Frankincense Trees (Boswellia sacra/carterii)
HOW TO GROW FRANKINCENSE TREES
Buying a frankincense tree:
Ha’LEVONAH presently does not have any Boswellia sacra frankincense tree saplings for sale. Please check back at a later date.
The optimal conditions to grow a frankincense tree is in the Dhofar region of Oman, which is impossible to duplicate anywhere else in the world. While visiting the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., I was told even they failed in being able to keep one alive. Don’t be discouraged at the Smithsonian’s failure, however. While you cannot replicate the climate, soil, amount of sun, and moisture conditions of Oman to produce the finest resin in the world in your living room or back yard, you can provide conditions to have a healthy and beautiful tree, that on rare occasions of high heat, gives off an intoxicating scent of fresh frankincense that causes you to think you’ve traveled 2,000 years back in time to the age when frankincense laden camels made their way through vast stretches of desert wilderness. In the desert: Frankincense trees can be grown outside; but, please note that they are not tolerant of temperatures below 38°F (3.33°C). Other areas (which drop below 38°F (3.33°C)): During the Summer, you can grow it in a pot outside, but do not place the pot on a surface which will absorb heat, such as concrete, as pot will become too hot and you may end up “boiling” its roots. During the Winter (in more moderate climates), wrap chicken wire around the tree and fill it in with leaves, or bring it inside. If you bring your tree inside for the Winter, it will likely drop many of its leaves. This is not unusual. Place it in your most sunny window, and new leaves will soon sprout.
Frankincense trees are found naturally growing in gravelly and calcareous soils (pH in excess of 7.6 – 7.8), and do best in Dhofar’s rich, dense limestone soil, which has a high pH value of about 8.0. In Somalia, for example, Boswellia carterii and B. freraena are found growing on pure slabs of marble, which is most commonly calcite or dolomite. Soils, such as these, are highly alkaline. A close replication for a potting soil might be 1:1 ratio of Hoffman’s Bonsai soil and mini marble chips, doused regularly with a water mixture containing calcium carbonate from limestone. This potting soil mix will provide the desired pH, a non-compacting base for the roots to grow in, and will not retain too much water. You can acquire food-grade calcium carbonate from limestone from Ha’LEVONAH.
Frankincense trees do not do well in acidic soil having a pH below 7.6. Most popular potting soils on the market, peat-based soils, as well as non-desert soils, are highly acidic. Highly acidic soils cannot be alkalized by the bombardment of alkalinity, so treating these soils with dolomite will not result in an alkaline soil. Sand is also not a good additive, as it retains too much water.
Growing Frankincense Trees
Frankincense trees love direct sunlight. If you grow yours inside, place it in your sunniest window. If your tree begins growing long thin limbs, it is not receiving enough sunlight. You may want to consider buying a full spectrum sun light.
WaterIf you grow your frankincense tree in a well-draining soil, such as described above, you should water it daily in high temperatures discarding the water runoff from the water basin, or its roots will grow out of the pot holes at the bottom of the pot. It also enjoys misting.
As for the alkalinity of the water you use to water your tree, we recommend an acidic water having a pH below 7.0, preferably between 5.0 – 7.0. If your tap water has a high pH, you can adjust it downward by letting it stand in open air for 12-24 hours. In doing so, the water, when exposed to air, reacts with the CO2 forming carbonic acid, which lowers the pH slightly, and which will also dissipate excess chlorine. Dissipated chlorine, however, may then cause the ph to rise, so it is advisable to test your water before using it. Alternatively, some people use organic apple cider vinegar, or a product called pH down to achieve the desired pH in their water (Aquarium shops have products for reducing water pH.).
Fertilizing your Tree
During the growing season, fertilize your tree with a fertilizer of about 15-12-38 (15% nitrogen, 12% phosphorous, 38% potassium). Notice the low value of the middle (phosphorous) number. Do not fertilize your tree in the Winter.