How to Grow a Sandalwood Tree

Few tree species have paid a higher price for celebrity than the Indian sandalwood (Santalum album). This small evergreen tree grows wild in both Asia and Hawaii -- but the world so lusted after the fragrant wood and oils of sandalwood trees that commercial interests wiped out most of the groves in both regions. Sandalwood is not a tree frequently grown in American backyards, and while general cultivation information is available, its scope is limited.

Hanging Rope Bridge over a River
credit: Siddligatta Viswakumar/iStock/Getty Images
Here sandalwood trees mix with other tropical species.

Step 1

Grow sandalwood in full sunlight in well-drained soil with a pH between 5.6 and 7.8. The tree accepts most soil types, including sandy soil and garden loam.

Step 2

Plant sandalwood near one of the over 300 species of trees and shrubs that fix nitrogen in the soil, such as acacia (Acacia spp.). Sandalwood is a hemi-parasite and connects underground with these host plants to obtain nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus. For best effect, the sandalwood and the host should be within 6 feet of one another.

Step 3

Space a sandalwood tree at least 8 feet from trees or structures other than host plants. Locate your tree where it will have sufficient room to rise to some 30 feet tall over time.

Step 4

Water your sandalwood tree to the extent required to keep the soil moist but not wet. Adjust irrigation depending on the rainfall in your area. Sandalwoods tolerate some drought, but in time it can kill them, as does waterlogged soil.

Step 5

Do not fertilize the sandalwood. Fertilization attempts to date have proved detrimental to sandalwood groves.

Teo Spengler

Teo Spengler

From Alaska to California, from France's Basque Country to Mexico's Pacific Coast, Teo Spengler has dug the soil, planted seeds and helped trees, flowers and veggies thrive. World traveler, professional writer and consummate gardener, Spengler earned a BA from U.C. Santa Cruz, a law degree from Berkeley's Boalt Hall, and an MA and MFA from San Francisco State. She currently divides her life between San Francisco and southwestern France.