Macadamia nuts are the most expensive nuts in the world which might give the impression that macadamia trees are difficult to grow. But in reality, while it does take a great deal of patience to grow a macadamia tree, it does not take a great deal of effort.
Macadamia Nut trees are pretty easy to grow, from tropical climates to Mediterranean climates, they tend to flourish. Ensure they get plenty of compost and water for the first few years and you will find yourself a tree that can provide hundreds of pounds of nuts per season, for years to come.
One of the reasons these nuts are so expensive is that macadamia trees are more fragile during the early years of growth and require extra care. Another reason is that they are slow-growing, taking seven years or more to produce nuts, and even longer to produce to their full capacity.
Related: If youʻre growing Macadamia Nut trees, youʻre going to have to have a way to crack the nut. The shell of a macadamia nut is notoriously strong. But donʻt worry, tools are made for problems like these. Get yourself a Macadamia Nut Cracker.
How to grow macadamia trees
You can grow a macadamia tree from seeds, however, throughout much of Hawai’i and other tropical areas, it is typical to grow new trees from cuttings.
If you decide to grow a tree from a macadamia seed (otherwise known as a green macadamia nut), you should know that they do not produce ‘true to seed’; meaning you will not get a plant identical to the parent, as you would with a cutting. Instead, you run a risk of getting a lovely tree that produces no nuts or is a different variety from the parent tree.
Most macadamia trees are grown from cuttings; this gets you a headstart on the life of these long-maturing trees, and shaves a bit of time off of those essential four years of fragile life for the trees.
As a reminder though, Macadamia Nuts are not the only type of nuts that you can grow in the tropics. This post will introduce you to 7 more nut trees that you can grow in tropical places.
Grafting has been shown to be the most effective way to grow healthy trees that produce the most amount of nuts per harvest. Grafting uses the technique of attaching branches of a matured tree to a young, newly growing macadamia tree seedling.
Grafted Macadamia Nut trees allow the grower to know exactly what kind of tree they are going to get, because it will be genetically identical to the parent tree. So if you know of a particular macadamia nut tree that youʻd love to have, you found yourself a prime candidate to graft from.
Caring For Macadamia Nut Trees
Again, the first few years of a young macadamia tree’s life, they are more susceptible to damage or disease. One of the ways you can help care for your young macadamia trees is by giving them nitrogen rich fertilizer approximately every six months until it reaches four or five years old and has grown a large crown of foliage to help cover the base of the tree.
Macadamia trees need plenty of water: 60 inches of rain or more (up to 100 inches) is ideal for these trees. You may need to water your seedling depending on your location, to ensure it is getting sufficient water.
A good mulch layer can help supply nutrients and moisture to your tree during times of drought.
Trees should be planted in well-draining soil (especially if you plant seedlings in pots at first), to make sure the trees are not getting bogged down.
Too much water at the base or around the roots of macadamia trees can lead to a host of issues, including root root, disease or fungus that negatively affect or even kill your trees. The best way to manage this is to start with well-draining soil and do not over-water your macadamias.
Harvesting macadamia nuts
If you’re lucky, you might see a few nuts after five or six years, but don’t plan on a true harvest of several pounds of nuts until the tree is around seven years old. Even then, most macadamia trees begin producing to full capacity at closer to 12 years or older, when they reach maturity.
How To Know When They Are Ready To Harvest
Nuts should fall independently from a macadamia tree when they are ready. This means that you will need to harvest them from the ground quickly, otherwise you will be competing with rodents and pests to get your nuts.
One of my first jobs when I moved to Hawaii was harvesting Macadamia Nuts for a loca farmer. We got paid $5 to fill a 5 gallon bucket. Pay was crap. It took almost an hour to fill one bucket, but I got to eat a lot of mac nuts.
In that time though, I found that the best mac nuts to harvest were whens where the husks were brown and cracked ever so slightly open. Almost everytime, the nut inside was perfect.
Macadamia nuts should be dried soon after harvesting – within 24 hours. I recommend removing the husk as soon as you harvest them and either take them to a processor for drying, or dry them out in the sun for several days.
Slow drying is better than using an oven, which is usually too hot for macadamia nuts.
When you are ready to crack those nuts open to eat, youʻre going to need a good nutcracker because of how hard the shells are on Macadamia Nuts. This Nut Cracker turned out to be one of the best ones Iʻve ever had, I think youʻll agree.
How large do macadamia trees grow?
Macadamia trees can grow up to 40 feet, but you can prune them. I keep mean confined to the space I have allowed for it. It still produces nuts, but the tree is not out of control.
But, if you have the space, use it! You harvest what falls onto the ground anyway. Itʻs not like you have to climb up into the tree.
It’s advised to plant seedlings closer together (or in pots) for care and protection and move them further apart when the tree is stronger with a more established root system.
Do you need to prune macadamia trees?
If you’re growing macadamias for your own enjoyment and not as a business, it is not necessary to prune macadamia trees. You’ll get more than enough nuts from a mature tree without the effort: time and a healthy tree are more beneficial than pruning.
These trees do grow very large, though. If you’ve planted one near your home, you may need to trim it just to ensure it doesnʻt swallow your place whole.
To learn more about pruning Macadamia Nuts and other fruit trees, be sure to visit this post that goes over how to prune tropical fruit trees.
How long will a macadamia tree produce nuts?
Throughout the year, an adult macadamia tree can provide nuts for around nine months. In Hawai’i, it is normal to harvest macadamias from July until March.
A healthy macadamia tree can easily produce nuts for around 40 years. If the tree begins producing nuts at seven years, you can expect around 35 years of macadamia harvests from a single tree.
Tips for Better Harvests
- Intersperse coffee plants between macadamia trees, this helps bring pollinators around your trees to encourage macadamia nuts a bit sooner.
- Plant two different varieties of macadamia trees for better cross-pollination; it usually results in better-tasting nuts and larger harvests.
- If you have problems with nut borers, (which eat the nuts while they are still green and can decrease your harvest) try bringing some Trichogramma Wasps in. They don’t sting humans, but they do eat the larvae of nut borers and can get rid of these pests without chemicals.
Want to grow your own macadamia nuts? It can take many years before you get your first harvest and you have to put in some extra care for your young trees. But after a long wait, you can enjoy your very own, home-grown macadamia nuts from a tree that will produce nuts for decades ahead.
Homesteadinhawaii.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. This site also participates in other affiliate programs and is compensated for referring traffic and business to these companies.