Coconut palm trees (Cocos nucifera) are fast-growing palm trees cultivated in tropical areas around the world. Coconut trees are versatile palm trees that serve many purposes in the landscape. In addition to providing nutritious fruits, coconut trees make attractive specimen trees and can live 80 to 120 years when properly cared for. Proper planting locations and care are important to ensure that your coconut tree grows quickly and healthily in your landscape.
Tall Coconut Description
Two varieties of coconut trees are readily available for use in home gardens. Tall coconut trees have a long, smooth columnar trunk that is often curved and can grow between 80 and 100 feet tall, according to the University of Florida. Tall coconut trees have a large terminal crown of palm leaves; each leaf can grow up to 18 feet long and 4 feet wide. Coconut palm trees start fruiting in six to 10 years after planting and can produce up to 50 coconuts annually. When planted in a sunny location and provided with proper care, coconut palm trees have a rapid growth rate.
Dwarf Coconut Palm Description
Dwarf coconut trees are popular backyard trees because of their small size and slow growth rate. Dwarf coconut trees are precocious -- meaning they mature quickly -- and can start producing coconuts in four to six years after planting. Dwarf coconut tree height is highly variable depending on the variety and environmental conditions of the planting location, according to Agroforestry. Dwarf coconuts have a slower growth rate than tall coconuts, but produce a larger number of fruits each year – upward of 250 coconuts annually.
Site Selection and Care
Coconut trees grow naturally on sandy coastal locations and can tolerate high levels of salt in the soil. Coconut trees can also grow inland when planted in well-drained soils. Coconut trees have a delicate root system and are easily damaged by prolonged periods of standing water and freezing temperatures; coconut palm trees only grow in USDA Hardiness Zones 10B through 11. The University of Florida recommends applying a "palm special" fertilizer mix -- specially formulated to provide all of the supplemental nutrients needed to facilitate rapid, healthy growth -- to your palm tree two to four times annually.
Coconut palm tree growth rates can be slowed down do to pest and disease problems. Lethal yellowing is a common disease caused by a microorganism called phytoplasma. The disease is prevalent throughout Florida and affects both tall and dwarf varieties. An antibiotic injection is available for infected palm trees, but treatments are expensive and are required every four months to keep the tree healthy. Insect pests such as aphids, scales, spider mites and weevils may slow the growth rate of young palm trees, but are rarely fatal if properly treated, according to the University of Florida. Regular monitoring is important to identify and treat any problems with your palm tree early and effectively.