Nothing gives a landscape that tropical feel quite like a palm tree. Beautiful palm trees are everywhere in Florida, & there is a palm tree to fit any size landscape project.
The Bismarck palm (bismarckia nobilis) massive tropical palm commands attention & makes a bold statement in any landscape. It grows a single trunk that is smooth on mature specimens but young individuals retain old leaf bases. This palm may reach an ultimate height of 50-60 ft with a spread of 20 ft or more. Even young specimens that have yet to form a trunk, sport full crowns of about 25 leaves with the maximum spread. The huge palmate leaves are bright light blue, waxy and are up to 10 ft across. They are supported on 6 ft stems that can be 10 inches in diameter. The leaf bases split where they attach to the trunk (like those of the state palm tree the Sabal Palm) and the leaf stems are armed with small sharp teeth.
This large, stately palm often reaches a size too massive for most residential landscapes but, fortunately, it is very slow-growing and will take a considerable amount of time to reach its 50 to 60-foot height. Canary Island Date Palm is most impressive with its single, upright, thick trunk topped with a crown of 8 -15 foot long, stiff leaves with extremely sharp spines at their bases. The stalks of inconspicuous flowers are replaced with clusters of one-inch-diameter, orange-yellow, date-like, ornamental fruits which ripen in early summer. The trunk can reach a diameter of four feet and is covered with an attractive, diamond-shaped pattern from old leaf scars.
Canary Island Date Palm should be grown in full sun on fertile, moist soil for best growth but is tolerant of any well-drained soil. It can be planted on the inland side of coastal condominiums and large homes due to moderately high salt-tolerance. It does well as a street or avenue tree, even in confined soil spaces. Canary Island Date Palm will require pruning to remove old fronds. Older leaves frequently become chlorotic from magnesium or potassium deficiency. Preventive applications of appropriate fertilizer help to avoid this. Avoid damage to the trunk by locating it properly in the landscape and keeping landscape maintenance equipment away. Damaged trees are susceptible to Ganoderma rot. Only prune fronds which hang below the horizontal. Do not remove those growing upright since this may slow the growth and reduce vigor. Propagation is by seed.
For many years, the scientific name of the Christmas palm was Adonidia merrillii, and you may still see it referred to as that in older publications. That name is no longer correct. The common name Adonidia is often used for this palm today. The Christmas palm (Adonidia) is a neat little palm that resembles a dwarf version of the Royal palm (Roystonea regia) which it matches in beauty if not in size. It has a single slender gray stem that is smooth, sectioned by leaf scar rings and is swollen at the base. Christmas palms have single trunks, but may be seen in the nursery as doubles or triples. If growers place a couple of seedlings together in the container, they will form a more attractive clump. This palm is noted for its “self-cleaning” fronds, because older leaves drop off without the need for pruning. They will not leave a boot on the trunk. Christmas palm grows to an overall height of about 16 feet tall.
Christmas palms produce flowers near the crownshaft of the palm, which are grayish-blue in color. By autumn, these flowers have been replaced by green fruits 1 inch long and half as wide. By late fall, most of the green fruits are beginning to ripen and by late December, they are bright and brilliant red….like ornaments on a Christmas palm!
This palm is easy going in its requirements and will grow in most soils except those that are constantly soggy. The Christmas palm is moderately salt tolerant & prefers to be in full sun. Regular water is appreciated, however it will tolerate periods of drought if not prolonged.
The Christmas palm is native to the Philippines. It is a popular landscaping item in the capital city, a fact which inspires another popular name, the Manila palm. Its small stature makes it perfect for use in courtyards, atriums and other small scale plantings. It is sometimes closely planted in groups of two or three. This causes the twins (or trios) stems to curve in graceful arcs away from the center of the planting creating a lovely living sculpture. The formal symmetry of Christmas palm is nicely showcased when it is grown in a container.
The coconut is widespread throughout the tropics, typically being found along sandy shorelines. This tree has been spread largely by man, but also by natural means. The fruit can float for long distances and still germinate to form new trees after being washed ashore.
Commercial plantings are confined to the tropical lowlands, but the tree will also fruit in a few warmer subtropical areas. In Florida the coconut palm is successfully grown from Stuart on the east coast and Punta Gorda on the west coast, south to Key West. The coconut is the most extensively grown and used nut in the world and the most important palm. It is an important commercial crop in many tropical countries, contributing significantly to their economies. Copra is the chief product of the coconut. Copra is the source of coconut oil, which is used for making soap, shampoo, cosmetics, cooking oils and margarine. Much of the fruit is consumed locally for food.
The coconut palm, more than any other plant, gives a tropical effect to the Florida landscape. While this palm is highly valued as an ornamental, it is also grown on a limited commercial basis in Florida for coco frio, a refreshing drink made from the water inside green coconuts.
This large, single-trunked palm has a smooth, columnar trunk with a light grayish-brown color; the trunk is topped with a terminal crown of leaves. Tall varieties may attain a height of 80 - 100 feet while dwarf varieties are shorter in stature. The trunk is slender and often swollen at the base. The trunk is typically curved or leaning, but is erect in some cultivars. The pinnate leaves are feather-shaped, up to 18 feet long and 4 feet wide. The leaf stalks are 3 - 5 feet in length and spineless.
Male and female flowers are borne on the same inflorescence. The inflorescences emerge from canoe-shaped sheaths among the leaves and may be 2 - 3 feet long and have 10 - 50 branchlets. Male flowers are small, light yellow, and are found at the ends of the branchlets. Female flowers are larger than male flowers, light yellow in color, and are found towards the base of the branchlets. Coconut palms begin to flower at about 4 - 6 years of age. The coconuts produced are composed of a thick, fibrous husk surrounding a somewhat spherical nut with a hard, brittle hairy shell. The nut is 6 - 8 inches in diameter and 10 - 12 inches long. Three sunken holes of softer tissue -- called eyes -- are at one end of the nut.
Inside the shell is a thin, white, fleshy layer, about one inch thick at maturity. This layer is known as the meat or copra. The interior of the nut is hollow, but partially filled with a watery liquid called coconut milk. The meat is soft and jelly-like when immature, but it becomes firm at maturity. Coconut milk is abundant in unripe fruits, but the coconut milk is gradually absorbed as ripening proceeds. The fruits are green at first, turning brownish as they mature. Yellow-fruit varieties change from yellow to brown as they mature.
Several cultivars of coconut palms are grown in Florida. These cultivars differ in their petiole and fruit color, straightness (or crookedness) of the trunk, leaflet and leaf width, growth rates, presence or absence of a swollen trunk base or bole, adaptability to Floridas soil conditions, and resistance to lethal yellowing disease. The two most popular varieties available in our area are the Malayan Dwarf & the Maypan. The Malayan Dwarf cultivar has three color forms that differ in the color of the immature fruits and petioles (green, yellow, or gold). The Maypan is a hybrid between the Malayan Dwarf and the Panama Tall and resembles the Jamaican Tall in appearance. The Malayan Dwarf cultivar and the hybrid Maypan have been widely planted in Florida because of their reported resistance to LY, a fatal disease of coconut palms in Florida and in parts of the Caribbean region. Although these varieties were originally believed to be highly resistant to LY, long-term trials in Florida have revealed that Malayan Dwarf and Maypan are only slightly less susceptible to LY than the Jamaican Talls these varieties were intended to replace.
The coconut palm is typically found along tropical, sandy shorelines since it can tolerate brackish soils and salt spray. However, salt is not required for the growth of healthy coconut palms, which can be successfully grown well inland. Coconut palms grow well in a wide range of soil types and in a wide pH range, from 5.0 - 8.0., provided the soils are well drained. Successful growth requires a minimum average temperature of 72°F and an annual rainfall of 30 - 50 inches or more. The trees may be injured by cold when the temperature falls below 32°F (0°C). Coconut palms require full sunlight and are tolerant to wind and to temporary flooding.
Coconut palms may be planted at any time of the year, but the warm, rainy summer months are best for planting these palms. They can be successfully transplanted at any period in their growth, provided they are properly handled. Preplanting soil preparation depends upon soil type and depth of the water table. In low-lying areas, beds several feet high and wide should be constructed to prevent waterlogging of the root zone during wet periods. In some areas a hardpan in the soil profile may need to be broken up and mixed with topsoil prior to planting. In the rocky calcareous soils of Miami-Dade County, rock plowing to a depth of 6 -8 inches and trenching about 16 - 24 inches wide and 18 - 24 inches deep is recommended.
Container-grown palms should be planted such that the bottom of the stem and top of the root system are about 1 inch below the surface of the soil. Field-grown palms should be planted at the same level at which they were previously grown. The new tree should be watered immediately after planting and frequently thereafter until the tree is well established. Three to four inches, but no more, of mulch applied to the soil surface around the tree will help retain soil moisture and restrict weed growth. Commercially, the trees are planted at spacings of 18 - 30 feet apart. In home gardens, coconut palms should be planted where they will receive full sun and not be crowded. At least 1 inch of water should be supplied weekly by rainfall or by irrigation, especially during the first year following transplanting.
Drought: Coconut palms are tolerant of dry soil conditions. However, for optimum fruit production and quality, regular irrigation is recommended during dry periods.
Flooding: Coconut palms are tolerant of waterlogged or flooded soil conditions for a few days. However, trees may decline and die when exposed to prolonged flooding or waterlogged soils.
Cold temperatures: Coconut palms are injured by temperatures of 32 degrees F, with desicated foliage as the primary symptom. More severe freezes can also result in death of the bud. Coconut palms are not suitable for areas that regularly experience freezing temperatures. Research has shown that the severity of cold injury is greatly reduced for these palms when they have been properly fertilized.
Wind: Coconut palms are quite tolerant of windy sites and generally survive hurricane-force winds. The most common damage from hurricane winds is loss of leaves and toppling over. If uprooted palms are righted promptly and adequately watered, survival of these palms is usually quite good.
Salt: Coconut palms are tolerant of saline water and soils, as well as salt spray.
Lightning: Lightning occasionally strikes tall coconut palms. Symptoms of lightning strikes include sudden collapse of the canopy and trunk splitting and bleeding.
The foxtail palm has one of the most impressive foliage displays of all palm trees. The pale green arching fronds have leaflets that radiate out at all angles from the leaf stem, thus appearing like a bottlebrush or the tail of a fox. A mature foxtail palm has a canopy of 8-10 leaves, each with the characteristic foxtail or bottlebrush appearance, and a crown of foliage 15-20 ft across. Foxtail palm is thornless and has a slender, closely ringed bottle shaped to columnar trunk that grows up to 30 ft tall. The foxtail palm bears white blossoms of both sexes at the base of its crown, and a single palm is capable of producing fertile seeds. Foxtail palm produces colorful clusters of red to orange-red fruit, each containing just one seed.
Foxtail palms are exceptionally hardy and easy to grow. They tolerate a wide variety of well drained soils, including alkaline limestone soils and rocky sands. Regular fertilization with palm fertilizer, and regular watering results in rapid growth. Fertilizer for foxtail palm should have ample amounts of micronutrients and slow release potassium. Foxtail palms may develop potassium deficiency in potassium deficient soils. The foxtail growth rate has been documented to be 2-3 ft per year under good conditions. Foxtail palms tolerate light frost, they rarely attract pests and disease, and are resistant to lethal yellowing.
The foxtail palm grows best in full sun, but it grows well in partial shade, too. Even small plants and seedlings can tolerate hot, full sun from an early age. The foxtail palm can also be grown indoors where it does well in brightly-lit areas. The mature foxtail palm has a deep root stem that allows it to be quite drought tolerant. However, this palm responds well to regular, deep watering in well drained soils. During cooler months the foxtail palm needs only occasional watering. Care should be taken not to over-water foxtail palms that are grown in containers. The Foxtail palm is propagated by seeds. Some seeds germinate 2-3 months after sowing, and others will take up to 12 months to sprout.
Foxtail palm is considered by palm enthusiasts and landscapers to be a useful accent in a wide spectrum of landscape settings. It is prized for its robust trunk and its unique bushy leaves. Foxtail palm may be used alone as an accent specimen and may also be planted in groups of three or more for a stunning massed effect. Foxtails are being planted in rows along streets and driveways. Foxtail palm is also grown as a house or conservatory plant in well lit areas. Foxtail palm can be used effectively as a patio or deck plant in a large pot or tub. Plant foxtail palm outdoors in a site that can accommodate the large spread of leaves (15-20 ft average landscape size). Foxtail palm may be planted in areas having strong winds and moderate amounts of salt spray.
One of the finest of the dwarf palms, Pygmy Date Palm slowly reaches 6 to 12 feet in height and has an upright or curving, single trunk topped with a dense, full crown of gracefully arching, three-foot-long leaves. The insignificant flower clusters, hidden by the foliage, are present periodically throughout the year and produce small, jet-black dates which ripen to a deep red. Pygmy Date Palm is quite popular as a specimen planting or in containers, especially attractive at poolside. It is usually used as a single specimen although it is also effective in groups of three or more.
Pygmy Date Palm should only be grown in frost-free areas in sun or shade on well-drained soils. Plants should be regularly watered. Magnesium or potassium deficiency symptoms (chlorotic and spotted older fronds) often develop on the older leaves when grown in soils with a pH above 7. It has some salt tolerance, surviving on the inland side of coastal condominiums. Propagation is by seed.
This stately, single-trunk palm is crowned by a beautiful head of glossy, bright green, soft, pinnate leaves forming a graceful, drooping canopy. The ornamental, bright orange dates are produced in hanging clusters and ripen during the winter months. The dead fronds are persistent and often require pruning to remove. It is popular in commercial or home landscapes planted in rows on 15 foot centers to line a street or walk, in clusters or occasionally as a specimen. The grey trunk is ringed with old leaf scars.
Growing best in full sun, Queen Palm is most suited for acidic, well-drained soils and shows severe mineral deficiencies on alkaline soil. This disfigures the palm by stunting the young leaves and can kill it. Unfortunately, Queen Palm is frequently planted in alkaline soil and requires regular preventive applications of manganese and/or iron to help keep the fronds green. Potassium deficiency is also displayed on older fronds in well-drained soils. Quick-growing Queen Palms responds well to ample moisture and fertilizer and is slightly salt-tolerant. After planting Queen Palm in the landscape, growth is rapid. This palm is not affected by lethal yellowing disease. Pruning off too many fronds at one time can cause the palm to decline. Growth often slows with new foliage aborting to display distorted leaflets. The trunk is also very susceptible to decay. Prevent injury to the trunk by keeping turf well away from the trunk. Propagation is by seed and volunteers will often appear under fruiting trees.
Ganoderma butt rot can kill Queen Palm. It probably enters the trunk most often through wounds in the lower trunk and roots. There is no control for butt rot, only prevention.
The name says it all, Royal Palm! Truly an aristocrat of the plant kingdom, this palm makes a memorable impression wherever it is grown. Massive and symmetrical with a smoothly sculpted trunk this palm looks almost artificial. But it is real and lends a distinctive air to parkways and boulevards all over South Florida and the Caribbean. In older references you may see this genus referred to as Oreodoxa but the genus name was changed some years ago to Roystona (in honor of General Roy Stone an army engineer who served in the Caribbean at the turn of the century).
Imported into Florida in great numbers during the the 20s and 30s, the Cuban Royal palm (Roystonea regia) is the species most often encountered. Eight inch long leaflets are arranged in rows along the 10\\\' length of bright green pinnate leaves. Composed of 15 - 20 leaves, the canopy sits atop the crown shaft - a smooth, glossy extension of the trunk composed of the overlapping bases of the leaves.
The trunk of the Cuban Royal Palm (in photo at left) is swollen at the base. It constricts about halfway up and then bulges again just below the crownshaft creating a dramatic profile. The Florida Royal Palm (R. elata) is very similar to the Cuban except that the trunk is a simple column that lacks the Cuban\\\'s curvaceous figure. The trunks of both are a smooth light gray that looks as if it had been cast from concrete. Both species produce a large 3 to 4 foot inflorescense on which both male and female flowers are borne. The Florida Royal Palm (Roystonea elata) is native to the cypress swamps of south Florida. It is disappearing from the wild but nice stands can still be seen at the Royal Palm Visitors Center near Homestead, Florida in the Everglades National Park. The Cuban Royal Palm (Roystonea regia) is native to Cuba.
With smooth grey trunks resembling cathedral pillars, there is not a more impressive palm with which to line a boulevard. Ranks of Royal Palms lend a distinctly unique look to Miami\\\'s Biscayne Boulevard. Roystoneas provide a sophisticated look to thoroughfares throughout the Caribbean. Assembled into a grove on an expanse of lawn, Royal Palms create an eye-catching focal point. The beautiful Royal is readily available in areas where it can be grown. With a little care (water and fertilizer) this palm will reward with fast growth that is rare for a palm. Being tolerant of salt drift, Royal Palms will grow near salt water and on the beach if set back from the first line of dunes.
Soil: The Royal Palms are not particular about soil.
Light: High light requirements. Likes bright sunny conditions.
Moisture: Royals like water and look their best when given adequate amounts. At home in cypress swamps, the Florida Royal Palm tolerates occasional flooding. Likewise, the Cuban hails from the dry hills around Havana and it is somewhat drought tolerant.
Hardiness: USDA Zones 10-11. Can survive cold spells down to 28 F if short in duration.
Propagation: Grow from the 1/4 inch purple seeds (the Cubans tend to be oblong, the Florida Royals are spherical)
The Sabal palm (cabbage palm) is the state tree of Florida and is displayed on the state flag of South Carolina whose nickname is the "Palmetto State". The durable trunks are sometimes used for wharf pilings, docks and poles. Brushes and brooms can be made from young leaves, and the large fan shaped leaves have been used by the Seminole Indians in Florida as thatch for traditional pavilions, called chickees.
It is a large robust palm with a single unbranching trunk that grows to about 50 ft (15.2 m) but may occassionally reach heights of 70 ft. The crown is relatively small being 12-18 ft in diameter. Like many palms the crown is typically wider when grown in shade and more compact when grown in full sun. The large leaves have a dull finish and are a medium green, sometimes yellow-green, in color depending on the individual and situation. Each leaf is up to 12 ft long overall including the spineless petioles (leaf stems) which measure about 5-6 ft in length. They are up to 6 ft in width with drooping leaf segments about 3 ft long and 2-3 in wide. These segments are split to about half the width of the leaf and typically slough off tan fibers at the edges. Cabbage palm leaves are said to be costapalmate meaning that the leaflets are arranged on the stem in a pattern that is midway between palmate (leaflets arranged like the fingers on the palm of your hand) and pinnate (feather shaped).
Unlike the royal palm, the cabbage palm has no crownshaft. Leaves emerge directly from the trunk which is often covered with old leaf stem bases that are arranged in an interesting criss-cross pattern. Depending on the individual these may persist to the ground even in very old palms. Other trees in the same vicinity may shed their leaf attachments or boots as they are sometimes called very early in life revealing a rough fibrous brown trunk. Eventually the trunk will age to gray and the surface will become smooth.
Organic debris often collects in these leaf bases. It is not uncommon to see a cabbage palmetto transformed into a hanging garden of ferns and other species. The leaf attachment planters play host to many other interesting species like orchids, ball moss (Tillandsia recurvata), resurrection fern (Polypodium polypodioides) and others including the fascinatingly fatal strangler fig (Ficus aurea).
In mid-summer the cabbage palm bears creamy white flowers on a long branched inflorescence that is held completely within the crown. Flowers are followed in late fall or early winter by black spherical fruit that is about one third of an inch in diameter. Inside is a shiny brown seed that is about one quarter of an inch in diameter. Squirrels, raccoon and many other species of mammal and bird enjoy visiting the cabbage palm for dinner feasts of fruit and seed.
This southeastern U.S. native palm occurs near the coast, from the North Carolina barrier islands to South Carolina, to Georgia, down to the Florida Keys and then up the Gulf Coast to the northwestern Florida panhandle.
Sabal palmetto is also native to Cuba and the Bahamas. It is often planted all along the Gulf Coast. Cabbage palm occurs along beaches, sandy bay and estuary shores. It inhabits the margins of tidal flats and marshlands where it often crowds into extensive groves. It's also encountered inland in hardwood hammocks and pine flatwoods. Sabal palmetto is very salt and drought tolerant and can be used in beachside plantings. It is able to adapt to most types of soil. Cabbage palms are easy to transplant if they have at least six feet of trunk. Commercially the palmetto is dug from the wild and all of the leaves are cut from the trunk (care is taken not to damage the tender bud). All of the roots are cut back as well (damaged sabal die anyway and new ones grow directly from the trunk). A new planting of sabals looks like a garden of telephone poles from a distance! If the telephone poles are kept watered they will soon put forth new roots and leaves within a few months. It's recommended that new trees be staked or otherwise supported until established - especially in windy beachfront situations.
The cabbage palm is used as an ornamental and street tree, well adapted for group, specimen or avenue plantings. This palm is very salt tolerant and can be grown on the beach or directly at the water's edge of bays and inlets. The state of Florida has been planting cabbage palmettos by the hundreds along the state's freeways. The palm groves refresh the eye and absorb the road noise providing a calming influence for both motorists and the environment. Cabbage palm is very low maintenance and drought resistant making if a perfect choice for urban plantings.
Young potted cabbage palms will take up to ten years before they begin to form a trunk. They grow slowly these first years as root system and the crown forms. Once the trunk does begin to develop, the growth rate increases somewhat. The growth rate of cabbage palm can be significantly increased with regular watering and feeding. Dead leaves may persist on the trunk, hanging from the crown to form a "skirt". In urban situations it is recommended that these be removed, as they create shelter for rats and other undesirable creatures.
Light: Full sunlight to some shade. Trunk development is suppressed in heavily shaded specimens.
Moisture: Very adaptable. Average moisture will do. Tolerates drought, standing water and brackish water.
Hardiness: USDA Zones 8-10. This is a hardy frost tolerant palm that can survive many degrees below freezing.
Propagation: Collect seeds from trees in late fall and early winter. Plant the seeds any time, they will generate over a period of time from 2 to 12 months. Mature specimens are commercially obtained from natural plantings. Transplanting specimens without trunks is seldom successful.