UF/IFAS Okeechobee County Extension Service

458 Highway 98 North

Okeechobee, FL 34972-2578

Phone: (863) 763-6469


This article was originally produced  on  April 4, 2001 as a bi-monthly news column for the Vero Beach Press Journal

Daniel F. Culbert, County Extension Agent


If palm trees are symbolic of our sub-tropical climate, then date palms are the plants for the dry times we are experiencing here in Florida. Yes - we have had some much needed rain in the past week, but the potential for continued drought may encourage Florida Yard owners to take a look at a group of palms that are adapted to dry conditions - the date palms. Information for today’s column comes to us from research conducted by former University of Florida Extension Specialist Alan Meerow.

Date Palms all belong to the genus Phoenix. The genus name is Greek for tender, but as far as palms go in Florida, these are among the most cold tolerant palms found in out landscapes. Despite their common appearance in our landscapes, they are not native to the New World, but instead hail from areas ranging from Africa and Asia.

Almost all Date palms grown in Florida are drought tolerant species, which makes sense if you image these plants in the Mediterranean-type climates that they originate; think warm and dry, not hot and humid. Another climatic note is that many of these palms will survive temperatures as low as 20o F., so they do well over most of the Florida peninsula. Their slow growth means they can be long term fixtures in your Florida Yard, but will be expensive to acquire.

The physical characteristics of these plants can be used to distinguish them from other palms. Landscape maintenance personnel often don’t like Date palms because they are armed with large thorns at the base of their pinnate leaves, which are feather-shaped fronds. When fronds fall off, or as is more likely the case, are pruned off, they will leave a diamond-shaped scar on a dark brown stem. They produce clusters of oval-shaped fruit that in the case of one species, the Edible date, is cultivated as a fruit crop in desert-like climates.

Culture of the date palms is not unlike that of other tropical ornamentals grown in our Florida yards with a few exceptions and reminders:

Canary Island Date Palm 

Canary Island Date Palm

Senegal Date Palm

Senegal Date Palm

Pygmy Date Palm

Pygmy Date Palm

Date Palm - P. dactylifera 

Date Palm

Phoenix sylvestrus by Jody Haines

Wild Date Palm

There are four common species of ornamental date palms commonly grown in Florida, and a couple other that are un common, plus a number of hybrids between these species that make life interesting for botanists and homeowners alike. Here are some descriptions that highlight the attributes of the common species:

For those persons who wish to find out more about how to take care of dates and other palms, I recommend  the Palm Production and Culture website hosted by the UF/IFAS  Fort Lauderdale Research & Education Center.   We also have a number of Extension bulletins on palm care and copies of some of my previous articles on palms at our office, and can refer you to local members of the various Florida Palm Societies

If you need additional information on date palms, visit your county Master Gardeners, or call or stop by your county Extension office. For those with other questions about Florida Yards, contact me - my phone number is 863-763-6469.  

References & Links:

Culbert, Dan. see: Wild Indian Date Palm  in "More Plants for 2006."  UF/IFAS Okeechobee Extension Service, 01/2006. http://okeechobee.ifas.ufl.edu/News%20columns/2006%20Plants%20part%202.htm 

Garofalo*, Joe,  Haynes*,Jody and Vendrame, WagnerPhoenix Palms for South Florida.  UF/IFAS Miami-Dade Extension Service, 2003. http://miami-dade.ifas.ufl.edu/old/programs/commorn/publications/Phoenix%20palms%20for%20S.%20FL..PDF 

Garofalo*, Joe and Vedaee, Jalil. Growing True Date Palms in South Florida.  UF/IFAS Miami-Dade Extension Service, 2002. http://miami-dade.ifas.ufl.edu/pdfs/ornamental/ornamental_publications/growing-true-dates-in-south-florida.pdf 

The Date Palm http://www.dipbot.unict.it/Palms/descr02.html  

Morton, J.  Date (fruit) In: Fruits of Warm Climates, 1987.  Available online at:  http://www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/morton/date.html 


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Trade names, where used, are given for the purpose of providing specific information.  They do not constitute an endorsement or guarantee of products named, nor does it imply criticism of products not named. The Florida Cooperative Extension Service - Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer authorized to provide research, educational information, and other services to individuals and institutions that function without regard to race, color, sex, age, handicap, or national origin. Florida Cooperative Extension Service / IFAS /University of Florida. Nick Place,  Dean.  Last update: 09/26/2012.  This page is maintained by Dan Culbert.

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