8 Fascinating facts about Palm Trees

For tropical landscaping, nothing conjures up the idea of an island escape like a palm tree. At the sight of a palm tree, most people imagine a sunny beach setting — but these sturdy plants can also grow in a variety of other environments. Here are 8 things you might not have known about these tropical beauties:

1. Palm trees have an ancient history

Palm tree history can be traced back over 5000 years to Mesopotamian times. It was used as a food source, for constructing tools and dwellings and shade from the hot desert sun. It’s even thought that the date palm is responsible for the growth of the human population! Romans used palm branches as a symbol of victory, while it represents peace and plenty in Judaism and Christianity.

2. There are over 2,500 species of palm trees

Palm trees come from the Arecaceae plant family. They include wonderfully diverse species (over 2,500, in fact) found throughout the world, from the desert to the rainforest. They come in all shapes and sizes, from small shrubs to lianas and towering trees.

3. Palms can be skyscrapers

Some palms can reach heights of 21m or much more! The Quindio wax palm (Ceroxylon quindiuense) is the tallest species and can grow 48 to 60m high. It is the national tree and emblem of Colombia and is now a protected species, which means it can’t be used for logging.

Another tall palm that is well known in South Africa is the Mexican fan palm (Washingtonia robusta).

4. Palms can grow in containers

Palms make great patio plants! As they grow they can be moved or replanted from a container to a more sunny location. Just make sure you have the right soil for a patio tree, along with a large enough container.

5. Some palms can last a century…or more

Depending on the species, some palms can live for more than a century. That means the palm you plant might outlive you. There is also recent evidence that, at the cellular level, palms may indeed be the oldest living trees because their cells are not replaced with new cells, as is the case with other trees.

6. Not all plants called “palms” are trees or even palms!

These evergreen plants can grow in the form of shrubs, trees or long, woody vines called lianas. Plants like the yucca palm, Torbay palm, sago palm and traveler’s palm are not part of the Arecaceae family.

7. Palm trees have either palmate or pinnate leaves

Pinnate leaves are feathery fronds that grow along each side of a stem, while palmate leaves grow out, like fingers on a hand, from the end of the stem. Many other plant species also share palmate or pinnate leaves in one variation or another.

8. How to care for palm trees

Palm trees generally grow in full sun, but can tolerate some shade. Water newly planted trees deeply twice a week until they are established (2 to 3 months). Palm trees are drought tolerant once they are established and rarely need watered. A good quality slow-release fertiliser should be applied in early spring. If your soil is lacking, feed your palm tree again in early autumn. Palm trees love food! In winter (in cooler climates or harsh winters) palm trunks can be wrapped with burlap or frost cloth to reduce or even prevent possible damage. Deep watering prior to severe temperatures and adding a thick layer of mulch will help to protect the roots during severe freezing temperatures.

After reading these interesting facts about palms, you are probably very excited to purchase a palm of your own? These palms are available for purchase at all of our Plantland branches:

  • Dypsis lutescens (Areca palm)
  • Syagrus romanzoffiana (Queen palm)
  • Rhapis excelsa (bamboo palm)
  • Roystonea regia