Indian Almond Care – Tips For Growing Tropical Almond Trees
By: Teo Spengler
Some plants like it hot, and Indian almond trees (Terminalia catappa) are among them. Interested in Indian almond cultivation? You’ll only be able to start growing an Indian almond (also called tropical almond) if you live where it’s toasty year round. Read on for more information about Indian almond care and tips on how to grow tropical almond trees.
About Indian Almond Trees
Indian almond trees are very attractive, heat-loving trees that only thrive in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 10 and 11. That may be traced back to their origins in tropical Asia. Indian almond cultivation generally occurs in tropical and subtropical regions in North and South America. They naturalize easily and are considered invasive in some regions.
If you are considering growing an Indian almond, you’ll need to know the size and shape of the tree usually reaches some 50 feet (15 m.) tall, but can grow considerably taller. The tree’s branching habit is interesting, growing horizontally on a single, erect trunk. The branches divide repeatedly into tiered whorls that grow some 3 to 6 feet (1-2 m.) apart.
The bark of Indian almond trees is dark, a gray or gray-brown. It is smooth and thin, cracking as it ages. Mature trees have flattened, dense crowns.
How to Grow Tropical Almond
If you live in a warm zone and are thinking about growing an Indian almond tree, you’ll be interested to learn that it is more than an ornamental. It also produces juicy, edible fruit. To get this fruit, the tree first needs to flower.
White blossoms appear on long slender racemes a few years after an almond tree is transplanted. Male and female flowers appear in early summer and develop into fruits late in the year. The fruits are drupes with a slight wing. As they mature, they turn from green to red, brown, or yellow. The edible nut is said to taste similar to that of an almond, hence the name.
You’ll find that tropical almond care is minimal if you plant the tree correctly. Site the young tree in a full sun location. It accepts almost any soil as long as it well draining. The tree is drought tolerant. It also tolerates salt in the air and often grows close to the ocean.
What about pests? Dealing with pests is not a big part of tropical almond care. The tree’s long-term health is usually not affected by pests.
This article was last updated on
Tropical Almond Tree
Average Water Needs Water regularly do not overwater
USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 °C (25 °F)
USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 °C (30 °F)
USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 °C (35 °F)
USDA Zone 11: above 4.5 °C (40 °F)
Where to Grow:
May be a noxious weed or invasive
Soil pH requirements:
From seed stratify if sowing indoors
Scarify seed before sowing
This plant is said to grow outdoors in the following regions:
North Miami Beach, Florida
On Feb 1, 2019, TigerSeven from Elkhart, IN wrote:
Hi looking for someone who has starts seeds or plants willing send via mail for free or price please email me at [email protected] . would very much like get couple ty
On Sep 15, 2011, iguanamom from Hill Country Village, TX wrote:
For those of you wanting to know how to propigate the seed, here's my .02. I brought back this seed from Belize. Actually two of them. The one that ended up sprouting last weekend i had found in my backpack a week or two after the trip and it had seriously started to ripen. I took a machete to it to try and get the outter shell off and tried to make a notch in the actual seed so i could germinate it. i think i was successful. it took a while to get through the outter shell though. i then put it in a cup of water and sat it outside. The baby grackels kept trying to eat the seed so they'd knock over the cup and i'd keep refilling it (Live in S. Tx.). After maybe a week, the seed was all nasty looking and i stuffed it in a pot I had, just to see what would happen. Well, low and be. read more hold, 3 months later, a fat ol sprout appeared. it looked like it was gonna be something huge. For the life of me I couldn't remember what it was. I was hoping for a mango tree. But the two little leaves finally unfolded and I then remembered it was the Sea Almond! I'm so happy! I don't plan on planting it in the yard since it gets too big, but am looking forward to having it in the pot. This way I can also bring it inside when it gets too cold here.
On Dec 2, 2010, galesd from San Diego, CA (Zone 10a) wrote:
I love this tree and would like to grow it from seeds I collected after the green outer covering had worn off. Do I need to remove the husk and just plant the seed itself?
On Jun 2, 2010, FlKeysRedneck from Key Largo, FL wrote:
I love this tree. It gives that exotic tropical feel here in the Fl Keys. It stays green until we get a winter cold snap dropping the temp below 50 degrees.Once that happens the tree turns a brilliant red, drops all it's leaves in a matter of weeks and then puts out new growth again.
It is considered an invasive species but I haven't seen many problems around here in those regards. The squirrels LOVE the almonds and you often find the tree sprouting in the strangest places. I have not had success at digging up even young specimens and getting them to survive due to it's taproot. I didn't have success at germinating the seeds either but now see they have to be scarified and they are not recalcitrant. Will try again when the trees produce later this year. This past winter we had . read more unprecedented period of extended record cold here in the Florida Keys. We didn't have a frost or freeze. 35 degrees was the lowest temp two mornings in a row I had here in Key Largo. All the premature almonds dropped. Some trees even had branch die back at the terminal ends and the end branches died. Some trees like my neighbors did just fine. As of present all the tropical almond trees that were damaged from last winters cold have made a rapid regrowth from various points on the branches and will have full canopies again by mid summer due to their rapid growth.
I was surprised to read it growing as far north as central Fl that is subjected to frost and freezing temperatures.
On Jan 23, 2010, themitchellfarm from Clayton, AL wrote:
I have been really getting into collecting SEA BEANS. I find these seeds along the beach in South Florida. I find ALOT of them. According to articles I have read, I can plant this seed and it will grow. I cant wait to try it. I will post another comment when I get myself a tree from one of the seeds. I cant wait to try a recipe!
On Jan 25, 2009, jimmyboyo1 from Woodbridge, VA wrote:
The Indian Almond/ Sea Almond grows up to 115 ft tall . Its natural environment is along beaches much like a coconut palm it can grow right up to and into the tidal area. Extremly salt and maritime wind tolerant.
There are some with larger amounts of flesh/ tastier and India is working on improving it for domestication. The kernel is COMPLETLY edible raw and or roasted, and has been part of local diets for millenia. RAW it has a taste similar to almond , thus the name, but is in no way related to almond. It is NOT poisonous at all the seed kernel are sold everywhere to be eaten in its natural environment.
The leaves = 1 leaf per 50 gallons of water in fish tanks/ aquaculture improves fish survival
It has been used medicinaly for millenia.. read more the leaves have even been used as a plate by natives for millenia.
Fast growing tree 6.6 ft a yr, and is native to beach areas.
On Apr 24, 2008, robcorreia from San Diego, CA (Zone 10b) wrote:
This tree is absolutely gorgeous. It is to many the classic Rio de Janeiro tree. I really wish I could grow one in my garden!
On Jul 28, 2006, tmccullo from Houston, TX (Zone 9a) wrote:
Growing on in a pot here in Houston, Texas. Believe it or not, we found the seed on a beach and planted it. It took us two years to find out what it was through a friend in Cuba. The tree is now about 8 foot tall. We keep it in doors on cold nights because it seem very sensative to the cold.
On Dec 24, 2004, NativePlantFan9 from Boca Raton, FL (Zone 10a) wrote:
Tropical Almond or West Indian Almond (Terminalia catappa) is very popular as a large landscape tree around homes and in parks in coastal areas in tropical and subtropical regions worldwide but is very invasive in many of those areas, including coastal central and southern Florida through the Keys, the Bahamas, the Caribbean, Hawaii and other tropical and subtropical areas. It forms huge thickets of large, tall trees with spreading large leaves and branches, crowding out and not allowing the growth of native vegetation. It is listed as a pest in many tropical areas such as in Hawaii and is on the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council's Pest Plant List Category Two for it's large possibility to spread rapidly in central and southern Florida in mangrove swamps, coastal habitats and disturbed are. read more as both near the coasts and inland and in salty coastal areas and along canals and swamps and marshes. It regularily escapes from cultivation here in central and southern Florida and starts to crowd out surrounding native vegetation. However, it is still a popular landscape tree due to large attractive leaves, branches and tropical appearance here in central and southern Florida as well as throughout tropical and subtropical regions worldwide! It is salt-tolerant and grows very well in coastal areas and around human habitation, and is very common in mangrove swamps. It grows up to a large tree from 25 to 30, 40, and 45 feet and typically taller, including here in central and southern Florida, from zone 9b southward. Here in Florida, it grows well in coastal areas, salty coastal areas and disturbed areas both inland and coastal, and is very commonly seen as a landscape tree along canals in the southern part of the state, such as in Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and Martin and sometimes Saint Lucie counties as well as a lanscape tree along both the Gulf and Atlantic coasts of central and southern Florida and is also very common in the Keys. However, it also very invasive in central and southern Florida through the Keys and often invades natural habitats near the coasts such as mangrove swamps and natural habitats along canals and waterways. I have seen it especially invasive on the southwest and southeast coasts from Tampa Bay and Broward and Miami-Dade counties southward! Because of this, despite it's attractive appearance as a tropical or subtropical landscape tree or large shrub in coastal areas, here in central and southern Florida, please DO NOT PLANT THIS PLANT!
MORE FACTS - This tree is very common as a landscape tree or plant growing wild in the Bahamas, the Caribbean, Hawaii and areas in the Pacific and Indian Oceans and probably parts of Africa, Asia and Australia near the coasts. It grows up to 50 feet tall in those areas. It has large, rounded leaves that are short to longish and somewhat oval-shaped, like a spoon. It has whitish flowers in a cluster very similar to that of Coccoloba uvifera, the Sea Grape, but slightly different. The leaves distinguish this species from Coccoloba uvifera, the Sea Grape, which grows in many of the same tropical and subtropical coastal habitats as Tropical Almond, this species. This species is salt-tolerant. It is a large shrub to large tree. It is invasive in the Caribbean, central and southern Florida, the Bahamas and other areas.
This plant is amazing - I don't just have this plant in my yard, but I use it for Betta Fish because of its amazing pH level balance. I recommend it to anyone that has Betta.
On Jul 23, 2003, Monocromatico from Rio de Janeiro,
Brazil (Zone 11) wrote:
It became forbidden to plant this tree here in Rio de Janeiro because of its invasiveness. It can be seen confortably living in forests and beaches, places where it shouldnґt be. Definetly one of the most favorites for shades, but propagates too easy by seeds. Very bad for the native vegetation.
Edit: I have to do justice to it and add more information about the fruits. There are two kinds of fruits, produced in different trees: the pink colored inside, and yellow ones. The pink ones are bitter, impossible to eat even if completely ripe. The yellow ones are sweet, and have a good taste. Either way, thereґs little to eat of this fibrous fruit, and in both cases, a very tasty and nutritious almond is held inside.
On Apr 4, 2003, Chamma from Tennille, GA (Zone 8b) wrote:
This tree is wonderful for giving shade. it is a fast grower but it can be messy in autumn and winter when all the leaves fall off! The fruits will stain clothes and pavement!
On Mar 12, 2003, Dinu from Mysore,
India (Zone 10a) wrote:
This is a small to medium-sized tree with whorled horizontal branches and large obovate, dark green leaves. The flowers are axillary and occur in slender spikes. The fruit is flattened or compressed and narrowly winged. The leaves often turn red before falling. Bats and other birds feed on its fleshy red fruits, leaving the highly fibrous/nutty shell containing the slender edible almond seed.
In Taiwan the fallen leaves are used as a herbal drug in the treatment of liver related diseases. The leaves contain agents for chemo-prevention of cancer and probably have anticarciogenic potential, anticlastogenic effect due to their antioxidant properties. Tropical almond is also used by breeders of tropical aquarium fishes to keep them healthy. It is of invaluable ornamental use a. read more nd provides excellent shade. The tree in our property is about 70 yrs old.
The leaves fall during March and September. In March, the tree is left bald. In September/October, before the bottom leaves fall, the top (which is the first to fall) already shows new growth and the light green and red make a lovely combination for a few days during this time.
Tree of the Week: Indian Almond aka Wild Almond
Today my team and I spent the afternoon down at Richmond Beach. It is a wonderful place to relax in the sun, go for a dip, or even do some cliff diving. We were doing none of these things. Instead, we were harvesting Indian almond saplings for the tree nursery that we are currently developing.
When someone pointed the almonds out to me, I was slightly surprised. The massive trees were not what came to mind when I thought of almonds. As it turns out, Saint Vincent’s beaches serve as an ideal home for these semi-deciduous tropical trees. They do well in sand or clay as long as there is proper drainage. They are also salt and drought tolerant.
The Indian almond tree (Terminalia catappa) is not very similar to the more widely known Badam (Indian word for almond) tree. In fact, they are not even in the same family. However, its seed tastes quite like that of the Badam tree, hence the name. Other common names for the tree are Sea Almond, Beach Almond, Story Tree, Tropical Almond, and Wild Almond. Vincentians tend to call it the Wild Almond.
The exact origin of the Indian almond is uncertain. According to the World Agroforestry Centre, it is considered to be a native species in Australia, Cambodia, India, Japan, Laos, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam. Its usefulness to humans and its natural vivaciousness has resulted in the tree spreading to most of the world’s temperate regions.
It can grow to be as tall as 30 to 35 meters. Its branches tend to grow horizontally and in tiers that are about 1 to 2 meters apart. The leaves are of a medium to large size (up to 24 cm wide). They are dark green, leathery, and glossy but turn different shades of red or yellow with the seasons. The fruit is small (about 2.5 X 3 to 6 cm long). It turns a purplish color when ripe. The outer layer of the fruit is edible and quite sweet but has an acidic flavor. The seed in the middle is also edible, resembling the almond that you likely know well.
Propagating the Indian almond is relatively easy. Especially if you have access to existing adult trees. It can be propagated through two methods. One method is to propagate by seed. You can collect seeds from the fallen fruit of the tree. Other than removing the seed from the fruit, there is no preparation necessary. Sow the seeds within 4 to 6 weeks of collecting them. The sooner the better.
The second method, through saplings, is the one that my team chose. At Richmond Beach there are hundreds of baby almonds sprouting up out of the ground where seeds dropped. Today, we harvested about 70 saplings that were each around 12 inches in height. We did this carefully so as not to cause root damage. It was also important for us to have the planting medium (a combination of soil, compost, and ground coconut husk) at hand. This was so the roots experienced as little exposure as possible.
The advantage of this propagation method is that it saves time. Seeds would take several weeks to develop to the stage that our harvested almond saplings are at now. The important thing to know when using either method of propagation is that the trees prefer soil that drains well.
There are a number of reasons for our decision to add Indian almond to our nursery. First and foremost is its capacity for protecting coastal regions. The tree has a vast root system which holds bad soil and sand together. It also has wide leaves which break the fall of heavy rain, decreasing its impact on the soil. When the leaves themselves fall, they contribute important nutrients to the soil and vegetation growing beneath the tree. The tree is able to withstand medium to high winds, minimizing the impacts of tropical storms and hurricanes.
The Indian almond also offers a number of health benefits for humans. The leaves of the tree are considered to be medicinal. They are sometimes used to treat skin conditions, open wounds, eye irritations, digestive problems, liver complications, and even rheumatism. The leaves may even contain cancer-preventing agents. The nut (seed) is nutritious. It contains protein, potassium, calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, iron, zinc, copper, thiamin, and niacin. The nut can be pressed for oil which can be used for cooking. The root is an antimicrobial and can be used to fight infections like staph and e coli.
Another reason for planting these trees is that they are a good source of hardwood. Since they grow fast and propagate easily, they can serve as a reliable source of quality lumber. The wood is strong but flexible and fairly water resistant. This is important in a country like Saint Vincent. The air here is humid and there is heavy rain for several months of the year.
Like many of the trees that grow in Saint Vincent, the Indian almond serves a number of important purposes. We will not be planting any more on Richmond Beach because they are already established there. We will, however, be exploring other areas in North Leeward that are in need of the many benefits that the almond has to offer. Many people in Saint Vincent already know and appreciate their wild almond trees. Hopefully, as we plant them, even more people will be able to realize their useful qualities.
The tree grows to 35 m (115 ft) tall, with an upright, symmetrical crown and horizontal branches. Terminalia catappa has corky, light fruit that are dispersed by water. The seed within the fruit is edible when fully ripe, tasting almost like almond. As the tree gets older, its crown becomes more flattened to form a spreading, vase shape. Its branches are distinctively arranged in tiers. The leaves are large, 15–25 cm (5.9–9.8 in) long and 10–14 cm (3.9–5.5 in) broad, ovoid, glossy dark green, and leathery. They are dry-season deciduous before falling, they turn pinkish-reddish or yellow-brown, due to pigments such as violaxanthin, lutein, and zeaxanthin.
The trees are monoecious, with distinct male and female flowers on the same tree. Both are 1 cm (0.39 in) in diameter, white to greenish, inconspicuous with no petals they are produced on axillary or terminal spikes. The fruit is a drupe 5–7 cm (2.0–2.8 in) long and 3–5.5 cm (1.2–2.2 in) broad, green at first, then yellow and finally red when ripe, containing a single seed. Pollen grains measure about 30 microns.
The species epithet is based on its Malay name Ketapang.  
The tree has been spread widely by humans, so the native range is uncertain. It has long been naturalised in a broad belt extending from Africa to northern Australia and New Guinea through southeast Asia and Micronesia into the Indian subcontinent. More recently, the plant has been introduced to parts of the Americas. Until the mid-20th century, the tree had been used extensively in Brazilian urban landscaping, since being a rare case tropical deciduous, their fallen leaves would give a "European" flair to the street. This practice is currently abolished, and the "amendoeiras" are being replaced by native, evergreen trees.
T. catappa is widely grown in tropical regions of the world as an ornamental tree, grown for the deep shade its large leaves provide. The fruit is edible,  tasting slightly acidic.
The wood is red and solid, and has high water resistance it has been used in Polynesia for making canoes. In Tamil, almond is known as nattuvadumai.
The leaves contain several flavonoids (such as kaempferol or quercetin), several tannins (such as punicalin, punicalagin or tercatin), saponines and phytosterols. Due to this chemical richness, the leaves (and the bark) are used in different herbal medicines for various purposes. For instance in Taiwan, fallen leaves are used as an herb to treat liver diseases. In Suriname, an herbal tea made from the leaves has been prescribed against dysentery and diarrhea. The leaves may contain agents for prevention of cancers (although they have no demonstrated anticarcinogenic properties) and antioxidants, as well as anticlastogenic characteristics. Extracts of T. catappa have shown activity against Plasmodium falciparum chloroquine (CQ)-resistant (FcB1) and CQ-sensitive (HB3) strains. 
Keeping the leaves in an aquarium may lower the pH and heavy-metal content of the water. [ citation needed ] It has been used in this way by fish breeders for many years, and is active against some parasites and bacterial pathogens.  It is also believed to help prevent fungus forming on the eggs of the fish. [ citation needed ]
Frequently Asked Questions
Closeup of an almond tree branch. Source: shirofilm
Q: Where do almond trees grow best?
A: These trees are used to being hot and dry. They thrive the best in zones 7-9, especially in California!
Q: How long does it take for an almond tree to bear fruit?
A: It really depends on the tree. Some will begin to fruit in two years while others may take up to 12.
Q: Is almond a nut?
A: It may be considered a nut in the culinary sense, but almonds are actually seeds. They develop inside of the fruit, like a peach, whereas true nuts are hard-shelled fruits themselves.
Q: Where do almonds come from?
A: Almonds originally came from southwest Asia, but are grown mostly in California now. If you’re asking about what they grow on though, almonds are seeds grown in a small fruit on trees.