Although palm trees are often associated with California, pygmy date palms (Phoenix roebelenii) grow as perennials in other warm climates across their perennial range in USDA plant hardiness zones 10 and 11. Because pygmy date palm is a dwarf plant, it may seem like it would take a short time for these palm trees to reach their full height, which typically tops out at 6 to 12 feet. But because they grow at a slow to medium speed, adding 12 to 24 inches of growth each year, it will take years for pygmy date palms to reach their full potential. Even before it reaches maturity, you'll enjoy the tropical aesthetics of this beautiful palm.
The pygmy date palm generally takes at least 6 years to reach its mature height, but the germination of its seeds takes three to six months.
Pygmy Date Palm Origins
The pygmy date palm, also known as the dwarf date palm, is native to Asia, specifically Laos and Vietnam, but it can be found worldwide. The pygmy date palm loves to grow in humid areas, so you'll typically find these palms growing in sub-tropical, tropical and temperate regions.
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Pygmy Date Palm Characteristics
According to Jungle Music Palms & Cycads, more than 50 years ago, many thought the pygmy date palm couldn't grow over 6 feet tall. Now, it's known that old and mature pygmy date palms can grow between 6 and 10 feet tall in five to seven years, with the germination of seeds taking three to six months. Some specimens can grow over 10 feet tall. Although pygmy date palms are often sold in the United States with multiple plants grown together in one container, it grows as a single-trunked in its natural habitat.
The trunks are thin and measure 3 to 6 inches in diameter in the palm's natural habitat, and the trunk has thick fibers right below the crown of leaves. As the pygmy date palm ages and the leaf base debris is removed, the trunk has a knobby-looking appearance. The pygmy date palm can have either a straight trunk or a slightly curved trunk when grown in its natural habitat. The trunk can grow somewhat curved if it is planted at an angle.
Pygmy date palm leaves are about 3 to 5 feet long, and the leaflet color is glossy-green, silver-green or darker green. The crown is rounded with around 30 to 50 leaves, and the leaf stems, also known as petioles, have sharp spines that can grow as long as 3 inches. Pygmy date palms are dioecious palms, which means that male and female reproductive organs are not found on the same plant. A pygmy date palm is either male or female.
Growing a Pygmy Date Palm
If you live in a sub-tropical or temperate region, pygmy date palms are relatively easy to grow. For individuals who live in a coastal area with adequate humidity, make sure that your pygmy date palm is growing in full sun. You don't want to grow pygmy date palms in the shade because they won't grow to their fullest potential. Pygmy date palms that grow in the shade in a coastal area end up looking lanky, and they tend to decline in full shade.
If you live inland in a more desert climate, make sure your pygmy date palm is growing in filtered light or partial sun. When you plant a pygmy date palm, make sure it is planted in rich soil that drains well. You can grow a pygmy date palm in clay, but make sure that you don't overwater it.
A healthy watering scheduling for a pygmy date palm during hot weather may be three times a week. Although these trees can tolerate drought, they thrive when the soil is kept consistently moist.