In my Florida Soapberry post from a few years back, I wrote:
“I scarified a bunch of seeds and planted them in little pots this spring and got almost a 100% germination rate. When they’re bigger, they’ll be perfect for planting two or three at a time out in the yard.
Why do I say two or three? Well, like many uncommonly cultivated species, the soapberry needs a mate for pollination. Trees come in male, female and hermaphroditic varieties. Only females and hermaphrodites will bear soap nuts. If you plant three, chances are really good that at least one or two of them will fruit for you.”
Now look at this guy, all grown up!
Scrubland Avenger sent me that photo. It’s one of the trees he bought from me, back when I was running a plant nursery as my side business. (You can learn to do the same in ).
It’s one of three he planted, per my recommendation.
Only one is fruiting, so it’s good he planted three!
If I were to plant more soapberries, I would probably stick three of them in the same hole to make a triple-trunked tree. They’d take up less space that way.
It’s important to know if a tree will be self-fertile or if it needs a mate. With soapberries, you have a pretty good chance of getting at least one tree to fruit if you plant multiple trees together. If you plant just one, your chances are poor.
Soapberries need watering to get established, but overall they are very tough trees and quite easy to grow. They tolerate poor soil and neglect.
From seed, you can expect them to fruit in as little as three years.
Plant at least three for pollination, take care of them well the first year or two, then harvest the fruit when they fall to the ground. The dried outer fruit is your “soap,” not the seed inside, so dry the fruit and remove the inner seed.
Don’t eat them as they are somewhat toxic.
I hope to re-acquire soapberries now that I have moved out of the states. It’s a beautiful tree and quite useful.
When I do, I’ll share how I germinate them.