Palm Tree Oasis
For centuries palm trees have been symbols of an escape from the
ordinary-- of a luxurious haven in the sun-drenched landscape.
So what more perfect place for a palm or two than your own
But if you are considering planting palms as part of a backyard
desert oasis, be aware that there are 9 palm trees you can grow
with confidence in our dry, hot desert -- out of the over 2500+
species of palms around the world. And if your hot climate has a
cold winter, click here for
cold hardy palms and ways to protect palms from cold
Palms should be planted during warm weather, unlike most
other trees. The ones on this list can stand sizzling hot
summers and poor soil conditions. Additionally, these palms
tolerate winter cold.
See bottom of page for Pruning and Planting Palms.
Mediterranean Fan Palm
(Chamaerops humilis) - a multi-trunk palm that
grows to about 15 feet. It is a good palm near pools.
Fronds are shaped like an open fan. Often you see them
trimmed as shown in this photo, but they really are a
"shrub" palm. A new silver-blue cultivar has been
introduced but you may have to special order it. This is
just one of several
palms suitable for cold winter areas -- like London
in the U.K.
Mexican Blue Palm
(Brahea Armata) - a slow-growing palm with arching,
silvery-blue feather-like fronds. Reaches about 30 feet at
Guadalupe Fan Palm
(Brahea edulis) - similar to the Mexican Blue Palm,
this one grows faster to 30 feet in height. The fan-shaped
fronds are a light green. Edible fruit.
Pindo Palm (Butia capitata)
- Another short palm, growing only to 20 feet.
The gray-green feather-shaped fronds curve
downward. Edible fruit.
The Pindo palm, right,
stands side by side with a much faster growing
California Fan palm. Both were planted at the same
Canary Island Date Palm (Phoenix
canariensis) -- a giant among palms, grows
to 50 feet high with a massive trunk and 10 foot
long fronds. Shown on the right, it is called a
date palm for a reason: the fruit is the edible
date and it's delicious!. Thorns on the fronds
are dangerously sharp and even a slight
scratchcan lead to an infection.
Date Palm (Phoenix
dactylifera) -- more slender than the Canary
Island palm, but also grows tall: 60 feet. The fruit
is edible and super delicious, of course, and the
thorns on the fronds are dangerously sharp.
Windmill Palm (Trachycarpus
fortunei) - a semi-dwarf palm with windmill-shaped
fronds. Slow-growing to 15 feet tall. This tree loves our
California Fan Palm
(Washingtonia filifera) - a native of
California, Arizona, and Mexico, this massive palm
grows to 50 feet. Old fronds droop against the trunk
giving a "hula skirt" effect, unless removed.
The 3 Washingtonias shown here are accompanied by
an olive tree and juniper hedge. The "hula skirts"
of old fronds have been removed.
Mexican Fan Palm (Washingtonia
robusta) - a palm equivalent of a skyscraper, it grows
to 80 feet or more. It looks very much like the California
Fan Palm but more slender and, eventually, taller. It grows
fast. This one, too, loves our summer heat.
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If you can locate them, two other palms worth trying are the
Chinese Fountain Palm (Livistona
Chinensis ) and the
Australian Cabbage Palm
(Livistona australis). Both have a "weeping" shape
with gracefully drooping fronds. Both look somewhat like
short California fan palms and reach a height of only about
40 feet. The Chinese Fountain Palm has bright green fronds;
its Australian cousin has dark green fronds.
||A personal favorite, the
(Syragrus romanzoffianum), does not do
particularly well in parts of the desert that have
cold winters. The fortunate people who live in Palm
Springs and other warmer winter areas can enjoy its
beauty year round. This Brazilian native suffers in
the cold and may die when the temperatures fall much
below freezing. But oh, how graceful and beautiful
it is with its long, flowing fronds. It has been
known to thrive in high desert microclimates that
are warm in winter.
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Some final words about palms: these
trees are essentially architectural. As they mature, many
become tall brown columns with a giant powder puff of green
at the top, usually too high for easy viewing at ground
level. Generally, a shorter palm trees will look better in a
backyard garden over the long term.
About Planting Palms
Palms, unlike other trees, are best planted in late
Spring or Summer. They like warm soil for their
roots to grow. Be sure the hole for planting
is 2 to 3 times as wide as the root ball. And
water regularly until established.
Only trim off the brown drooping fronds. Do not trim
off ones that are still green -- the tree
needs them to collect sunlight to create chlorophyll
for growth and best health. As a rule of
thumb, leave a minimum of 7 fronds on the tree.
looks like a palm!
And it is even called a
"Sago palm" (Cycas revoluta), but the
plant that looks like a short stubby palm is
actually a cycad. Cycads are ancient plants
related to conifers like pines.
Cycads are excellent
companions when planted near the base of palm
trees. A Japanese native, the Sago palm is slow
growing, eventually reaching 10 feet high. But
that will take a very, very long time--perhaps
even a lifetime or two! One note: the seeds and
leaves of the sago are poisonous if eaten. Keep
them away from small children and pets.
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