Palm Plants – Exotic Beauties

The Benefits of Palm Plants 

Much like African VioletsPalm Plants are among the best-known and most widely planted of tropical plant families. Many resources disagree whether Palm Plants are trees or just plants, yet many of these plants have the word tree as part of their name. Think that’s confusing? I do too!

There are in excess of two thousand varieties of Palm Plants living in climates from deserts to rain forests across the globe. Some of them are flowering plants while others are simply appreciated for their foliage.  Palm Plants have helped humans to survive throughout history. Numerous common foods and products used in our daily lives are made from palms. They are also often used in gardens and parks in areas where the temperature will allow – these plants do not tolerate heavy frosts.

Palm Plants - Areca Palm

Figure 1: Areca Palm

Many varieties of Palm Plants also make great houseplants. Before choosing a palm plant, always check your plant hardiness zone map and make sure that the environment you plan to grow it in is appropriate for the plant.

Palm Plants also have a reputation for cleaning the air. Some of the best clean air plants for your home or office include the:

    • Areca Palm–best known for ridding the air of all tested toxins
    • Bamboo Palm—adds needed moisture to the air when dry and removes benzene, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene from the air
    • Rhapis Palm—is very resistant to attack by insects and the palm plant improves air quality

 

Palm Plants for Home, Office, or Patio

Palm plants make great exotic house plants, but like all plants, palms need the correct balance of moisture, light, fertilizer, and warmth to stay healthy. There are a wide variety of indoor plant stands that can nicely offset your palm plant. You can also buy little wheeled stands that allow you to easily move your larger potted plants without worry of tipping them. Different palms have various specifications for survival. Some notable dwarf palm trees suitable as exotic house plants or décor for patio or deck include:

Palm Plants - Windmill Palm Tree

Figure 3: Windmill Palm Tree

The Windmill Palm

The Windmill Palm Tree can be planted in large containers and placed on a patio or on a pool deck since the plant creates hardly any debris to dirty your pool.

Windmill Palms grow well in full to partial sun, can adapt to various soil types with good drainage, and will flourish with small effort from you. It is highly pollution resistant so can even be planted in a road divider since vehicle fumes or similar types of pollution will not bother it. The Windmill Palm Tree is easy to grow; it also adds a tropical appeal to any setting.

Palm Plants - Kentia (Sentry) Palm

Figure 4: Kentia (Sentry) Palm

The Sentry Palm

The Sentry Palm is a good example of a Palm houseplant suitable for a large office building or atrium. It grows to a height of 180 – 300 inches (15 – 25 feet) with a spread of 72-120 inches (6 – 10 feet).

The plant will grow in various types of soil–acidic, clay, loamy, neutral, sandy or low alkaline as long as it has good drainage.  It will take full shade to full sun and since it is drought tolerant, is a good plant for a container.

Palm Plants - Pindo Palm

Figure 5: Pindo Date Palm

The Pindo Palm

The Pindo Palm is a Southern Palm that can stand the coldest Southern winters–even below zero. The plant leaves have a blue-grey sheen and the fronds curl inward, giving the palm a distinctive appearance.

This palm can grow in large flower pots and used on/near the deck or patio although it can be messy when the fruit appears–just don’t call me to move it if it succeeds in growing 30 feet tall with a 20 foot leaf span and a 2-foot base! Always water the Pindo Palm at the base of the trunk; water on the fronds can cause disease to spread.

The Bamboo Palm

Palm Plants - Bamboo Palm

Figure 6: Bamboo Palm

When I first read about Bamboo Palm Plants I thought that they meant “Lucky Bamboo” or Dracaena plants that you see in grocery and drug stores with “Bamboo Plants for Sale” signs on them. Apparently the Bamboo Palm is a variety of Palm Plant that is also known as the Reed Palm and is unrelated to “true” bamboo.

This plant prefers shade and is ideal as a house plant because its normal maximum growth is 7 feet high; however, if it is exposed to brighter light and warmer temperatures it will produce small flowers and berries. Since this plant is used to being in the shade of taller trees, it prefers indirect light, but can tolerate direct sunlight if acclimated slowly. Use soil with good drainage, but keep it moist. 

Facts Regarding Palm Plants

Palm Plants - Dwarf Palm Tree

Figure 7: Dwarf Palm TreePalm Plants will start from seeds or division of roots

  • seeds need to be harvested when they are fully ripe then immediately sown with a high ratio of sand to soil
  • seeds may begin germinating at 3 months, and for some plants continue up to 2 years
  • new, tiny plants may be lifted when there is a pair of leaves; put them in small pots
  • seem to prefer to be root-bound; they thrive even in pots that are too small for the plant
  • when new plants are almost cracking their pot, it’s time to replant in a larger container
  • may be fertilized about every 2 weeks with liquid manure that includes oil cakes and ammonium-sulphate
  • need water regularly every other day
  • over-pruning your palm plant/tree can rob it of valuable nutrients
  • acclimatize them sufficiently prior to keeping them as indoor plants
  • Palm plants can be a nice addition to rockery plants in a rock garden
  • Palm Plants can be cultivated into Bonsai Trees (see Figure 8)

 

Palm Plants - Ponytail Palm Bonsai Tree

Figure 8: Ponytail Palm Bonsai Tree

Plants that Complement Palm Plants

Other potted plants that would complement the Palm Plants on the deck, patio or in the yard include: Hibiscus, Hydrangea, Bonsai Tree, Bougainvillea, various Yucca and Succulent plants, Viburnum, Cyclamen, Roses and Ferns. Even hanging basket plants, like Spider Plants, can beautifully offset Palm Plants in the right settings.

Your local nursery can order any of these plants for you, or you can find many of them at Amazon.com; if they are exotic plants such as Palm Plants make sure you understand the growth and care requirements. Caring for Palm Plants can be as interesting as Orchid care, so if you have any plant health care questions visit our pages here or speak with your local florist.

 

Threats to Palm Plants

Although fully grown palms are usually fairly free of damaging insect pests, there are still ‘bugs’ and other problems that can destroy the plants. Problems can include:

Palm Plants - Sago Palm

Figure 9: Highly Poisonous Sago Palm

  • insects and mites
  • palm aphids
  • scales
  • banana moth
  • coconut mites
  • spider mites
  • rotten sugarcane borer
  • royal palm bug
  • palm leaf skeletonizer
  • palmetto weevils
  • grasshoppers
  • caterpillars
  • bud-/root-/trunk-rot and wilt

Other problems are possible:

  • trunk splits or cracks
  • leaf spot diseases
  • trunk constrictions
  • pencil pointing
  • lightning strike (usually fatal to the palm)
  • if your palm grows tall enough to be near high-voltage power lines the electromagnetic fields could injure the palms—turning the leaves yellow in spite of regular fertilization and no sign of pests.

WARNING: Sago Palms, as pictured in Figure 9, are extremely poisonous plants and a danger to dogs, cats, and humans; be cautious if you are considering them. They are not actually Palm plants but belong to the Cycadaceae family. Every part of the plant is toxic and can kill the person or animal who ingests any part of it. According to the video embedded below, the smell and taste of the Sago Palm is appealing to pets and if they encounter one they are likely to eat it–especially the seeds (the most poisonous part).

 

Sources and Citations

http://www.hgtvgardens.com/trees/sentry-palm-howea-forsteriana – research source

http://www.fast-growing-trees.com/Windmill-Palm.htm?gclid=CMu688TrrboCFUlyQgod_WUAgw – research source

http://agritech.tnau.ac.in/horticulture/horti_Landscaping_plant%20components.html#PALMS – research source

http://www.canarydatepalmtreesforsale.com/nursery/pindo-palm-for-sale – research source

http://www.fast-growing-trees.com/Pindo-Palm-Trees.htm?gclid=CJGxj7yLrroCFeh0QgodlAUAdA – research source

http://houseplants.about.com/od/pickingahouseplan1/a/PalmBasics.htm – research source

http://www.bhg.com/gardening/plant-dictionary/shrub/viburnum– – research source

http://www.rockerylandscaping.com/retaining-walls/?utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpc&utm_term=rockery-seattle&utm_campaign=BDRockeries&mtch=broad&gclid=CLSp56-vs7oCFWZBQgodhmQArQ – research source

http://sfrc.ufl.edu/urbanforestry/Resources/PDF%20downloads/Pest_Problem_Palms_2004.pdf – research source

http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control/toxic-and-non-toxic-plants/sago-palm – research source

Succulent Plants

Succulent Plants - Desert Cactus Dish Garden

Figure 1: Desert Cactus Dish Garden

Succulent plants are sometimes referred to as ‘Succulents’ or ‘fat plants’ since parts of them are thick and they usually retain more water in dry climates/soils, according to Wikipedia. Their low demand for water allows them to survive periods of neglect, making them some of the best indoor plants for beginners. They are perennial tropical plants often grown as ornamental plants in flower pots and gardens because many of them have a very unusual appearance. Joshua Trees (pictured in Figure 2, below) are often confused with succulent plants, but they are actually a variety of Yucca.

Succulent Plants - Joshua Tree Yucca

Figure 2: Joshua Tree

Many Succulent plants are flowering plants that offer easy care and look beautiful in your home alone or with a companion plant such as CyclamenHibiscus, Hydrangea, Azaleas or Geraniums–which have similar requirements for lighting. Succulent plants come in a myriad of colors and leaf shapes and a current trend that is gaining popularity is to include different varieties of succulent plants with Peonies and other flowers in bridal bouquets. Unlike Spider Plants and Palm Plants, Succulents generally like the low humidity and warm conditions found in many houses; they seem to be able to adapt to direct or lower light. Many of the smaller plants look great on indoor plant stands, and stands with wheels are available for larger plants. Succulent Plants prefer a good draining soil that’s not watered often, and it’s best to let the soil become completely dry between waterings.

Succulent Plants – Interesting facts

  • The tallest free-standing Cactus is about 63 feet tall (19.2 m); the smallest is approximately 0.4 inches (1 cm) at maturity
  • Plant health care for Succulents is less demanding than Orchid care
  • A fully mature Saguaro Cactus (Figure 3) can absorb as much as 200 US gallons of water during heavy rainfall.

    Succulent Plants - Saguaro Cactus

    Figure 3: Saguaro Cactus

  • Both Succulent Plants and Orchids produce oxygen at night, unlike most other types of plants which only produce oxygen while they are receiving light. For that reason they are a great option for bedrooms.
  • Remember that all Cacti are succulents but all succulents are not Cacti
  • Popular because they use less water and have less impact in droughts
  • They are fire-resistant and fire retardant
  • Many of them are not poisonous plants, but use barbs or needles for their protection, similar to Roses

Some of the Simplest Succulent Plants to Care For

Aloe Vera: Although the sap of this plant has been used for hundreds of years to heal wounds or sunburn, it has sharp teeth on the edge of the leaves that can cut – needs to be placed where it will not be bumped into for that reason.

Succulent Plants - Aloe Vera

Figure 4: Aloe Vera

Let the soil dry out between heavy waterings but do not leave it standing in water. Keep Aloe Vera in direct sunlight and fertilize 3 (three) times in the summer with a 10-10-10 fertilizer. If you have African Violet fertilizer you can use that on your succulent plants as well. Do not repot unless you particularly want to or the roots are pushing their way out of the pot.

 

Pin Cushion Cactus: There are approximately 200 species of this group for home-growing, most of them coming from Mexico.

Succulent Plants - Cactus Garden with Pincushion Cactus

Figure 5: Cactus Garden with Pincushion Cactus

The spines (modified leaves) appear fine and harmless but have hooked ends like a porcupine quill, which makes it difficult to pull out of the skin.  These cacti may take different shapes and often flower in the house. They require a lot of light. Let the soil get fairly dry between waterings; do not water in the winter time as the plant is in a dormant period, necessary for flowering. A balanced fertilizer, 10-10-10 is needed three times during the summer months.

Burros Tail: This succulent plant looks cute in a hanging plant pot or basket with its tails out over the side; gray with green or blue ‘leaves’ can grow up to 3 feet long.

Succulent Plants - Burros Tail

Figure 6: Burros Tail

Allow the soil to dry a little between waterings and fertilize in summer with a 10-10-10 fertilizer; be aware that it rarely flowers but it is possible that pink or red flowers could appear during the summer. Leaves fall off of a Burros Tail easily; try to keep it where it will not be bumped by anything. If you move it outside for the summer, put it in the shade so that it does not get sunburned, or, on the patio where it could get morning light then shade from the afternoon sun.

Ponytail Palm: The Ponytail Palm is not a palm tree and does not appear to be a succulent plant although related to the agave. Use a quick draining soil for this plant – cactus potting soil is a good one.

Succulent Plants - Ponytail Palm

Figure 7: Ponytail Palm

It is a long-lived indoor houseplant with average room temperature good for most of the year in a location with bright light. Winters it prefers temperatures around 50-55°F. Spring through fall you should allow the surface soil to dry before watering; during the winter only water once-in-a-while. Fertilize in the spring with a 10-10-10 balanced fertilizer, and give it a very bright room for the summer months. Repotting every second year is adequate for this succulent. This plant can grow up to twenty (20) feet high indoors!

                                                     

Snake Plant (also called Mother-in-Law’s Tongue):

Succulent Plants - Snake Plant

Figure 8: Snake Plant

These succulent plants have stiff, upright leaves that can grow to 3-4 feet tall. The Snake Plant has a green border on the leaves while the Mother-in-Law’s Tongue has a yellow border.

They make a tough houseplant and can withstand almost any conditions with the exception of over-watering or not watering. Soil should be a loose and well-drained potting material; preferably with sand in it. Give it a mild 10-10-10 cactus fertilizer in the growing season. Prune out damaged leaves.

Hens and Chicks: Two succulent plants use this name – both produce chicks – little plants offset from the mother. The flowering patterns are different: one grows bell-shaped blooms while the other grows pink star-shape flowers on plants that die after flowering.

Succulent Plants - Hens & Chicks

Figure 9: Hens and Chicks

Grown in the house, the two perform identically; both should be allowed to dry a little between waterings – overwatering will rot both plants. Water very little during dormant period. Feed them a 10-10-10 fertilizer in the summer. New growth can be started by removing the offsets and potting them. The plants will be scarred if water touches them or the leaves get bumped.

Panda Plant: This succulent plant is a native of Madagascar and is grown for its foliage – thick, green leaves covered with silver hairs; the edges tipped with brown or rust-colored hairs.

Succulent Plants - Panda Plant

Figure 10: Panda Plant

Let the top couple of inches of soil dry out between waterings and in winter, its dormant period, barely water it at all – just don’t let it dry out completely. The panda plant likes medium to bright filtered light. A 10-10-10 fertilizer should be used in the summer. The plant doesn’t require much in the way of pruning.

Jade Plant: this succulent plant, originally from South Africa, is so easy to grow. It has thick stems with shiny green leaves that have a touch of red. Allow the soil to become bone dry between waterings, but don’t leave it that way.

Succulent Plants - Jade Plant

Figure 11: Jade Plant

Jade plants are most commonly killed by too much water. Fertilize three times in summer with a 10-10-10 fertilizer. The terra cotta pot offers good air movement through the soil; repotting is rarely necessary as the plant has a small root system. Keep the plant pruned for balance – both appearance and weight – if one side grows too large it could upset the whole plant.

 Sources and Citations

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Succulents – research source

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Succulent_plant – research source

http://www.bhg.com/gardening/houseplants/projects/top-10-succulents-for-home/ – research source

http://www.skh.com/gardeningatoz/cactus-succulent-care/ – research source