Unfortunately it is not possible to grow sandalwood in the UK. This small tropical tree is a semi-parasite and grows on other plants. Propagation is often difficult. Once established, seedlings must be grown with a host plant.
Even in a greenhouse, the right conditions are tricky to achieve. Sandalwood requires a temperature of 30°C, at least 12 hours of daylight all year round and keeping very dry - the trees only need between 3-30 cm of rain a year in the wild.
Root suckers from the bases of mature sandalwood trees which have been uprooted for oil, will transplant successfully, provided there are small 'nurse plants' growing in the area the transplant is intended to grow.
Growing from seed is possible, but very slow. In the wild, birds are probably the chief method of distribution of sandalwood, but the process of breaking dormancy is not yet fully understood.
Some limited success is now being achieved by micro-propagation techniques, but this is still being refined.
Sandalwood is dependent on other plants for minerals and water, but still needs sunlight to make its own sugars, which is why it has green leaves despite having roots which attach themselves to the roots of other plants. There are around 300 species of plant which can be parasitised by sandalwood.
Cultivated plants grown commercially are often grown in combination with chilli pepper (Capsicum) and species of Acacia in order to give the trees a host plant. The parasitic roots will extend some 10m from the base of each sandalwood tree. The trees need a lot of light, and are easily overgrown.
Young cultivated plants need careful management of their host plants, so that the trees are not smothered by weeds nor the hosts killed off by over-enthusiastic weeding.