Sandalwood Cultivation

SANDAL (Santalum album)

Sandal is a beautiful sacred tree and has been widely described in the ancient Hindu scriptures and epics. The tree is a native of India. This crooked thin branched evergreen tree is one of the costliest timbers. The world famous sandal wood oil is extracted from its heartwood. Full grown trees will attain about 12-13 m height and 1-2 m diameter.It is found in most parts of India. Sandal, which is distributed from sea level up to about 1800 m height, is found to grow in a variety of soils. Sandal which grow on sandy soil are more fragrant. Places where average annual

rainfall is about 700-1600 mm is best suited for its growth.

Artificial propagation

Usually nursery raised seedlings are transferred to field. Pods are collected during the month of April, May, September and October. Collected pods are soaked in water and dried well after removing fleshy portion.1 kg pod contains 6000 seeds. Dipping seeds in Gibberellic acid 50ppm will be effective for germination. Cold water dipping for 24 hrs will result in 30-40 per cent germination. Soil beds of size 10 x 1m are used for sowing. Before this, soil has to be thoroughly mixed with Ekalux. 2 ½ kg seeds can be sown in each bed. Beds have to be covered with hay. Healthy seedlings are to be transferred in polythene bags. If seedlings are to be retained in the polythene bags beyond one year, host plants are necessary. Host plant will help it in its early stages of growth. Branches of the host have to be cut down (removed) frequently.

Natural regeneration

Natural regeneration is by bird dispersed seeds. Seedlings are naturally seen in shrubby areas / places well surrounded by thick vegetation. This is meant for protection against sun rays, animals, drought etc. Natural propagation becomes easier if soil is wet and a host plant like Lantana is available near.

Planting and management

After a period of 8-10 months, seedlings of size of 20 cm tall, 5cm girth with 20-25 leaves with brownish stem and small branches are transferred to field. Three methods are used for field preparation. In one method, seeds are allowed to germinate by placing in small pits. This method is practiced usually in shrubby areas, where sprouting seedlings are well protected during rainy season.

In the second method, seeds are placed in large pits / soil mound along with host plants. In the third method, seeds are allowed to geminate within polythene bags and transferred to field in 50 cm x 50 cm x 50 cm pits with a spacing of 3 m between plants filled with 5kg FYM. Host plant is also planted along with each sandal seedling. This is the best method. Suitable host plants are Pongamia pinnata and Casuarina equisetifolia

Sandal is a semi root parasite. It means that during the early stages of its development, it absorbs food from another plant (host plant). Flowering begins after 2-3 years of vegetative growth. It happens twice in a year from March to May and September to December. As these two flowering seasons coincide, both buds as well as mature pods are found on the same plant. Simultaneously, shade bearing capacity changes gradually and the tree later becomes a light dependent one. Small root suckers are seen arising from the cut portions. Sunlight will produce small cracks on the outer skin surface of the plant especially in the case of young trees. In extreme conditions, the wood may get exposed and the plant will undergo total damage. In order to give protection from this, the surrounding vegetation has to be retained. Fertilization is done with 30-50 g N, 25-50g P2O5 and 30-50g K2O in addition to 40 g FYM per plant per year depending upon the size and age of plant.

Plant protection
Sandal spike disease is a serious problem. This is believed to be caused by mycoplasma like organisms.In affected plants, growth of leaves gets stunted (assumes a spike like form and hence the name “spike disease”) and later premature leaf fall occurs. Within 2-3 years, plant will die. A preventive measure is yet to be known. However, removal of affected plant parts or plants as a whole from the field is recommended against spike disease. Spike disease is transferred by pests like Jassidus indicus, Moono albimaculata etc. These vectors can be controlled by quinalphos 0.05 per cent. Sandal is also affected by stem borers such as Zeuzera coffeae, Aristobia octo-fasiculata etc which can be controlled by spraying dimethoate 0.05 per cent.

Sapwood is whitish or yellowish white with no smell. Heartwood changes in colour from yellowish brown to reddish brown and has a good smell. Heartwood is produced only after 20 years of growth. Usually trees are uprooted instead of cutting from the ground level as oil content in roots is greater. One cubic meter wood weighs about 897-1137 kg. The “Kerala Preservation of Trees

Act 1986″ has put restriction on cutting this tree. Permit is needed for its collection, retention or sale. One can keep up to 3 kg of sandal for domestic purposes without licence. A sanctioned certificate of ownership from Tahsildar is to be submitted before Divisional Forest Officer by people who have sandal tree at home. About 75 per cent of the selling price of a sandal tree goes to its owner. On the basis of quality, grade 1kg sandal costs about Rs. 250-500/-.


Dark red coloured oil from seeds is used in making varnishes. It is also found to be effective in skin diseases. Sandal wood oil from heartwood and roots is useful for the synthesis of powder, soap, perfumes and other cosmetic items. Sandal wood and oil are medicinal and also has religious importance. Sandal wood is used in making small boxes, stationery items, jewellery boxes etc.

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