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

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