New Online Database Helps Choose the Right Palm for Any Garden

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Adding the right palm will increase aesthetic and property value while planting the wrong palm can be a very expensive lesson. AQualityPlant.com has launched a free website with a comprehensive plant guide.

Canary Island Date Palm

Some cold hardy palms can even withstand snow and sub-zero (F) temperatures.

Adding the right palm will increase aesthetic and property value while planting the wrong palm can be a very expensive lesson. AQualityPlant.com has launched a free website with a comprehensive plant guide.

Palms are a beautiful natural symbol of the tropics and a favorite addition to private and public landscapes around the globe. To make the best decision also consider size, growth rate, cold hardiness, watering requirements, maintenance, salt tolerance and light requirements.

Palms come in sizes that range from just a few feet tall, like the Bamboo Cane Palm (Chamaedorea elegans) or nearly two hundred feet tall, like the Wax Palm (Ceroxylon quindiuense). Some will max out at only a couple feet wide while others can grow to over fifty feet wide. It is important to know the mature size of a palm before making a selection.

Palms also grow at different rates that are influenced by natures design, growing conditions and the care given by their owner. Tropical palms grow faster than those from desert or temperate regions. Palms like the Medjool Date Palm (Phoenix dactylifera) grow fastest in a desert climate where daily temperatures well over 100 degrees will suit them just fine. Windmill Palms (Trachycarpus fortunii) prefer a Mediterranean climate and can even tolerate temperatures near zero degrees Fahrenheit.

Buyers often forget to check a palm’s cold hardiness until it's too late like during a major cold event. there are several varieties of cold hardy palms that can endure freezing temperatures for many hours. Some cold hardy palms can even withstand snow and sub-zero (F) temperatures. Popular choices include the Pindo Palm (Butia capitata), the Windmill Palm (Trachycarpus fortunii), the European Fan Palm (Chamaerhopps humilis) and the Medjool Date Palm (Phoenix dactylifera).

The watering requirements for palms can vary greatly. Palms planted in fast draining sandy soil will require more frequent watering than those grown in clay based soils. Be sure to account for average rainfall amounts and watering restrictions during the selection process.

Climate compatibility is less of a concern when native palms are used. These palms have garnered recent attention and are highly recommended in most municipalities. Many home owners have jumped on the bandwagon by choosing native palms for their landscapes. In Florida, palms like the Florida Sabal Palm (Sabal palmetto), the Thatch Palm (Thrinax radiata) and the Saw Palmetto (Serenoa repens) have grown significantly in popularity.

Contrary to popular belief, not all palms can tolerate full sun. Some even require full shade. Most common landscaping palms tend to be the full sun varieties like the Washington Palm (Washingtonia robusta), the Queen Palm (Syagrus romanzoffiana), the Bismark Palm (Bismarkia nobilis) and the Pigmy Date Palm (Phoenix roebelenii). Common shade loving palms include the Bamboo Cane Palms (Chamaedoria Species), Dwarf Sugar Palm (Arenga engleri) and the Fishtail Palm (Caryota mitis).

Salt tolerance of palms is an important consideration for landscapes adjacent to bays, gulfs or oceans. Salt spray can damage foliage while salt water flooding can contaminate soil for years. Storm surges in the Florida Keys made this apparent to many homeowners and municipalities. After having their roots submerged for hours, many palms, including native species, suffered. One palm that did surprisingly well was not native at all. The Medjool Date Palm (Phoenix dactylifera) was among the least damaged by the salt intrusion into the soil. It was noted by residents and has become a welcome addition to many landscapes in the keys.

Some palms can have unintended consequences for their owners. Palms with large seeds like the Coconut Palm (Cocos nucifera) should not be planted where the falling coconuts can cause damage like over a driveway or walkway. Similarly, palms with extra large fronds planted close to your house could result in damage to the roof or gutters when they fall from great heights or get blown about in heavy winds. Consider that the fronds on Royal Palms (Roystonea regia) can way fifty pounds or more on taller specimens.

AQualityPlant.com has a free database that consumers can use to review all of the characteristics of hundreds of palm species from the comfort of their keyboard. Most have pictures and detailed descriptions to make the selection process foolproof. It’s a great place to start when deciding on a new palm.

Some maintenance will be required to preserve an attractive and healthy palm once it has been established in the new landscape. The maintenance plan should always include a trimming and fertilization schedule. Trimming should be done on brown or yellowed foliage. Trimming green fronds in an attempt to save time can prevent a palm from achieving adequate photosynthesis which can deter growth and fruiting. Some palms like the Royal Palm (Roystonea regia) and the Foxtail Palm (Wodyetia bifurcata) are self cleaning. They don't require pruning. The fronds will brown and then fall to the ground within a week or two. Unfortunately for those in subtropical and temperate climates, self cleaning palms are not cold hardy.

A palm fertilizer that includes a micro-nutrient package of boron, iron, manganese, magnesium, zinc and copper should be applied a minimum of twice per year. Once in the spring and once in the fall is sufficient. These micro nutrients are necessary for palms to grow healthy and strong. Fertilizing a third or even forth time will push rapid growth. This is common practice in the nursery trade to grow a sell-able plant faster. These micro nutrients are necessary for palms to grow healthy and strong.

Choosing the right palm is easy when all the factors are carefully considered. Regardless on the unique landscaping circumstances, among the hundreds of palm species there are certainly several beautiful choices that will be a perfect fit.

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Rob Pittman
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