Relatively tiny as compared to other palms, the pygmy date palm is perhaps one of the most popular palms in Florida – highly wind resistant, too! Its slow growth, feather-like fronds and petite height make the pygmy date palm a great specimen for any landscape. Is there a pygmy date palm in your future?
Originally from Southeast Asia, the pygmy date palm slowly grows to about twelve feet tall with a six-to-eight-foot spread. The pinnate, feathery fronds have wicked three-inch spines near the leaf base – these are very, very sharp! The pygmy palm has separate male and female trees which both flower. The female palms produce fruit (non-edible dates) that ripens black. The trunk is slender and decorative with a pattern of raised, diamond-shaped leaf bases. The pygmy date palm grows a single stem and is often planted in groups of two or three. This grouping makes them look like a clumping variety, providing a greater impact in the landscape.
Plant your pygmy date palm in a full sun area for best growth although they will tolerate some partial shade as well. Even though pygmy date palms are considered drought-tolerant once established, they will benefit from some supplemental moisture as needed. They are not tolerant to salty conditions, so select your planting site accordingly. While often considered best for hardiness zone 10A, they are grown throughout our county even in zone 9B areas without much problem. On occasion, they can experience cold damage if the temperature goes below thirty degrees F.
If your planting space is limited, this small palm can be grown in containers and makes an excellent patio plant.
For best results, we recommend the use of a granular 8-2-12-4 fertilizer in November, February and May as per label directions. Follow this in August with the use of a 0-0-16-6, again as per label directions. Proper fertilization is important as our Florida soils are often lacking in certain nutrients essential to proper palm growth. Common deficiencies found in pygmy palms include potassium, magnesium, manganese, and boron. While these deficiencies are fairly easy to diagnose and rectify, it is always better to keep the palm on the proper fertilizer program to avoid these problems.
Sometimes natural materials produced by a plant are mistaken for a pest problem. Pygmy date palms are often caught up in this confusion. A material called scurf – a whitish, scaly material – is normally found on the new fronds of this palm. Scurf lasts for a short while and over time naturally wears away and drops off. Don’t confuse this for scale insects, whiteflies or mealybugs. Always have a positive identification before deciding on a course of action.
The graceful and elegant pygmy date palm is relatively inexpensive and suitable for many landscape uses. For more information on all types of palms suitable for Southwest Florida, you can also call the Master Gardener Volunteer Helpdesk on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 1 to 4 pm at 764-4340 for gardening help and insight into their role as an Extension volunteer. Ralph E. Mitchell is the Director/Horticulture Agent for UF/IFAS Extension – Charlotte County. He can be reached at 941-764-4344 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Connect with us on social media. Like us on Facebook @CharlotteCountyExtension and follow us on Instagram @ifascharco.
Broschat, T. K. (2017) Phoenix roebelenii: Pygmy Date Palm. The University of Florida Extension Service, IFAS.
Broschat, T. K. Elliott, M. L. (2019) Normal “Abnormalities” in Palms. The University of Florida Extension Service, IFAS.
Landre, C. (2022) Pygmy Date Palm – Phoenix roebelenii. South-Florida-Plant-Guide.com.
The Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ Guide to Plant Selection & Landscape Design (2010) The University of Florida Extension Services, IFAS