A quintessentially Floridian plant, palms are a perfect accent for any home. Palms are unique and require care that is different from other trees, so understanding what they need before planting creates the best opportunity for them to thrive.
Palm Sunday was in April, but the palm summer begins in May. Since these trees are sensitive to cold, the time to plant is during the warm, rainy months. As with any plant, there are important do’s and don’ts—that’s what we’re covering today! This post contains all you need to get started with new palms.
Container vs. Field-Grown
A word about the difference between container and field-grown palms. The former is more flexible when it comes to planting season; you can plant them year-round. On the other hand, field-grown palms should only be planted in early summer since warm, wet soil is crucial for their growth.
Neither of the two will visibly thrive in the first year or so. Patience is your friend; your palms are spending this time establishing a root system that will support vertical growth in the future. The roots will be thirsty, so water often.
Types of Palms
Think there are only a handful of palm species? Nope. Over 25 types of palm trees grow and thrive in Florida. This short list will give you an idea of the variations within the palm family.
- Dwarf Palmetto: 3-6ft, fan-shaped leaves and a single trunk
- European Fan: 6-8ft, fan-shaped leaves and a multi-stemmed trunk
- MacArthur: 20-25ft, feather-shaped leaves and a multi-stemmed trunk
- Royal Palms: 80-90ft, feather-shaped leaves and a single trunk
As you can see from only four trees, there are considerable differences between palms. Other variations include light needs, typical uses, and ideal location in Florida. Don’t get boxed into thinking the only palm for your yard is the one you see most on t.v.–there’s a palm out there for everyone.
You noticed that the leaves of some palms are fan-shaped, while others are feather-shaped. Regardless of their appearance, these leaves provide nutrients to the rest of the plant. Unlike other plant leaves that can be harmlessly removed when they turn brown, don’t touch palm leaves until they are completely dead.
Palms have sensitive roots that must be cared for. Never place fertilizer in the ground before planting a tree to avoid burning the root system. Then, wait a month before applying more fertilizer above grade. When you do, keep it 24 inches from the trunk and reapply 4-6 times per year.
Palms have different nutritional needs than other plants, so using a “palm special” mixture is critical. These will provide the iron, manganese, copper, zinc, and boron that palm trees need.
Apply SPF 50 Sunscreen
Okay, not really. Palms don’t need sunscreen, but they might need a screen from the sun’s direct rays. Those plants that are used to a shaded area or greenhouse need to acclimate to sunnier conditions.
Keep an eye out for indications of sunburn, which includes browning or yellowing leaves, and set up a physical sunscreen if necessary.
Our southern Floridian friends need to be aware of lethal yellowing, a disease that has devastated certain types of palms. Watch out for premature dropping of fruit and browned or blackened flowers or nuts. Prompt chemical intervention is critical to the tree’s survival.