Propagating Pandanus amaryllifolius (Fragrant Pandan)

Pandanus amaryllifolius Fragrant Pandan/Screwpine)

a lone ranger in a terracota pot at our backyard, was almost wrecked but ended remarkably well eventually!

Pandanus amaryllifolius, with growing tip destroyed by monkeys. Shot Dec 30 2009Usually, the edible P. amaryllifolius or Fragrant Pandan suckers freely when grown in the ground with ample space to expand but very rarely in pots due to space constraints as observed and experienced by us over many years. However, a fluke incident showed us that it can be achieved, though somewhat differently.

This was what happened when the cat’s away, the mice were at play! The wild monkeys that prowled behind our backyard had a field day during our absence when we were holidaying at Felda Residence Hot Springs, Sungkai in December 2009. And, with our beloved miniature pinscher, Maxi, away too at a boarding home, they targeted our luxuriat Pandan Leaf plant and destroyed its growing tip as pictured on the right.

Were they rabid monkeys, we wondered? Should we throw away the damaged plant? Anyway, we opted to trim back on the tall and top-heavy potted plant, leaving behind just a 10-inch tall leafless stem with its aerial and stilt roots. Simply to experiment and see what will happen eventually with just usual watering.

Pandanus amaryllifolius with aerial plantlets. Shot April 3 2010Lo and behold, a couple of months later, we were delightfully surprised when a bunch of aerial offshoots emerged unexpectedly at the cut area of the stem. How wonderful …so many plantlets that can be propagated by growing them as new plants!

Really a blessing in disguise that also gave us new insights on how to get numerous pups from a single matured plant. Just need to cut off its top to induce its production! Can shorter sections of the leafless stem with just an aerial root or two be planted to get more plants, I wonder? Nonetheless, the tip cutting that has some aerial roots can be replanted to continue its growth.

Propagating the Pandanus amaryllifolius (syn: P. odorus)

The edible Pandan Leaves (Daun Pandan in Malay) does not produce seeds, hence it is propagated in the following ways:

1. By separating the suckers or offsets that emerge naturally from the soil at the base of the parent plant. To propagate, just detach one offshoot with its roots from the parent plant (either pull it with a slight force or use a garden spade or a sharp knife if necessary). Then, wash off any soil from its roots, trim away some of the basal leaves and replant it as a new plant in moist potting/garden soil with good drainage. Ensure that it is planted with soil level up to the neck. Best to site your plant in a semi-shaded spot and with regular watering, it should flourish with least care.

2. By removing aerial offshoots or plantlets that emerged atop the cut end of a pandan stem as seen in the above second image.
To get a matured Pandan Leaf plant to produce these offshoots, just cut its tip with a sharp knife. A cluster of plantlets will develop subsequently and once they form their own roots, you can cut them off from the parent plant and plant them individually as new plants in well-drained soil.

We propagated our cluster of aerial offshoots somewhat differently though. Knowing that it’s a little more difficult to propagate pandan plantlets with somewhat hardened aerial roots, we didn’t want to wait too long for that to develop. Once we observed that there were signs of tiny new root growth on the plantlets, we decided to prune off the whole cluster and remove the lower section of old stem and hardened aerial roots. Then, we planted them altogether in a single pot filled with garden soil (hehe…knowing pandan is not fussy, we conveniently used some recycled soil) to allow them to easily grow and develop their own roots. See illustrations below.

Propagating Pandanus amaryllifolius (Fragrant Pandan): a cluster of aerial plantlets, shot April 3 2010 Propagating Pandanus amaryllifolius (Fragrant Pandan): a cluster of aerial plantlets planted in soil, shot April 3 2010

As seen in the photos below, the plantlets grew and matured very well over a period of a year. Hardy and fuss-free, they just require regular watering in our tropical heat, some sunshine and occasional feeding. Eventually, new suckers were added and number increased to 14 plants.

Propagating Pandanus amaryllifolius (Fragrant Pandan): plantlets maturing and suckering well a year later. Shot April 15 2011 Propagating Pandanus amaryllifolius (Fragrant Pandan): plantlets maturing and suckering well a year later. Shot April 15 2011

Looking closely at our potted plants recently, we realized that it was definitely time to propagate them as individual plants. Gosh, we had procrastinated in our garden chores far too long!
To propagate, as illustrated below, separate each sucker with its roots, snip off some older roots and basal leaves. Then pot it up to its neck in well-drained moist medium. It’s sure to grow with normal care – water regularly and provide sufficient sunlight. An occasional feed a month later will make it happy too.

Propagating Pandanus amaryllifolius (Fragrant Pandan): young plants separated for individual replant. Shot April 20 2011 Propagating Pandanus amaryllifolius (Fragrant Pandan): young plant separated for replant. Shot April 20 2011

Some tips on propagating Pandan amaryllifolius:

  • provide sufficient ground space for the mature plant to produce numerous suckers for propagation.
  • separate the offsets only when they have their own roots for optimum growth.
  • you may need to soak the plantlet (especially if it has only 1-2 aerial roots that are rather thick), in clean water for a week or two to encourage more secondary root growth before potting in soil. Soak only the root section, not the leaves.
  • in temperate or non-hardy regions: propagate during the warmer months, preferably in pots so that it can be overwintered indoors during winter and protected from frost. During winter too, water sparingly on the soil, not on the crown of plant to prevent trapped water that will lead to rot and its eventual demise. Learn more about winter care, where to buy them, etc. from this 3-year old Daleys Fruit Tree forum thread on Pandan amaryllifolius that’s to-date still active.

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16 Responses to “Propagating Pandanus amaryllifolius (Fragrant Pandan)”

  1. Autumn Belle Says:

    When grown on the ground, the roots look like stilts. I like to imagine that they have legs, haha. I always wonder why they never ever produce any flowers.

  2. Jacqueline Says:

    Our potted plants usually display such roots too…I find them somewhat unsightly. Should let my imagination fly like yours instead, huh!

  3. Ankeny Pandan Says:

    I got my pandan plant in the states. I separated the 2 plants after I got them in the mail. One of them started drying up. I wasn’t sure what to do. It’s so hard to keep them alive. I’ve tried just leaving it in the soil and water it sparingly. It’s still drying up. So now, I decided to put the roots (including the aerial roots) in water. I really don’t want my plant to die. It’s so expensive to get them here. Can you advise?

  4. Jacqueline Says:

    Hi Ankeny! There’s an interesting forum on the Pandan Plant @ where you may want to enquire further from the other growers whose climatic conditions may be somewhat similar to yours in the States.
    Here in Malaysia, it just grows easily on soil without much fuss in our tropical humid heat and rain.

  5. Tess Says:

    Hello…..I live in San JOse, CA, and have been looking desrperately for a nursery that can help me obtain a root, nut to no like. I did find an oriental store that will sell 3 fresh leaves for $0.99. I have been trying to find one with a root, but to no avail.What are my chances of trying it by using very bottom, that looks mature , soak in water, til it roots! (Boy do I wish!) What is your experience in this situation…Any help will do,….

  6. Jacqueline Says:

    Sorry, Tess…we’ve never experimented rooting leaves.

  7. Lisa Says:

    Hi Tess,

    I have been looking for more than a year either online or visiting some nurseries.
    Yesterday I bought one from:

    The price is $39.98

    Good luck.

  8. Sue Says:

    I am based in the UK. Acquired 2 aerial pups recently. Have soaked the roots in water for the last 3-4 days. However, the root tips are starting to look a bit brown and I am worried that they may be rotting. I have had a look at the forum and submitted a post (pending publication).

    Did you have a similar experience with your aerial pups?
    Should I just pot them up in some well draining soil?

  9. Jacqueline Says:

    Hi Sue… you need not soak the aerial pups that have some sign of roots. Just pot them up.
    Hence, why not just try potting them and hope they will grow eventually.

  10. Rahaidi Says:

    Hi Jacqueline, I like your post and pics of the propagation method.

    I’m from Perth Western Australia and have been growing them for awhile now in our somewhat temperate climate. We’re not able to plant in ground as our winter climate here will rot them away. So the’re basically pot-bound.

    We’re about half way through our Summer here and I have alot propagated in water at the moment. I have had alot more success and quicker strikes by have them all in and under plastic to increase the humidity as well. Masses of roots form quite quickly and will be hardened off and replanted in soil before the onset of Winter.

    Another observation I found with existing potted Pandans is that you can sometimes initiate offsets or pups by simply scoring the baseline of the plant.

  11. Jacqueline Says:

    Oooh Rahaidi… thanks for your thumbs-up. We appreciate your generosity in taking the trouble to share your propagation experiences and successes for the benefit of those seeking help in this matter. God bless you.

    Your method of scoring the baseline to get more pups is new to me… I just went out to try this out but unable to proceed further as there are numerous aerial roots that have submerged into the soil around its trunk. I suppose this is only feasible on younger plants where the stem is visible, right?

    I’ve observed recently that our single plant have lots of axillary shoots that have emerged along the trunk wherever a pandan leaf has been harvested. Out of curiosity, I’ve carefully prised a couple of the lower offshoots and found new root growth attached… just ready to be potted, which I did. Great, now I know how to get a continuous supply of pups! ;)

  12. Michelle Says:

    I got 5 cuttings in the pot and I cover it with plastic bag over out side in the indirect light and bring it in the house at night.

  13. Jacqueline Says:

    Thanks for sharing your method, Michelle! I’m just curious… can I know why the need to bring them indoors at night? We in the tropics are fortunate as everything can be done outdoors without much fuss. ;-)

  14. Michelle Says:

    I am in modesto ca. The weather is still too cold for them to be outside at night. Yesterday I checked and two died I think I water too much. I hope the other three will survive.

  15. Jacqueline Says:

    Thanks for responding, Michelle!
    All the very best …may the 3 cuttings grow luxuriantly to provide your needs.
    Happy gardening!!

  16. Michelle Says:

    They are not looking too good. I think I will remove the cover to avoid the roots from rotting.

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