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We have a tremendous array of palms to choose from in South Florida: diverse species well-suited to our climate and growing conditions. Many thrive with minimal care. Reliable landscape plants, they have few if any pest and disease problems. The group of palms we can consider " tried and true" plants for South Florida is an astonishing mixture of species, including those native to the Caribbean Basin and exotics from all over the world, palms of every shape, size and character.

Twelve years ago, in an FTG Bulletin article by Nancy Hammer, Palms for South Florida July 1985), Fairchild staff members recommended palms for South Florida. Lethal yellowing had recently killed many.coconut palms and other species, so nonsusceptible replacements were emphasized. Exciting, unusual species that grow well in South Florida were suggested, with the goal of promoting diversity in our landscape. With similar criteria, we offer an update, a new Fairchild list of recommended palms.

It represents a consensus among staff of favorite palms, with the following considerations- all are tolerant of our cool winter temperatures, seasonal rainfall, and our alkaline limestone and marl soils. They are resistant to pest and disease problems and are not at risk from lethal yellowing or ganoderma. (Susceptibilities are noted.) We developed a list of more than 50 species. Featured are the most highly recommended, our "Top Ten."


Chambeyronia macrocarpa A native of New Caledonian forests of low altitude and high rainfall, this palm does very well in our climate. It requires well-drained soil, and shade when young, after which it can take full sun. It has been noted as being quite cold-tolerant at Fairchild. It grows slowly, producing only four to five leaves a year. However, these are a brilliant red when newly expanded, a reward for patience. (Not every specimen has this trait.) It is a graceful plant, with a slender ringed trunk and an open crown of only a few arching fronds. Flowers are pink to cream and the fruit is crimson.

20' -  low availability - responds well to fertilization’


Bismarckia nobilis A native of western Madagascar savannahs, this palm is extraordinarily tough and well-adapted here. It is very sensitive to transplanting, but root pruning will help avoid shock to the plant. The Bismarck palm has a stout trunk and massive fan leaves. The leaves are a light blue-gray shot with silver.

30-50' - high availability - slow growing before establishment


Copernicia baileyana This Cuban species, which is found in dry savannahs and woodlands, should be grown in well-drained soil. It does best in sunny areas but can tolerate partial shade. Although very slowgrowing and not easy to find, it is a magnificent palm that should be grown more. Mature plants have massive smooth gray trunks. Even young plants without developed trunks are desirable for their large fan leaves that make striking patterns of light and shadow.

40' - low availability - very responsive to fertilization.


Heterospathe elata A tall rain forest species from the Philippines and ad'acent islands, it grows well in South Florida and can handle our coldest temperatures if planted in a sheltered position. It is slow growing when immature. Its arching leaves and delicate proportions make it a lovely specimen even when young.

50’ -low-moderate avallability –responds well to fertilization


Pseudophoenix sargentii Sargent's cherry palm of the Florida Keys, the Yucatan, and northern Caribbean islands grows in sand or limestone in areas of little rainfall. Nearly lost in the Keys from habitat loss and poaching for use as landscape plants, the wild populations were restored by a Garden conservation project. It has a prominent crownshaft and a round crown of silvery blue-green pinnate leaves. Large yellow inflorescences among the leaves are followed by dense clusters of red fruit. A beautiful specimen plant, it is also lovely in group plantings. It requires well-drained soil.

10’ – moderate availability – very responsive to fertilization


Thrinax morrisii From the Florida Keys and a broad part of the Caribbean, this palm grows on limestone outcrops and alkaline soils. It tolerates drought, low soil fertility, and exposure to salt water. Consider this native for its unusual color; the fan leaves are pale grey-blue with a striking silver underside. Long inflorescences arch well past the leaves. Flowers and fruit are white; the fruit are dense clusters of small berries. A slow-grower, it is most often available in small sizes. Also consider Thrinax radiata, which is more readily available.

10-20' - moderate availability – well-drained soil


Veitchia spp. Natives of the South Pacific islands, the young plants are susceptible to frost damage in South Florida. They are fast growing with slender trunks, elegant form and prominent clusters of orange to red fruit. They are particularly effective in informal groups. Veitchia spp. are noted for their ability to withstand hurricane winds. V. macdanielsii is one of the best, also try V joannis and V winin. Avoid the widely planted V. merrillii, which is highly susceptible to lethal yellowing.

30-50'- moderate - high availability


Chamaedorea ernesti-augustii From Mexico to Honduras, this solitary slender palm species occurs in the rain forest understory. The trunk has raised annular rings; the sparsely divided leaves form an attractive crown. A diminutive plant for the shade, it does best in well-drained soil and is fairly drought tolerant. Until recently a collector's plant, it is becoming more widely available.

6-10' - low-moderate - availability


Cocos nucifera 'Maypan' The Maypan coconut is recommended for its resistance to lethal yellowing. It is hybrid with the resistance of the 'Malayan dwarf' cultivars and the size and hardiness of the 'Panama tall.' It has -the classic coconut palm's tall trunk tapering to a wide base.

60' - high availability.


Ptychosperma elegans There are 28 species of Ptycohosperma from New Guinea and the surrounding islands. They grow in a range of habitats. P elegans is recommended as it has proven itself reliable in our area. Tall, with a slender trunk and attractive leaves, it has a prominent inflorescence and bright red fruit. It is somewhat cold-tender and benefits from a sheltered position. P macarthurii and P lineare are also recommended.

15-40' - moderate avallability - responds well to fertilization

 

ALSO RECOMMENDED

Name Height Notes
Carpentaria acuminata 40' slender trunk, graceful crown, large red fruit
Chamaedorea cataracturum 5' clumping, finely pinnate, shade
Coccothrinax spp. 3-50' palmate, attractive color and textures
Copernicia macroglossa 15' palmate, very large leaves, attractive skirt of leaves
Roystonea spp. 50-80' columnar trunk, beautiful form
Schippia concolor 25' palmate leaves, slender trunk, white fruit

Not commonly available-watch for these in the future

Actinorhytis calopparia 40' elegant form, showy inflorescence and fruit
Chuniophoenix nana 9' palmate, clumping, scarlet fruit
Gastrococos crispa 40' slow growing, swollen spiny trunk, graceful crown
Guihaia argyrata 4' palmate, clumping, attractive leaves, very hardy
Kentiopsis oliviformis 35' spreading crown, attractive crownshaft
Pseudophoenix vinifera 50' swollen trunk, hanging inflorescence, red fruit.
Satakentia liukiuensis 30' burgandy crownshaft, graceful crown, ringed trunk
Siphokentia beguinii 30' ringed trunk, attractively divided leaves
Syagrus amara 50 long leaves, attractive crown, large orange fruit.

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