Palm trees (family Arecaceae) represent soft tropical breezes and lazy warm days. They are an easy way to bring the exotic into your home garden and the wide variety and widening cold tolerances of some cultivars means there is a palm for almost every indoor space. If you're growing palms outside in containers or the landscape, you can choose from a wide range of palms suited to U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 6 through 12, depending on the species.
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Most palm trees can be propagated through seed, but there is a huge variance in germination rates, which are often erratic. A more sure method of propagation is through the pups or offshoots that some palm tree species produce. These are smaller green shoots at the base of the crown of the palm. These offsets can be harvested and planted to start separate plants.
Things You'll Need
How to Breed Palms Using Offshoots
Step 1: Sterilize Your Tools
Prepare by sterilizing your cutting tools. Sterilize a garden knife or other sharp instrument by dipping the blades into rubbing alcohol or Lysol. Avoid using chlorine bleach solutions to sterilize cutting tools; it corrodes and pits the metal. Also put on safety goggles and gloves; some palms have jagged, saw-toothed bark or spines.
Step 2: Wait Until Spring
Detach offshoots in early spring when soils are warm. The offshoot needs to be a year old and healthy and have a few roots of its own; palm trees cannot reproduce by cuttings. Each palm tree can provide two to three offshoots per year of life. Offshoots will fruit and flower three years earlier than seedling palms.
Step 3: Remove Part of the Soil
Use a shovel to excavate around the plant a little and expose the connection to the parent plant. Be careful of the new roots. An offshoot or pup is the only way to get a genetic clone of the parent plant. Cut off the lower exterior leaves on the pup and tie the remaining leaves at the top so you can get at the base easily; but do not remove all the leaves.
Step 4: Separate the Offshoot
Saw away the portion of rhizome that connects the pup to the parent palm tree. Cut carefully so you do not cut away any parent or damage the offshoot. Removing the offshoots improves the growth and development of the parent palm tree. Cut off the remaining lose foliage, and leave a tight cone of unopened leaves at the top of the offshoot.
Step 5: Fill the New Flowerpot
Fill a pot with a homemade potting mix, such as equal parts of sand and peat moss, or use a commercially-prepared potting soil suited to palm trees. Moisten it thoroughly and plant the offshoot at the level it was harvested relative to the soil.
Step 6: Put It in a Bright Location
Place the palm in a brightly lit or sunny location where temperatures are at least 60 to 65 degrees at night and up to 85 degrees Fahrenheit during the day. In summer, you can take your potted palm tree outside, but move it back inside when temperatures drop below 60 degrees.
Step 7: Water the Offshoot Regularly
Provide consistent water to the offshoot. Allow it to dry out almost completely between irrigation, and then soak the pot until water leaches out of the drainage holes. Keep the offshoot in the same pot for two years, until the root system has developed, and then you can transplant it outside or into a new, larger flowerpot.
Bonnie Grant began writing professionally in 1990. She has been published on various websites, specializing in garden-related instructional articles. Grant recently earned a Bachelor of Arts in business management with a hospitality focus from South Seattle Community College.