewhat adaptable, a few things will help guarantee success when growing this relatively easy-to-maintain tropical evergreen. First, before planting, testing the acidity of your soil will ensure that you can amend the soil and fix its pH to achieve the macadamia's desired pH of 5.5-6.5. Anyone can do a few easy-to-do tests to check your soil's pH. Once you know the soil's pH, look at the soil's moisture content, macadamia prefers wet to moist soil that is well draining. If the soil in the area you plan to plant is too moist, pre-treat it with a good amount of perlite, mixing it well into the soil. Ultimately the ideal soil for your tree should be rich, moist, and well-draining.
The macadamia trees are native to a region that receives at least 50 inches of rain annually, so the tree expects to get a good amount of water. This averages out to about 92 gallons of water during a hot week, which often occurs in the regions the macadamia grows. Irrigation is especially important during initial planting when the tree establishes itself, usually over the first one or two growing seasons and when it produces fruit.
Temperature and Humidity
Being a native to Australia and New Zealand, there are very few areas in the United States where the macadamia tree will grow successfully. Most well known, of course, is Hawaii, as macadamia is often confused with being native to the Hawaiian Islands, with one of its common names being a misnomer, Hawaiin Nut. The macadamia can also grow well in California, Southern Texas, Florida, and the Gulf Coast. It can thrive as long as the requirements of warm weather with a good amount of moisture are fulfilled. The USDA recommended zones for the macadamia are 9-11, but rainfall also needs consideration.
Annual fertilizing is only recommended once the tree reaches maturity. Most often, this occurs within seven to ten years after planting. Fertilizing with low nitrogen, phosphorous, and high potassium formula is best. A 0-0-50 NPK formulation, such as sulfate of potash, is a good suggestion.
Naturally, the macadamia will have a vase-shaped crown. This is perfect if you are using the tree ornamentally or for shade. If this is the case the only pruning needed will be maintenance pruning to remove dead, dying, and damaged branches annually.
If you plan on using the tree for fruit production then you will want to start to prune the tree into a shape that will allow it to get the best amount of sun and airflow for the most abundant fruit production. In order to do this you will want to step away from the tree and imagine a cone around it. You are going to be removing branches over the first few years to give your tree somewhat of a cone shape. remembering to never remove more than 1/3 of the tree's material within a single year. If you think pine tree shape as you do this then you have the right idea.
Types of Macadamia Tree
There are four species of macadamia trees, countless hybrids between these four species, and a vast amount of commercially available cultivars and grafted selections.
Macadamia integrifolia: One of the two trees used in commercial production with sweet nuts, self-pollinating, and grows to about 50 feet.
Macadamia tetraphylla: One of the two trees used in commercial production with sweet nuts that grows to about 32 feet.
Macadamia ternifolia: A tree with a bitter nut on the vulnerable list that grows to a height of about 26 feet at a medium rate.
Macadamia jansenii: On the endangered list, it is critically endangered, with only 100 known trees in the wild.
Propagating Macadamia Trees
While propagating macadamia trees from cuttings is perfectly doable but the success rate in bringing these to bear fruit is iffy. Propagating a cutting to maturity will not allow you to see your first crop for at least a decade. This does not guarantee that the tree will produce abundant fruit or stay healthy enough on its rootstock to reach maturity.
Most macadamia used for crop production is grafted onto a cultivar selected for heartiness to serve as rootstock rather than fruiting stock. In taking a cutting, you lose the heartiness of the original rootstock. If still inclined to propagate by cutting, the best method would be by air layering.
Common Problems With Macadamia Trees
Generally, macadamia trees are easy to care for, with most issues coming not from disease or pests but rather from placement and conditions. If you give your tree the proper conditions, it will usually be happy, but here are some things to look out for:
Deer and Rodents
When the trees mature, one of the biggest issues will be unwanted wildlife eating your crop. The easiest way to avoid this is to be mindful of ripe fruit and watch for any macadamias that fall to the ground that may attract unwanted wildlife.
Often caused by wounds from weed whackers or improperly cleaned pruning tools. The most common signs will be cankers or dark lesions. Macadamia is most susceptible to Anthracnose and Phytophthora ramorum.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long do macadamia nuts take to grow?
A macadamia tree growing from seed or cutting will take 10-12 years to reach maturity and produce nuts. You can cut that time in half if you buy a plant that is on grafted rootstock.
How tall do macadamia nut trees grow?
The tallest macadamia trees can reach about 50 feet tall.
What zones do macadamia nuts grow?
Macadamia trees are native to Australia and New Zealand but grow well in USDA zones 9-11.
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