UF/IFAS Okeechobee County Extension Service

458 Highway 98 North

Okeechobee, FL 34972-2578

Phone: (863) 763-6469

E- mail: dfculbert@ifas.ufl.edu

March 31, 2004

Feature Article - for release the week of April 4, 2004

Dan Culbert - Extension Horticulture Agent

Exotic Palms for Okeechobee

My calendar says that an important day has just snuck by.  While this past Sunday was known to Christians as Palm Sunday, I like to use this occasion to celebrate an important part of our Florida Yards - palms.
 
There are many palms suitable for landscape use. Unfortunately there are also many that are wrong for local planting. Today's column will outline 16 palms that can be successfully grown here and offer some tips on how these plants can create special places in your Florida Yard.
 
Not only is choosing the right palm for the right place important, but good maintenance is essential if palms are to grow well in the landscape. These plants have different fertilizer requirements, and are planted and pruned a bit differently from more familiar plants.  Ask our office for assistance and bulletins on these palm issues.
 
Two local natives should be considered for the landscape: our state tree, the Cabbage Palm and the ever-present Saw palmetto.  Cabbage Palms are transplanted from pastures or wooded areas, and are rarely found in container nurseries. On the other hand, the 6-foot tall Saw palmettos destined for landscapes are best purchased nursery-grown in containers, but are expensive because of their slow growth.
 

Cabbage Palm: rarely do palm trunks split - but tell it to this one found at Kanapaha Gardens in Gainesville. 

Okeechobee Native

 (and near native) 

Palms

 

Saw Tooth Palmetto: this plant was named a Plant of the Year by the Florida Nurserymen & Growers Association in 2000. There are "blue" and green forms.

Needle Palm: this wild specimen in Clay County is probably very old.   Needle Palms are a 2004 FNGA Plant of the Year!

Paroutis or Everglades Palm: Pruning out some of the suckers will create a more open look.  These look nice against a plain wall with night lights.

Coconut Palm: These two tall specimens have been improperly over-pruned. The Coconut palm is believed to be native to the Pacific, but  "floated" to all parts of the tropics.

 





Other Florida natives that are not naturally found in Okeechobee include the small, hardy Needle Palm, the clumping Everglades Palm, and the symbol of the tropics, the Coconut Palm.  Needle palms (see picture) are short compact, and heavily armored with protective spikes, and are among the most cold hardy palm that can be found. Everglades Palms can reach 20 feet tall, and also have spines on their stalks, but have a graceful look and pest-free temperament. Coconut Palms are sensitive to freezes and to a virus disease, lethal yellowing; the Maypan Coconut Palm resists this disease, but locals should be aware that freezes will eventually clean them out of our area.
 
There are many palms that can be used both indoors and out. The Areca / Bamboo/ Cane / Yellow Palm is a popular indoor palm, but this small (20-30 feet) clumping palm can also fit into area landscapes.  In full sun, it naturally turns yellow, so don't think it needs fertilizer.  Its clustering habit makes it a possible choice for a screening plant, otherwise, remove all but a few of the suckers to show off its ringed stalks.
 

Indoor / Outdoor Palms

Areca Palm - thin out all but a few suckers to encourage tall growth, otherwise it can form a tick mass of foliage. Several different common names.

Chinese Fan Palm - similar to the Cabbage palm, but this one has thorns and the fronds tend to droop. It has a rough, single trunk

Lady or Raphis Palm - this clumping plant can be put outdoors.  Be sure to restrict it's growth; over time it suckers and spreads.

 
The Lady Palm is another indoor/outdoor choice. It slowly grows to 7 feet tall, but is not well suited to sunny locations.  A final dual purpose palm is the Chinese Fan Palm, which has thorns on the leaf stalk and does better in limited sunlight. These are sometime jammed together as tropical groundcovers, but as they mature at 25 feet, they may be unsuitable for this purpose.
 
Our next group of exotic palms are our "residential" choices, with sizes and characteristics that make them useful in your Florida Yard. These palms average less than 40 feet in height, so they won't overpower a typical homesite. The most common is the Queen Palm, with feather-like fronds and a smooth gray trunk. If placed in fill soils or neglected by lack of fertilizer, they quickly turn yellow; if given too much water and nutrients, they will grow fast an need regular trimming to remove dead fronds and seed heads.
 




Queen Palm - inexpensive, but requires a lot of work to make it look good. You can do better.....

Residential Palms 

for Okeechobee

Yards


Pindo Palm - some thorns, persistent "boots" can be a host for ferns, and edible fruit.  This palm is also know as the Jelly Palm - guess why!



Foxtail Palm:
these palms are very popular in today's Florida Yards; they work wherever a queen palm would go, but are lower maintenance and look neater.


Triangle Palm: 
This pair of palms adds a tropical look to this corner without blocking views of traffic.


Pygmy Date Palm:
these palms are commonly sold as "triples" - three individual plants grown close together in one pot. Don't prune off yellow fronds.

 

Better choices for residential palms include the Foxtail, Triangle, Pindo and Pygmy Date palms. The Foxtail palm looks much like the Queen palm, but it has a bushier frond and is self-cleaning - the fronds drop off without help. The Triangle Palm produces its fronds on three corners of the trunk, and has a blue-green color to the foliage. The Pindo Palm also has bluish colored feather-shaped fronds, and is very cold hardy.

The Pygmy Date palm grows a bit more slowly to reach its 10 foot height, and is more drought tolerant than most palms. Date palms have long, nasty thorns and rough trunks, and will suffer if not given regular palm fertilizers. While the Pygmy Date can be used as a residential accent shrub, it's bigger cousin, the Canary Island Date Palm can be the centerpiece of the landscape. The 40 foot tall and wide Canary is very slow growing, which is why large specimens may cost several thousand dollars.

Larger palms should not be used around homes as they will dwarf the landscape and may present risks from lightning and windstorms. They should be reserved for commercial landscapes. Commercial palms for our area include the Canary Island Date Palm, the Royal Palm (believed to be a Florida native!), with its smooth gray and green trunk  and the Washingtonia Palm, which often retains its dead fronds.

 

There are many other palms that could be suggested, but these should prove dependable for our soils and climate.  Remember, palms do need different care, so check with our office if you need help. I f you need additional information on palms, ask our Tuesday afternoon Master Gardeners here at our office at 458 Hwy 98 North.  Readers can also consult our web page for photos of these palms at http://okeechobee.ifas.ufl.edu Call us at 863-763-646 or email us at okeechobee@ifas.ufl.edu Happy Palm (and Easter) Sunday!

-30-

References

Palm Production and Culture Resources at the UF/IFAS Fort Lauderdale Research & Education Center: http://flrec.ifas.ufl.edu/Hort/Palms/palmproduction/palmproduction.htm 

Palms in the landscape by Dr. Ed Gilman http://hort.ifas.ufl.edu/woody/palmintroduction.htm

Palm Fact Sheets (part of Southern Trees) http://hort.ifas.ufl.edu/woody/palmfact.htm

11 UF/IFAS bulletins on general palm care @ EDIS http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/TOPIC_Palms

The Latest Research on Palm Fertilizers by Dave Palmer Extension Agent I - Hillsborough Extension Service 12/99 http://prohort.ifas.ufl.edu/pubs/HC-PalmFert.PDF 

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. Millie Ferrer, Interim Dean. Last update: 11/10/2009 .  This page is maintained by Dan Culbert 

 

 

 



There are many other palms that could be suggested, but these should prove dependable for our soils and climate.  Remember, palms do need different care, so check with our office if you need help. I f you need additional information on palms, ask our Tuesday afternoon Master Gardeners here at our office at 458 Hwy 98 North.  Readers can also consult our web page for photos of these palms at http://okeechobee.ifas.ufl.edu Call us at 863-763-646 or email us at okeechobee@ifas.ufl.edu Happy Palm (and Easter) Sunday!

-30-

References

Palm Production and Culture Resources at the UF/IFAS Fort Lauderdale Research & Education Center: http://flrec.ifas.ufl.edu/Hort/Palms/palmproduction/palmproduction.htm 

Palms in the landscape by Dr. Ed Gilman http://hort.ifas.ufl.edu/woody/palmintroduction.htm

Palm Fact Sheets (part of Southern Trees) http://hort.ifas.ufl.edu/woody/palmfact.htm

11 UF/IFAS bulletins on general palm care @ EDIS http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/TOPIC_Palms

The Latest Research on Palm Fertilizers by Dave Palmer Extension Agent I - Hillsborough Extension Service 12/99 http://prohort.ifas.ufl.edu/pubs/HC-PalmFert.PDF 

 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. Millie Ferrer, Interim Dean. Last Update: 11/10/2009.   This page is maintained by Dan Culbert 

Commercial Palms for Okeechobee

Canary Island Date Palm: Look for the "diamond-shaped" leaf scars on the trunk. Keep it dry - it will rot if over-irrigated. 

Royal Palm: Very large and imposing, but may freeze out in our area.

Washingtonia Palm: these get very tall and have heavily thorned leafstalks. Dead fronds can act as a "fire-wick".