Marina D’Abreau, Residential Horticulture Extension Agent of Hillsborough County, presented a Master Gardner session on ornamental palms for central Florida at the Charles J Fendig Library. I wasn’t going to include palms in my garden plans, but I will now. She convinced me. She presented a summary of several that are Florida-friendly due to their tolerance for drought, salt, sand as well as somewhat tolerant of temperatures close to freezing. She recommended plantapalm.com website and floridata.com for further information on growing and maintaining palms.
Her tips for palms included:
- Plant in the spring and early summer when they are growing. Cut back the roots to a root ball when transplanting. Plant with the top of the root ball level with the ground. Water regularly until they are well established.
- Stake, if necessary, but gently. Buffer the tree with burlap, then tie it in place. Prop a stake against the burlap without damaging the tree. Do NOT nail anything into the tree.
- Since palm roots are in the top 2-3 inches of soil, mulch to maintain moisture in the soil. Keep other plants, even grass, away from the palm trunk, so other plants will not be too competitive for moisture.
- Leave old fronds on the tree until they are dead and brown. Do not remove yellow fronds because the tree will pull nutrients out of the fronds.
- Fertilize 4 times a year using slow release nitrogen (N) and potassium (K). Palms also require micro-nutrients, so planning is needed to ensure they get all their required nutrients. Lawn fertilizers do not contain magnesium (Mg). If palms only receive lawn fertilizer they become deficient in magnesium resulting in yellow fronds. Epson salt, magnesium sulfate, is often used to fertilize palms for magnesium, but Epsom salt does not supply other needed micro-nutrients. For instance, palms develop “frizzle top” if a palm is deficient in manganese (Mn). Fertilizers specific for palms can be purchased at garden supply stores. Apply palm fertilizer under the canopy of the palm. If this includes some turf, do not fertilize the area with turf fertilizer.
- Palms have pests, but if the palms are properly placed and maintained, they will remain in good health and pests will not be a major problem.