How to care for Palm Trees

Palms evoke an image of paradise. Those feathery fronds softly waving about in the salty sea air makes you forget you don't live in the tropics. Unfortunately, we northerners only see them when we travel south and that's not nearly often enough. But we can have them year round even if we live in snowbound regions. Palms are easy to grow whether out in your sunny tropical or subtropical landscape or in containers indoors in cold winter areas. With that in mind let us go over how to care for Palms.

In general Palms like to spend the first years of their lives in a shaded, protected place. This is true for those growing in or out of doors. While some Palms like full sun they all tolerate a good deal of shade. This is what makes many of them such good candidates for indoor living. Placing your Palm in a dark corner in your home, however, is not a good idea. They will do better in bright, indirect light.

All Palms have varying growth rates, of course, but when potted even the moderately fast growers tend to slow down. Make certain the palm is planted in good potting soil and with adequate drainage. The pot should not be much bigger than the plant itself. This guarantees the plant will grow slowly. With indoor temperatures usually higher than 60 degrees F, fertilizing potted Palms is advisable. Washing the leaves often to remove accumulated dust and to provide a bit of humidity is also good. Where possible setting a bowl of water nearby also provides constant moisture to the surrounding air. Not only is that good for Palms but during winter when the indoor air is dreadfully dry it will make your breathing easier too and help your home retain its heat more efficiently.

The best Palms for indoor horticulture, those that tolerate a good bit of shade and can live a few decades potted without much trouble are Howea Forsterana ( Paradise Palm), Rhapis Excelsa (Lady Palm), Chamaedorea Elegans ( Parlor Palm). For temporary indoor Palms, those that will exceed ceiling heights eventually but still make nice indoor plants in the first few years, try Phoenix, Washingtonia, Chamaerops.

Caring for Palms growing outside in the sunshine is just as easy. First, choosing the right variety of Palm for your yard is the best thing you can do to prevent trouble later on. Knowing the height of the Palm when mature is always a good idea if planting it near your house. While young Palms look great for several years some do get big, at times too big for your yard or where you place it. Choosing wisely and good placement gives everyone room to grow without much hassle.

For instance, the Coconut Palm is a beautiful specimen but for the home landscape in hurricane prone regions where the Coconuts can easily become missiles causing serious damage, it might not be too welcome to you or your neighbors. Young Palms, being small enough to place as under-story plants or in front of windows as you would shrubs can fool you into thinking they will remain like that. Trust me, they won't and then you'll have to either move it, live with it as an inconvenience or lose it.

As for planting a Palm, good rich soil amended with compost will keep it growing happily. A planting hole for a Palm should be only as deep as its root-ball but 1-2 feet wider. Make certain you water it religiously until well established. Providing a bit of shade wouldn't be bad either just to keep it from drying out. Frequently spraying the palm leaves with the hose is advisable for dislodging insects, cleaning off foliage and providing humidity. After that you'll have nothing to do but admire your Palm. They don't require much maintenance after that except for some cultivars where they don't shed their leaves cleanly. You might have to cut them off or trim the leaf base to keep the trunk looking neat.

Now that you have your Palm and paradise in your own garden, sit back, relax, grab that fruity, umbrella drink and sing along with Kenny Chesney. He likes Palm trees too I hear.

Learn more about Glory Lennon.


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