Want to grow Iboga?
Outside of the Congo Basin whispers surrounding the existence of Tabernanthe Iboga farms are based largely on hearsay. However, there also exists a limited number of verified Tabernanthe Iboga cultivation sites which are showing early signs of success. Many of these farms are located in Central America and run by small teams of dedicated individuals. This includes Mexico, Costa Rica and beyond, where the latitude, and fertile environment necessary to raise this delicate plant qualifies them as suitable alternative locations.
Here at Costa Rica Yoga Spa, we have spent years of dedicated study trying to ascertain whether it’s possible to grow Tabernanthe iboga plants outside of their native habitat. We’re delighted to announce that these programs have been very promising. In the future we aim to provide guests with iboga grown right here on our farm in Costa Rica. And we’d like to share our know-how with you, and anyone else thinking of growing this sacred plant. For more information about how to grow iboga, click here.
Seeds and Germination
Although seeds are available on the internet, the quality of these seeds will vary. One thing that’s agreed upon is that the seeds must be as fresh as possible. The seeds of many tropical plant species, including iboga, are recalcitrant. In layman’s terms, this simply means they lose their potency in a short time. They can neither be dried nor stored for a long period of time, and they hate the cold. In the wrong conditions, iboga seeds will die within weeks. Even in the perfect conditions, they will be lucky to live beyond a few months.
It’s also important to note that while fresh, potent iboga seeds may germinate within weeks, it’s not unheard of for germination to take place between 12-18 months after planting.
If all this sounds too difficult, then fear not, because help is most certainly at hand. It’s uniformly agreed that the most effective way to grow iboga outside of western central Africa is by obtaining the whole fruits of the Tabernanthe iboga tree. Although by the time it reaches you, it’s freshness may have been compromised, this is not a problem. Many reports indicate that the highest germination rates have been achieved after planting seed pods that have been allowed time to rot. After this, you can either choose to plant the entire seedpod, or to split it open, and extract the wet, fertile seeds one-by-one.
Here, Shaman Australis, an experienced and respected vendor of Tabernanthe iboga seeds describes their seed packaging procedure.
“We wrap the fresh pods in live moss at the time of harvest. This slows down the rotting of the fruit and allows us to get the fruit to all countries in time. The seeds will usually germinate inside the rotting fruit. Indeed, we recommend to open the package carefully, and if the seed has not germinated to seal it back up or transfer it to fresh sphagnum moss. This is the most reliable method of germinating the seeds we have found in the 15+ years we have been working with this species.”
Germinating the seed requires placing at a depth of at least 10mm in a tray or drainable plant pot or punnet filled at least 5cm deep with rough sand. The sand must remain constantly moist,and kept at an air temp between 30-35 deg C air temp. However, to achieve good germination the air temp should be about 30-35 deg C. Any lower will delay germination and expose the plant to fungal attack. Germination time ranges between days and months, so keep tending the plant at all times and don’t give up hope. When a few leaves begin to blossom it’s time to transplant it. Transfer the plant to a 90% rough sand + 10% potting mix, and avoid the temptation to use manure or fertilizer. Once further leaves appear, and the root begins to take on a woody appearance, it’s time to transfer them to a bigger plant pot or into the ground.
At this point it’s essential they are transferred to an environment that mimics their natural rainforest home. The growing environment must be moist, humid, well drained, and with medium light exposure. The congolese rainforest floor consists of temperatures above 20 degrees Celsius, high ambient humidity, and partial shade. Although the plant may survive in lower humidity, this will be temporary. Eventually it will just stop growing. However, what’s likely to kill it even quicker is cold. If enough humidity is present, the iboga plant will be able to occasionally tolerate direct sunlight. However, this exposure should only be temporary. If it has been planted in a suitable environment it will continue to grow. The more it grows the stronger it becomes, increasing its chance of reaching maturity. In the Congolese rainforests, the iboga plant grows in sandy clay soil that drains and dries very quickly. Again, it’s important that the planting location mimics these conditions. This is particularly true in the case of younger plants. Remember that as the plant grows, the root system will get larger, meaning the plant will require plenty of space. At this point, the plant is likely to react well to fertilizer, the best being composted horse manure.
Flowering and Pollination
Once the plant begins to flower – congratulations on a job well done. You’ve done well to make it this far. Even if the root bark is not yet ready to consume, your plants are well on the way to being capable of producing their own seed pods.
Growing from cuttings
Like with seeds, growing iboga from cuttings requires heat. Unlike seeds, cuttings do not require as much wetness to germinate. According to native growers, and those who grow the plants in tropical countries, the best time to cultivate cuttings is in the dry part of the summer.
Shaman Australis has thus to say about growing iboga from cuttings.
“Iboga cuttings are fairly easy to root. Take a stem section with two nodes. Remove the leaves from the lower node and cut off 2/3rds of each remaining leaf. Now insert the lower end into a tray or pot of coarse sharp sand. Rooting hormone makes no difference in this process. Put the pot or tray in a hothouse or humidity dome and keep moist, humid and very warm. Callus forms after about 10 days and roots emerge after another few days. Pot into a sandy potting mix after 4-6 weeks or when the plant has grown by another node.”