Garden Oracle / Drought and Heat Tolerant Gardening / Tucson - Phoenix - Arizona - California

Growing Tamarind:
Tamarindus indica

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Botanical Overview

A member of the widespread Legume family (Fabaceae), the Tamarindus genus has Tamarind as its only species. Tamarind is widely grown in the tropics as an ornamental and for its edible bean pod pulp.


Form: A multitrunked tree.
Lifespan: Up to 60 productive years, possibly living 200 years.
Leaf retention: Evergreen, but drought-deciduous.
Growth rate: Slow to moderate.
Mature Size: Normally 15-25' high and wide, but Tamarind can grow to twice that size in ideal conditions.
Flowers: Four sepals, red on the outside and green to white inside, open to reveal five petals, yellow laced with red veins, of varying length. The flowers are fragrant.
Bloom: Summer.
Self-fruitful: Yes.
Years before fruiting: Grafted, 3-4. From seed, 6-8.
Fruit: Brown, irregularly curved bean pods with brittle shells. Ripe pods contain a brown or reddish, sticky paste with a sour-sweet flavor. Most varieties are primarily sour, but a few are sweet. Up to 12 large, flat, glossy brown seeds are embedded within the pulp. Indian cultivars have longer pods with 6-12 seeds, while the West Indian cultivars have 3-6 seeds.
Months for fruit to ripen: 8. Tamarind pods are sometimes left on the tree up to six months to lose water, but can be removed when first ripe.
Storage after harvest: Tamarind pods can be refrigerated, wrapped, for several months, or even frozen for up to one year. Tamarind is often shelled and layered with sugar or salt before processing.
Leaves: Green leaflets, feathery, in groups of 10-20, which fold up at night. The tree provides light shade.
Stems: Some tamarind varieties have thorny trunks, others do not. Its branches are highly wind resistant.
Roots: A taproot with strong side roots that develop gradually over time. This tree is not considered invasive in most climates.
Cultivars of Note:
'Manila Sweet' / 'Sweet Tamarind' has sweeter pulp.
Wildlife: The flowers attract bees. The bean pods do not attract wildlife.
Toxic / Danger: Possible thorns on trunk.
Origin: Tropical Africa and Madagascar. Introduced to India thousands of years ago, it was assumed at one time to have originated there.

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Cultivation and Uses

USDA hardiness zones: 10-11. Mature trees can survive brief temperatures of 26°F intact. They are root hardy and can regrow from the roots. New trees must be protected from freezing.
Chill hours: None.
Heat tolerant: Yes, to 113°F in its native region.
Drought tolerant: Yes, in moderate temperatures. Tamarind needs more frequent irrigation in high temperatures.
Sun: Full sun.
Planting: Locate this tree in full sun in well-draining soil. Keep it at least 6' away from sidewalks, foundations, and other structures that might limit its root growth. It can be grown as bonsai.
Soil: Well drained, acidic to alkaline. This tree adapts to a wide variety of soils and has low to moderate salt tolerance.
Fertilize: Apply organic fertilizer monthly.
Water after becoming established: Deep water weekly in summer, monthly in winter.
Mulch: Spread organic mulch inside the drip line and 8" from the trunk to reduce soil temperature and lessen moisture evaporation.
First Year Care: Water every 1-3 days in hot weather. Protect from freezing.
Prune: On young trees, select one vertical leader as the central trunk, and the three to five strongest, best placed branches to serve as the main scaffold off that trunk. Remove the rest. In following years, remove only dead or damaged branches.
Litter: Moderate to high. Leaves, twigs, bean pods if not harvested.
Propagation: Seed is used to grow rootstocks. Cuttings from desirable selections are grafted. Air layering is also successful.
Uses: Ornamental, light shade, edible bean pod pulp used for flavoring sauces, drinks, and making candy.


Tamarind is distantly related to other Legume family members with edible bean pods or filling, such as Carob, Guamuchil, and Pacay.

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By J.M.Garg - Own work, CC BY 3.0, httpscommons.wikimedia.orgwindex.phpcurid-7583285

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Latest update: June, 2020