PALM TREES 101
Palm trees are actually
considered by botanists to be complex grasses. Almost all palm species
have a single trunk or multiple trunks that do not branch above ground.
Palms are used in landscaping due to their tropical look and overall beauty.
Most of the 2600 species of
in the world come from tropical regions near the equator (pink shaded
area in left picture). Most of the palms
in the United States are found in Hawaii, California, Arizona, Texas, Louisiana,
Georgia, the Carolinas, and Florida. Some common palms used in these
states are the Mexican Fan Palm (Washingtonia robusta),
Queen Palm (Syagrus romanzoffiana),
Cabbage Palm (Sabal palmetto), Pigmy
Date Palm (Phoenix roebellinii), King
cunninghamiana), and Jelly Palm (Butia
capitata). Once you travel north of these
states, you will not see as many palms because of the frequent frosts.
There are only a handful of palm species in the world that can survive extended
frosts below 25 degrees F.
Where do Palms Come From?
Chances are, the palm trees
growing in your yard did not originally come from the United States. Palms
that grow naturally in your area or state are called native palms
or palms in habitat. Palms that
grow naturally in say, Brazil, but are brought in to be grown in US yards are
called non-native or exotic
species. Here's how it works...
About 100 years ago, a
botanist traveling through Brazil noticed a colony of palms growing in a
semi-arid region. He thinks the palm may be a new species so he collects
seed from below one of the trees in the colony. These seeds are brought
back to the US and studied. If he finds it is a new species, the botanist
describes the tree and gives it a name such as "Queen Palm (Syagrus
Meanwhile, some of his seeds
are sold or given to friends or business acquaintances who grow them up into
plants. The resulting plants are then sold or planted for future seed
production. As more and more of these Queen Palms are grown in the US,
they make their way into yards and gardens in any city that as a semi-arid
climate. Palms that are found to be particularly drought tolerant, sun
tolerant, or cold hardy are usually grown in higher numbers by nurserymen
because they know their customers can grow them with ease. The problem
with this practice is that every landscape in a given area ends up using the
same five types of palms and you run into the "cookie-cutter" landscape... very
boring. This gave us our Seabreeze Palms company motto:
"If you want your
neighbor's boring landscape, call your neighbor's landscaper...
If you want a one-of-a-kind
Tropical Paradise, talk to us."
All palms have three basic
types of leaves:
(Feather Leaf) Bipinnate Leaf
Fishtail Palms Loulou Palm
In order to achieve a true
"jungle look" in your yard or garden, it is important to incorporate palms of
all three leaf types.
Keep in mind, each type of
palm prefers a different amount of sun. If you live inland or in the
South, your sun may be more intense, calling for more shade from overhead trees
or a house. Some palms, like King Palms (Archontophoenix sp.),
grow well in sun or shade, making them very versatile. Others, like the
Metallic Palm (Chamaedorea metallica),
need to grow in shade their entire life. If the palm tree you just bought
didn't come with any care instructions, simply Google its common name to find
out what country it comes from. Is its natural climate dry and deserty?
Or, is does it come from the rainforests of Papua New Guinea? This will
determine what type of light and how much water it will like.
As a general rule, palm
trees prefer a well-draining soil mixture that contains any combination of: peat
moss, perlite, coarse sand, pumice, wood chips, volcanic rock, or vermiculite.
When you water your palm's soil, the water should drain through the soil almost
instantly. If water pools on the ground for 30 seconds or more, the soil
is not draining fast enough. Palms growing in the ground outdoors should
be watered differently than
Soil is different depending
on what state you live in. Here are some generalized soil types per state:
Hawaii: Volcanic rock
and dead leaf matter
rock, and dirt
Arizona: Clay, rock,
Texas: Rock, dirt and
Florida: Cap rock and
marl (southeast). Sand and shells (southwest and central).
For container palms, if you
live in Hawaii you will want a very fast draining soil due to the high rainfall;
whereas if you live in Texas, you want to use more peat moss or wood chips to
hold in as much water as possible. If you live in Florida, the native soil
has very few nutrients, so your palms will need more fertilizer.