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Florida’s humid, subtropical climate is ideal for growing palm trees. If you are considering palms for your landscape, you might wonder how to care for palm trees in Florida. We’ve researched Florida’s native and non-native palm species to find the answer for you.
First, select a palm species and choose an ideal location to plant the palm, after which you can care for palm trees in your landscape by:
- Planting the palms in permeable soil.
- Watering newly planted palms frequently to keep the soil moist. Established palms do not typically need supplemental watering unless there is a drought.
- Fertilize the palms two to four times annually, by carefully following instructions provided with palm-specific fertilizers or consulting a tree/landscaping professional to provide a recommended fertilization schedule.
Palm trees are relatively low-maintenance plants, great for giving your landscape a year-round tropical look. Keep reading, and we’ll discuss how to care for some of Florida’s most popular palms.
Choose the Right Palm for Your Landscaping
Selecting the right palm species for your landscape is the best way to ensure healthy palms. Check the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map to determine which palm species will grow best in your Florida vicinity.
Before you plant palms, consider the mature height and width of the species. In the location where you intend to plant the palm, check overhead clearances to be sure rooftops or power lines will not interfere with the palm’s growth. Position the palm accordingly from buildings or other plants so as not to overcrowd the palm and stunt its growth.
Does the palm species you’ve selected prefer sunlight or shade? Factor the palm’s lighting preference into your decision of where to plant the palm. Try to avoid planting palms in direct sunlight because too much direct sunlight can burn the fronds, turning them brown and eventually killing the fronds.
Are Palm Trees Native to Florida?
Florida boasts 12 native palm trees:
- Dwarf Palmetto Sabal Minor
- Cabbage Palmetto Sabal Palmetto
- Texas Palmetto Sabal Brazoriensis
- Everglades Palm/Paurotis Palm Acoelorrhaphe Wrightii
- Florida Silver Palm Coccothrinax Argentata
- Needle Palm Rapidophyllum Hystrix
- Florida Royal Palm Roystonea Regia
- Florida Thatch Palm Thrinax Radiata
- Scrub Palm Sabal Etonia
- Miami Palm Sabal Miamiensis
- Saw Palmetto Serenoa Repens
- Buccaneer Palm/Florida Cherry Palm Pxeudophoenix Sargentii
Several palm species that are native throughout the Southwestern United States not only thrive in Florida but also as far north as the Carolinas and as far west as the Gulf Coast.
What are the Most Popular Palms to Plant in Florida?
Selecting palms for your landscape is not only about growing palms in the appropriate climate but also about the overall appearance of your yard, patio, or poolside. Towering palm trees with feathery canopies project a stately feel whereas shorter palm trees with fan-shaped fronds can provide a great accent piece. The flowers and fruits of palm trees can add bursts of color to your landscape throughout the year.
Palm trees can also provide a functional purpose in your landscape to create a natural border or increase your privacy. Species that are native and non-native to Florida are often grown together for a truly tropical paradise.
Coconut Palm (Cocos Nucifera)
This iconic, towering palm gives a clear image of Florida. Growing to heights upwards of 80 feet, the Coconut Palm is not a Florida native but thrives in the subtropics with average temperatures of 72 degrees Fahrenheit. Found on both inland and coastal landscapes, the Coconut Palm prefers plenty of full sunlight and is salt tolerant.
Smooth, silver trunks support vast canopies of feathered palms reaching nearly 19-feet long. Younger trees produce flowers, and mature trees, 6 to 10 years old, will produce coconuts after flowering. Coconut Palms are great for lining entrance ways and providing shade.
Windmill Palm (Trachycarpus Fortunei)
A great tree to use for either framing your landscape or as an accent near an entrance or on a patio, the Windmill Palm can be planted directly in the ground or potted. It grows slowly, reaching heights between 10 and 20 feet. A hardy palm, the Windmill Palm withstands cooler temperatures, as low as 10 degrees Fahrenheit. It prefers shaded areas and tolerates salt.
The textured appearance of the Windmill Palm trunk will draw the eye of onlookers. Fan-shaped, green fronds extend nearly 2-feet, creating a whimsical canopy.
Chinese Fan Palm (Livistona Chinensis)
Another palm with fan-shaped fronds yet, these fronds droop to create an ideal shade cover and privacy tree. The Chinese Fan Palm can be planted directly in the ground or potted but, be mindful of spacing palms approximately 5-feet apart from other plants or barriers because the fanned fronds quickly grow outwardly before the slow-growing tree grows up.
The Chinese Fan Palm is a hardy tree that can tolerate temperatures within USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 9 and 10. It is a salt-tolerant tree. Enjoy the vibrant bluish-green to olive-green fronds year-round and annual bloom of yellowish flowers in your landscape.
Saw Palmetto (Serenoa Repens)
The Saw Palmetto is an excellent perimeter plant, used as a border hedge to increase privacy or designate a property line. A clumping palm, the multiple trunks can be difficult to uproot and relocate once the plant is established. Saw Palmetto prefers full sun but also tolerates shade. It is a good choice for landscapes near the ocean because it tolerates salt.
Fan-shaped fronds vary in color, from green to blueish-silver. The Saw Palmetto produces small, fragrant yellow-white flowers followed by yellow berries turning to black when ripe. This palm is a good choice if you are trying to welcome wildlife into your landscape because the flowers and berries attract bees, birds, and mammals.
Buccaneer Palm (Pxeudophoenix Sargentii)
The Buccaneer Palm, native to the Florida Keys, flourishes beside Southern Florida poolsides. It grows slowly, reaching heights between 10 and 15 feet. Resistant to drought and salt, the Buccaneer Palm will provide a canopy of shade beneath its green to blue-green fronds with practically zero maintenance involved.
Christmas Palm (Adonidia Merrillii)
Add a bit of holiday cheer to your tropical landscape with the Christmas Palm. This palm grows to heights of 25 feet and has brilliant green, feathered canopy. It does well when planted in small, partially shaded locations and tolerates temperatures as low as 30 degrees Fahrenheit.
The nickname, Christmas Palm, comes from the festive-looking bunches of red fruits produced by the tree. The fruit ripens during late fall and winter, hanging as though the Christmas Palm has been decorated for the holiday season. Interestingly, the Carpentaria Palm Tree is a complimentary, similar species often paired with the Christmas Palm. Carpentaria Palms produce white flowers year-round, and mature trees also produce bright red fruit clusters.
How Often Should You Water Palm Trees in Florida?
Watering your landscape can be challenging in Florida because many communities have instituted strict irrigation regulations to mitigate water usage. The general rule of thumb for watering palms is that although they do enjoy a hardy drink, unless newly planted, mature palms do not need routine watering.
During the hottest months, you can water your palms once or twice per week to prevent damage due to drought. Slowly saturate the area of soil around the palm. Mornings and evenings are good times to water palms because less water will be lost due to evaporation.
Here are some things you can do to help the soil stay moist for your palms without overusing water:
- Build a soil barrier around the hole of newly planted palms.
- Mulch the surface of the soil around the palm. A depth of approximately 1-2 inches of mulch will aid moisture retention in the soil below.
- Install an irrigation system.
Choose Wisely for Beautiful Palms
Choosing the right palm species for your Florida climate and the location you intend to plant the palm is the best method for palm tree success. Once you’ve made the palm species selection for your landscape, the ongoing care of the palm is generally simple. Give the palm permeable, nutrient-rich soil and protect it during drought with routine watering, and you’ll enjoy healthy palms in your yard or by the poolside for many years to come.
For more information on how to care for palm trees, check out our other posts: