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How to Grow Your Own Soapberry Tree

Imagine yourself growing your own soap in your backyard.

Soapberry, or soap nut, trees give fruit to a berry which contains a natural, soap-like surfactant called saponins. These berries have been used for hundreds of years by many cultures, if you’d like to learn more about the origins of the soapberry, you can read our article The Origin of Soapberry.  


Soapberry seeds

Soapberry trees are more commonly found in warm temperate climates, as well as tropical regions. They can be found in places like India, China, Hawaii and Florida. Soap nut trees are perennial plants, which means they live for more than two years, and they grow to about 20-30 feet.


Soapberry tree


If you want to nurture yourself (and your family) or put your green thumb to use, follow these easy-to-follow steps to grow your own soapberry tree:

1. First, you must prepare the seed of the soap nut and weaken its coat. Rub the surface of it with fine-grit general purpose sandpaper, then soak it in warm water for 24 hours. The soapberry mala in our store can actually be used for this fun project.


Soapberry mala



2. While you wait, you can begin preparing the pot you will plant the seed in. Keep in mind that this plant grows in warmer climates. Fill your pot with germinating soil, and plant the seed about an inch deep in the soil. We recommend you plant one seed per pot.

3. Make sure to maintain the soil moist, but don’t overdo it. Let the soil dry between each time you water the plant.

4. It usually takes about 1-3  months for the seedlings to germinate in warmer climates. Once the seedling has sprouted, remove the seedling’s root ball from the pot. Choose a spot in your yard where you’d like to plant the seedling and dig a hole deep to spread out its roots with your fingers.

5. Mix the potting soil with the ground soil and saturate the soil with water to reduce any air pockets.

6. To make sure your soapberry sapling stays healthy, you can use fertilizer, being sure to follow the manufacturer’s care instructions. After being planted, it takes about 9-10 years to produce soapberries.


Once your soapberry tree produces the soapberries, you can collect them and leave them out to dry in the sun on a canvas. Before storing or using the berry, remove the seed.


  • I live in NY so I am unable to plant the seed outside. Can it be grown in a pot inside?

    Valerie Haugland
  • Eric,

    you would want to remove the shell casing to expose the black seed (like in the first photo), and use sandpaper on the black seed. It’s a process called seed scarification, and is meant to help reduce the seed coating. Seeds that require scarification would usually would pass through the digestive tract of an animal before germinating, in which case the seed coating would be reduced by stomach acid.

    Also keep in mind that the tree might not be hardy where you live. I can’t find any USDA Zone information on it, but it’s a sub-tropical/tropical plant, so unless you live in Florida or another area that doesn’t ever get a hard freeze, it would probably be best to try keeping these in large pots and bringing them into a greenhouse or next to a large window indoors in the winter.

  • nine to ten years? hmm. I live in growing zone 8. Is that warm enough?

    Toni Borras
  • The article says to prepare the seed. That is what is inside the shell. I would love to try this but I live in Pa. Does anyone know what temperatures this tree can tolerate?

  • Wow this sounds awesome! I live in florida to and have quite the backyard garden so this will be perfect to start another project. But like the other comment mentioned…you use sandpaper on the outer hard shell to soften it up and then allow it to soak? You want access to the innet shell and scraping the outer shell allows the water to penetrate inside the seed faster correct?


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