Growing mangroves at home in pots is super fun and actually quite easy!
When I moved from Ohio to southwest Florida, I couldn't wait to experiment with growing all sorts of tropical plants. I eagerly planted seeds from the lemons, oranges and mangoes I got from the grocery store, but one plant I couldn't wait to try was the exotic mangrove tree.
I loved airboat rides through the gorgeous mangrove forests in the brackish water of the 10,000 Islands of the Florida Everglades. There was something so magical about those long roots reaching down like many legs from branches to reach the water below.
But could I grow a mangrove tree at home?
The answer was an emphatic "Yes!" Mangrove plants are super easy to grow in pots, and in this post, I will show you step-by-step how to grow your own mangroves!
1. Find a Mangrove Propagule
If you are in southwest Florida, you can find mangrove propagules floating in the water or washed up on the beach. You do not need them to have started growing roots yet; that just gives you a head-start, but seeds without roots will grow just as well.
2. Soak the Mangrove propagules for at least 24 hours.
It's best if you don't let them dry out, so once you find them, put them in water in a cup or baggie until you are ready to plant.
Mangrove propagules are not "seeds," but actually baby plants! That is why you will want to treat them like the live seedlings they are, rather than dormant "seeds."
3. Put a layer of rocks in the bottom of a pot with no drainage holes
Unlike most trees, mangroves thrive in water, so do not drill holes in your pot! You will want those baby mangroves nice and happy in wet soil and water.
4. Fill the pot with a mixture of half sand and half soil
As you can see, I just used the sand and soil from our yard. I like to dig it up from around trees where a lot of organic matter has fallen and decomposed. Mangroves love organic matter...especially wet and decomposing organic matter!
5. Plant the mangrove propagules roots-down
How do I know which end to plant down if there are no roots?
The top of a mangrove propagule has a little green sprout on top. The bottom of a propagule is usually a darker color (red or black) and slightly thicker and rounded. The bottom is what you will want to plant in the dirt.
6. Fill the pot with water
Yes, you can grow mangroves in freshwater, so go ahead and fill the pot with water so that it is about 1" above the surface of the soil. I like to use natural rainwater, but tap water works as well.
7. Keep it watered
Don't let your pot of mangrove seedling dry out! They love moist soil and water, so keep them wet!
How do you keep mosquitos out of the standing water in your pot?
This is a great question! If you live in Florida, you know that standing water anywhere is an invitation to breed your own mosquito farm. An easy hack for keeping mosquitoes out of your pots is to squirt a bit of dish soap in the water.
I personally like Dr. Bronner's unscented baby Castile soap for this purpose. This hack works great for keeping mosquitoes out of your kid's wading pool as well.
Neem Oil & Dr. Bronner's Soap Recipe for Plants
I also like Dr. Bronner's soap for my Neem oil/soap mixture that I use on absolutely anything and everything to keep pests and fungus away naturally. It is a must for any Florida gardener.
Simply mix 1 TBS Neem oil and 1 TBS Dr. Bronner's Castille soap in one gallon of water and spray liberally on any plant that needs some love.
8. Enjoy your own backyard (or lanai) mangrove forest!
Okay, not really a mangrove "forest," but one can dream, right? My next experiment is to see if I can grow mangroves directly in my yard. From what I've read, you can! I would imagine they'd grow best in the swampy parts of your yard. I'll keep you posted!
In the meantime, mangrove plants are beautiful in pots in your yard or lanai. They also make beautiful houseplants indoors as well. Just keep them by a sunny window.
After a while, your new mangrove trees will start growing those fun long root legs that make mangrove swamps so magical!
Have fun with your new mangrove plant pots by adding a whimsical solar-powered glass flamingo garden stake! Isn't this little guy adorable?
How long does it take a mangrove tree to grow?
Mangroves grow very fast. Since they are not "seeds" but actually baby plants, or "seedlings," they have already started growing! In their natural habitat, a mangrove seedling can grow up to three feet tall in its first year and reach over six feet or more within two years.
In a pot, however, a mangrove seedling still grows quickly, but not quite as fast or as tall, as they are constrained and do not receive as many nutrients from the rich, organic matter that is found in their natural swampy habitat.
Where to boat through mangroves
To go on an airboat ride through the Florida Everglades mangrove swamps and grasslands, check out Everglades City Airboat Tours or Wooten's Grassland Airboat Tours.
To rent a boat all to yourself for the day to ride through the mangrove forests of the 10,000 Islands, check out my husband's awesome post, Naples to Marco Island by Boat.
Give it a try!
I hope you enjoyed learning how to grow mangroves at home! Growing mangroves in pots is very easy. Please share and pin and let me know if you give it a try! 😃
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I believe the mangroves are what saved our home on Sanibel. We live on Clam Bayou with mangroves planted along the water. Silver Key is behind our home also filled with mangroves. Love your website!
Oh, wow, Carol, that is absolutely incredible and encouraging to hear! Mangroves are a miracle plant! Did you get flooded?
Tuesday April 11th Puerto Rico announced a 100 million dollar grant to help rebuild and restore coastal areas. They want to move some homes, stop the building on coastlines and plant millions of mangroves. Yes these plants are the key to stopping climate change on a localized scale. Anything to prevent tidal waves and surge from carrying off parts of the island in future storms and hurricanes. I think they could use our help. Eco-travel can be one way to get fast and free labor. Converting small groups into grow opportunities to help the local economy another. Charitable donations from local and national organizations. The cause is worthy as long as they continue to support smart projects and cost effective solutions.
Thank you for the tips!! Especially regarding the mosquito control. I live in N. Fl in Fernandina Beach, mangroves are not native here. But with the warming waters, they are creeping closer each year. Saw a beautiful display of potted mangroves at the Naples Botanical Garden! Collected pod spikes at the beach and everyone is sprouted and happy!