Palms come in so many different sizes and shapes that their use in the landscape is a pleasure and almost a necessity. One such palm is the bottle palm, a slow-growing oddity that is a sure conversation starter. What is this bottle-shaped member of the palm family, and do you want one?
Bottle palms come from the far-away tropical region of the Mascarene Islands – specifically Round Island – near Madagascar. Sadly, while common on the market, bottle palms are endangered in their native land. While available in Florida, their slow growth makes them prized specimens with somewhat expensive price tags. This palm is also very sensitive to cold temperatures, so make sure that the one you purchase has a fighting chance to survive potentially cold winters. Best for hardiness zone 10B, bottle palms can tolerate 10A in sheltered areas, but there are no guarantees. As most of the warmer sites best for this palm are near the coast, keep in mind that bottle palms also withstand salty conditions very well. Although eventually growing to around twelve-foot tall, this palm stays relatively small for some time. Accordingly, it is a good candidate for container growing and this feature allows you to move it indoors during freezing weather. Plant bottle palms in full-sun areas with well-drained soil.
Bottle palms do eventually develop into a bulb-shaped palm up to twelve feet tall. Having as few as four to eight leaves, the feather-like fronds arch gracefully from the smooth, green crown shaft. As a palm with a crown shaft, the bottle palm is technically self-cleaning. However, it can sometimes retain old fronds possibly due to Potassium deficiency. Horn-like flowering stalks are very noticeable and emerge just below the crown shaft on the trunk in mature specimens.
One nutritional problem noted with bottle palms is that of a Potassium deficiency. The oldest fronds in K-deficient bottle palms will develop brown spotting, marginal and streaked brown patches. This is more of a problem in our sandy soils, but less of an issue in container culture. Besides using the recommended granular fertilizer – 8-2-12-4 (or 8-0-12-4) applied in November, February, and May as per label directions, and a 0-0-16-6 in August, diagnosed sever K deficiency cases can be treated with a controlled-release sulfur-coated potassium sulfate product.
Bottle palms are unique plants suitable as specimens in carefully selected spots. Commitment to the site selection and aftercare of bottle palms will bring you horticultural enjoyment for years to come! For more information on all types of palms, or to ask a question, 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.
Friedman M. H., Andreu, M. G., Quintana, H. V. & McKenzie, M. (2022) Hyophorbe lagenicaulis, Bottle Palm. The University of Florida Extension Service, IFAS.
Broschat, T. K. (2020) Potassium Deficiency in Palms. The University of Florida Extension Service, IFAS.
Broschat, T. K (2020) Pruning Palms. The University of Florida Extension Service, IFAS.
Broschat, T. K (2019) PALM MORPHOLOGY AND ANATOMY. The University of Florida Extension Service, IFAS.
Hyophorbe lagenicaulis (2022) Palmpedia© https://www.palmpedia.net/wiki/Hyophorbe_lagenicaulis.