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

African Violets

African Violets – A Brief History

African Violets (Saintpaulias) are tropical plants that were found in the wilds of Africa in 1892 and their common name is from their resemblance to true violets (Violaceae). Before the end of the 19th century, African Violets were being propagated in hothouses in Europe.

African Violet - Varied Colors

Figure 1: Colors of African Violets

In 1927 a California nursery ordered seeds for the African Violet from England and Germany – then these flowering plants became known globally and are now among the most popular house plants. Of the 1,000 plants grown, ten were chosen as the first hybrids and introduced to the world in 1936. Despite the fact that most commercial plants are grown from cuttings and tissue culture, many of the species of African Violet are now endangered, as their habitats are cleared for agriculture.

African Violet Description

African Violets are a flowering perennial, highly sensitive to temperature change — particularly if their leaves cool rapidly. The leaves are covered in a stiff “velvet” that adds to the beauty of these flowering plants. The sheen on the leaves in Figures 1, 2, and 3 are the light reflecting off of the fine filaments that make up the velvet.

Like Cyclamen, these plants are valued more for the beautiful flowers than the foliage. In the wild they produce violet, pale blue, white and purple flowers; as a general rule size varies from the micro at less than 3 (three) inches to the giant that can grow to approximately 16 inches.

 African Violet Propagation

The simplest way to begin new plants is to pick a leaf off at the base of the African Violet and stick it into damp soil. Keep the humidity right and you’ll have a new plant coming.

One other method that I have used is to fill a glass with water and put a plastic bag over the top secured with a rubber band. Make a small slit in the bag and push the stem through into the water; soon you will see roots appearing, ready to plant. Make sure that when you plant it the soil is not touching the leaf – only the stem.

African Violet Care

As indoor plants, grown under proper conditions including the use a sterile pot and soil, good water flow/drainage, and indirect, filtered afternoon sunlight, African Violets will bloom endlessly. There are many beautiful flower pots and indoor plant stands that suit African Violets perfectly.

African Violet - Decorative Basket

Figure 3: African Violet Plants in a Decorative Basket

I recommend buying small stones from the nursery to line the bottom of the pot for improved drainage and using potting soil made specifically for African Violets. Optimal plant health care requires you to periodically repot the African Violet to avoid overcrowding the roots.

The soil for the plant should be kept slightly damp. The easiest way to water is from the base; do not get the leaves wet as it makes ugly brown spots on them. Never saturate the soil. Daytime temperature should be between 70 – 75 degrees Fahrenheit; don’t let it drop below 60 degrees overnight.

To keep the plants growing evenly and to obtain a good shape to your African Violet, turn the pot one-quarter turn every second day – always the same direction. Regular fluorescent lights for about 16 hours per day with 8 hours of darkness will usually give sensational bloom but the plants will need extra food and water. Group your plants to help keep the humidity at the required level. Whatever fertilizer you choose, use it in the water according to directions and give them this every time you water.  If you also have Succulent plants, the African Violet fertilizer can be used on them as well.

African Violets - Basket Bouquet

Figure 4: Mixed Basket of African Violets and Ivy

Alternative Growth Methods

African Violets give amazing growth hydroponically. Old leaves may yellow as they adapt to the new system; remove them and soon the plant will offer brighter blossoms and stronger leaves. The link, Hydroponics Systems, offers complete hydroponics systems, educational books, and organic fertilizers to aid you in setting up your own hydroponics system.

You can also grow African Violets in a terrarium or similar atmosphere where they get plenty of humidity.

Modern Uses of African Violets

African Violets - Mixed basket

Figure 5: Mixed Basket of African Violets, Roses, Azaleas, Ivy and Pink Hypoestes

Florist shops have recently had an increasing demand for bouquets that include African Violets. A decorative bouquet of this type is often made up of blooms from flowering plants such as Roses, Azaleas, Hibiscus, Hydrangea, Gardenia, OrchidsPeonies, and spring flowers – add beautiful potted violets in varying shades and you have a rainbow of colors to delight the eye! The baskets featured in Figures 3, 4, and 5 are examples of how beautiful such bouquets from florists can be.

Some species of spring flowers are poisonous to cats, among them the Peony, Tulips and certain Lilies; however, the African Violet, Easter Orchids, Miniature Roses and other popular types of flowering plants and most varieties Palm Plants are non-toxic to them. However, if a child or pet ingests or gets cut on any plant, call a poison control center immediately. It’s better to be overly cautious than to lose a loved-one, and many plants are very toxic. For more information on the subject, see Poisonous Plants.

 

Sources and Citations

http://www.hydro-orchids.com/tp-AFV.html  – research source

http://www.articlesbase.com/gardening-articles/advice-to-gardeners-wanting-to-grow-african-violets-1835058.html?utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=ab_paid_12&gclid=CJnd3K_upboCFcU5Qgode2AArw  – research source

http://answers.ask.com/Home/Gardening/how_to_grow_african_violets?ad=semD&an=google_s&am=broad&o=2469  – research source

http://www.agardenforthehouse.com/2012/11/my-african-violet-growing-guide/  – research source

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