Pygmy Date Palm (Phoenix roebelenii) Care

If you are looking for a standout specimen tree to grace your landscape or indoors through containers, the pygmy date palm is surely a sight to behold. It is one of the only two varieties of Phoenix palms, which by the way, are considered as the oldest cultivated date palms in the world. They do not grow to more than six feet but their lively emerald green color and arching fronds can enliven any room. 

Given the best conditions and proper care as well as maintenance, it becomes relatively easy to grow and take care of. So, if you are curious about this well-loved date palm, this post features its basic growth requirements and care tips to guide you in perfectly cultivating one. 

Related: Types Of Palm Trees | Types Of Palm Trees In Florida

Pygmy date palm: Quick Care Guide

This date palm is durable and generally hardy. Like other palm types, it thrives in tropical to subtropical climates. When it comes to light requirements, it prefers bright, direct light for indoor growing and unfiltered, full sunlight when grown outdoors. It is sensitive to overwatering so lessen watering intervals once the roots are established. It thrives on well-draining soils. 

During the growing season, weak liquid fertilizer should be applied twice. The pygmy date palm requires pruning not only to maintain its shape but also to encourage better health and growth and repotting should be done every two years. 

Pygmy date palm identification

Between the two varieties of Phoenix palms, the pygmy date palm is the most suitable for indoor growing. It is more popularly known as the dwarf date palm and overall, you can identify this date palm with its fine, feather-like leaflets which terminate into thick fronds which grow into a length of 3-6ft.  Its trunk is brown in color and grows at a diameter of 6-inches. 

Outdoors, they grow to up to 10ft and indoors, it grows at a manageable height of 6ft. Since it is planted in clumps, it looks like it is multi-stemmed. It grows edible fruits, but they are not harvested for food. It also blooms clusters of cream-colored flowers during spring, emerging from the center. However, because this is a slow growing date palm, it would take five years before the first fruit and clusters of flowers appear. 

Planting pygmy date palm

So, how do you plant a pygmy date palm? This is the most basic thing to master if you are thinking of having one in your landscape or put one in a container for indoor growing. As such, you must know when, where, and how to plant a pygmy date palm. 

When to plant?

The best time to plant or propagate pygmy date palms would be during spring. Doing so spares you from over-moisture because the soil is always moist during this season.

You can also do it during summers, but you must take note of water intervals, so the best time is spring. They should not be planted in coastal areas, however, because pygmy date palms cannot tolerate salt. 

Where to plant?

As have been mentioned, pygmy date palms love sunlight and afternoon shades. To this end, you must plant it in a location where it gets 6-8hrs of continuous, unfiltered light daily. If grown indoors, it must be placed in front of the window and rotated occasionally for all sides to get enough sunlight. 

How to plant

It is very essential for you to know about the steps in properly planting the pygmy date palm. If you are thinking of embarking on it soon, here are the steps to follow: 

  1. First, choose the right planting spot. It should be a location where it could receive full sunlight and partial shade. If grown indoors, place it in front of the window so that it could still receive unfiltered light. 
  2. Next, dig a hole that is 4-6-inches wider than its root ball. After that, place the root ball in and start filling it with 4-inches of soil and then backfill it with a 50-50 balance of original soil and then sand. 
  3. Fertilizer is optional at this point but adding super phosphate to it can help in fast root growth. Now, tap the soil that just filled the root ball with and make sure that there are no air pockets around. 
  4. For the final touches, add 2-3-inches of soil berm to hold the water. Apply the organic mulch and then thoroughly water it with 3-5-inches for the next few weeks to encourage growth.  

Caring for pygmy date palm

If you do the right care tips for the pygmy date palm, expect a spectacular, low-maintenance specimen palm tree out of it. Proper care of this palm starts with the following care requirements: 

Sun

This date palm loves a lot of sunlight and partial shade. You must choose the best location where it could get continuous, direct sunlight during the day and cooler afternoon to evening shades. 

Temperature and humidity

The pygmy date palm is a true tropical palm. It thrives in warm temperatures and high humidity. As for temperature, it prefers in between 50-75F and cannot tolerate below 45F. To boost humidity, consider regular misting. 

Watering

Pygmy palm dates love moist soils most of the year. They only require heavy watering during the first year or as soon as the roots are established. After that, watering is lessened. There are two watering tips to remember, however.

During extended dry season or drought conditions, watering should be done once a week. On the other hand, never water during winter months. 

Soil

They pygmy date palm can tolerate a wide range of soil types including loam and clay. But like the others, it should be added with sand and perlite to make it a well-draining one. It also prefers slightly acidic to alkaline soils and peat moss can be added to make sure that it is aerated. 

Fertilizing

Upon planting, pygmy palm dates require weekly fertilizing from spring to summer. Once the roots are established, fertilizing can be done six times a year. Palm dates are heavy fertilizer feeders and the best one to use would be liquid fertilizer. 

Pruning

Compared to fan palms, date palms require a bit of pruning during spring or summer. This must be done to maintain the shape of the pygmy date palm and to cut back dead leaves and fronds to encourage growth. You must wear protective hand gears when pruning this date palm because it has spiky fronds. 

Propagation

Pygmy date palms are usually propagated through suckers but propagating them through seeds is also a recommended choice. The seeds must be soaked in warm water first and then thoroughly dried out before sowing.

They, however, follow a remote germination which takes 2-3 weeks after sowing. This means that the roots would probably sprout a few distance away from the actual seed. The seeds should not be sown too deep. 

Transplanting

Repotting or transplanting should be done every two years. Even though the pygmy date palm is a slow grower, it establishes an extensive root system so do not wait until the roots stretch out of the pots. Always use gloves when repotting because its slender spines are spikey. 

How to protect for pygmy date palm from cold weather

Because pygmy date palms are made for tropical climates, the frost can lead to plant damage or even plant death. As such, here are some steps that you should carry out before that harsh winter comes. 

  • The most basic step is to choose a planting location where it would be protected from winter winds. If you are living in a cold climate location, planting them near greenhouses or sheds should be done. 
  • To increase the plant’s tolerance to withstand temperatures of up to 9C, spray the entire pygmy date palm with frost protector spray. 
  • Make sure that the roots are watered enough to last the entire winter. Applying leaf or organic mulch can help in water or moisture retention. 
  • Give it ample heat. This can be done in different ways. One is by wrapping the trunk with a frost blanket from the trunk’s base to just below the fronds. Another way to give it heat is by attaching frost-hardy string lights. 

Troubleshooting

Pygmy date palms are usually disease resistant and are durable and hardy. But when planted outdoors, they can be susceptible to common palm diseases and may attract common palm insects and pests. Amending these problems can be done easily by adjusting maintenance and care tips and applying the right amount of insecticides. 

Growing Problems

Care requirement surplus or deficit can affect the growth of pygmy date palms. The following should be looked out for to ensure that your pygmy date palm grows to its potential. 

  • Trunk and root rotting due to overwatering. 
  • Browning leaves is due to over-moisture while leaf crinkling is caused by under watering. 
  • Falling off fronds, yellowing and browning of leaves might signify nutrient deficiency, especially lack of potassium. 

Pests

The pests and insects attracted by pygmy date palms often attack the plant during the growing season or from spring to summer. The following are the pests that commonly niche on date palms: 

Diseases

Pygmy date palm diseases are often caused by fungal niching, over-watering and over fertilizing. Since it is fairly disease resistant, there are just two common diseases for the pygmy date palm: 

  • Ganoderma butt rot which starts at the plant’s trunk. It is caused especially by various fungi types. 
  • Pestalotiopsis leaf spot which usually sets in during the cooler months. 

How much does a pygmy date palm cost?

The average retail price of 5-6ft pygmy date palm is at $240 while bulk buying is at $190. But a complete package of seedlings and landscape installation (labor costs, materials, soil and fertilizer included) would be at an average of $400. 

Related: How Much Do Palm Trees Cost?

FAQs

More than the growth and care requirements of the pygmy date palm, there are also important FAQs that you should be aware of as they can come handy later. This includes specific information about the growth habit and other characteristics of pygmy date palms so sift through this information. 

How fast do pygmy date palms grow?

Considered as slow growers, pygmy date palms have a growth rate of 1-2ft annually. As such, it is understandable as to why they reach their mature height in the 9th or 10th year.

How tall do pygmy date palms get?

In the wild, pygmy date palms can grow to up to 25ft. When planted in outdoor landscapes, these date palms grow in between 6-10ft and when grown in containers and placed indoors, its maximum height is just 6ft. This is a manageable height for indoor plants. In terms of width, pygmy date palms grow wide to up to 10ft. 

Are pygmy date palms poisonous to pets?

No. Their fruits are edible so that already marks it as non-poisonous so it truly is one of the palm types that you should surround your landscape with. Aside from this, pygmy date palms are also natural air cleansers, making them a good choice for indoor growing. Like the dracaena, it absorbs carbon, benzene, and formaldehyde from the air. 

How long do pygmy date palms live?

Pygmy date palms may be small but like the other date palm types, they can live for up to 150 years. They reach their full fruit bearing capacity in 15 years but above 40 years, they lose their fruiting capability. Nonetheless, with their majestic look, they can be kept around for more years to be landscape plants. 

Where do pygmy date palms grow? 

Being native to Southeast Asia, they are found in locations that mimic the tropical climate of their native places. As such, they grow well in USDA zones 9-11 where temperatures do not consistently drop below 40F. In the US, they are found in Florida and most of the Midwestern states where they are found in decks, patios, or container specimen plants in a landscape. 

Do pygmy date palm trees produce fruit?

Yes. But unlike the true date palm, the pygmy date palm is not planted for their edible fruits. The seed coat is softer than the edible fruits of true date palms. The fruits of the pygmy date palm, however, are harvested to be soaked in warm water, dried, and then prepared to be sown either during spring or summer for pygmy date palm propagation.

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Conclusion

Pygmy date palms, as have been established, is a spectacular landscape plant for tropical and subtropical gardens. If the growing pointers and caring requirements are followed, it becomes uncomplicated to cultivate.

It can be used around outdoor landscapes, by the pool cage or in entryways. Growing them indoors, however, offer a different kind of beauty to spruce up any spot. Aside from that, it is a natural air purifier, and any indoor space could well benefit from that. 

With all things considered, there is no wonder why a lot of people are attracted to cultivating the pygmy date palm. As soon as you master the pointers listed here, you will easily be on your way to taking care of one on your own. 

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