PALM TREE LANDSCAPE
This article discusses basic concepts that should be considered in creating a desirable palm garden. Placement of palms is very important. A strategy would include planning ahead, giving plants ample room to grow, establishing an overhead canopy, spacing of plants so that plants aren't too crowded, knowing sun or shade requirements, preserving desirable views and utilizing different appearing species to make the garden interesting.
While writing this article I remember all the mistakes I made in planting palms in my garden. As a palm enthusiast, like many others, I tended to over-plant. If you are blessed with a huge yard, over-planting might not be a concern.
Even a triple Archontophoenix cunninghamiana needs a fair amount of room. (shown to left) It is true that, when some species have trunked out and are well overhead, the problem is less apparent. This would be the case with a King Palm. But, suckering species like the Phoenix reclinata (right) just have to be given adequate space to grow. If you can't step back and take a photograph of a palm in your garden, you have probably planted things too closely. Suckering palms also tend to take up more garden floor space (plant "footprint") over time. This can affect space available for smaller plants or companion plants that you may want to add in the future. The important point here is: Consider the size the palm will eventually be, not the size it is when it's in the nursery pot in front of you.
ESTABLISHING A CANOPY WITH YOUR PALM TREES
These genera usually put on height rapidly and are ideal for establishing a canopy. There are certainly many more genera of palms that attain enough height to give canopy. Such species also help create microclimates within your garden. Many enthusiast think that creating an overhead canopy is one of the most important factors in eventual garden success. Shown to the left is Caryota gigas which has fifteen foot long leaves that are almost as wide as they are long. To the right are multiple tall trees giving filtered light below. When the leaves are overhead, one definitely notices the shade created below. A final point: When you select canopy forming species, they are, by definition, large palms or other trees. So, you must (as mentioned above) give the trees ample room to grow and develop.
KNOW THE SUN OR SHADE REQUIREMENTS OF WHAT YOU ARE PLANTING
A website feature we've added to this
Site will give you quick ideas about sun or shade loving species.
Click to See.
DON'T PLANT PALMS TOO CLOSELY TO A WALKWAY OR STRUCTURE
CONSIDER CLUMPING SPECIES OR "MULTIPLES"
The last photo to the right is the Areca Palm, Dypsis lutescens. This species tolerates full coastal sun and only gets to a mature height in So Cal of twenty feet. It puts out multiple stems. Most plants carry about 8 to 10 stalks. We tell customers it's a great palm to block a structure or "hide a neighbor". The palm to the left is a "multiple" of single trunk Phoenix roebelenii, the Pygmy Date Palm.
Whether you choose a true suckering species or a "multiple", these plants are fun in the garden and people like them.
Diversity of species really add character to a garden and gives it some botanical significance. By the latter, I mean that people who visit get excited because they've not seen these plants before. With this said, I've heard many times from new palm enthusiasts, "I don't like fan palms. - I only like the feather palms!". This comes from lack of experience and associating "fan palms" with the very common Mexican Fan Palm. But, there is a whole assortment of gorgeous and different fan palms that add to the appeal of any garden. I've said many times, "If you garden only has palms that look like Queen Palms, it's going to be boring". Consider varying the species that you plant.
Fan palms look great alongside feather palms. They add a different character and texture to the garden. A very popular fan right now is the blue Bismarckia nobilis, photo to the left. It really does get as blue as you see here. It demands full sun. In some areas if you don't get very cold, consider Licuala species. (photo to right). Or perhaps the dwarf, blue Brahea decumbens (second photo to left) may appeal to you. But, consider the idea of utilizing some fan palms. Also remember that fan palms are typically slower growing than pinnate palms. Plant your fans early in the course of your gardens development so the fan palms can keep up with your pinnate palms. Be imaginative: use boulders, mounds, or small walls in your garden to give elevation differences. Strap some orchids onto your trunked palms. Add some ferns and flowers. All these things add to the charm of your garden.
PRESERVE AND ACCENT ALL VIEWS AND VANTAGE POINTS
Also, some people prefer stair-step plantings
- smaller plants closer to you up front,
larger plants or suckering ones in the rear. The
photo to the right above shows a miniature palm, Chamaedorea
ernesti-augusti, that rarely gets to five feet palm. It's
a cute way to adorn a shady spot next to a walkway. Below is
Chamaedorea metallica, a different small dwarf, single
trunk shade plant that's good for the foreground. Choices
are up to your own aesthetics. You
can accent an entrance or courtyard with colorful or lush species of
palms or nice companion plants. But, remember views are important as they affect the way you and
others look at your yard. Think about the ideal planting scheme for your
CONSIDER SPECIFIC NEEDS - BOTH YOURS AND THE PLANTS'
Proper palm tree care demands that you know that different palms require a wide variety of conditions. So, it is important to know what your conditions are and what any given species prefers. Soil type, high and low temperatures, wind, etc., are some of the important factors to consider when you plant your garden. Sun requirements should be known before planting palm trees into the ground. But, water needs also is a concern. Acoelorrhaphe wrightii (left), the Paurotis Palm, loves a lot of water - it's almost a swamp palm. Contrast this to Brahea armata (right), the Mexican Blue Fan Palm, that wants more arid conditions. So, you wouldn't want to put these two palms side by side, being watered the same. Rather, make a more moist area and a drier one and control irrigation differently to each area.
Also remember your own particular needs. This might be to create privacy for a spa, maintain a view for city fireworks, block visibility into a window, hide an ugly apartment building in the distance or hide the garbage cans. I've heard them all. There is most likely the perfect palm for all these needs.
Some enthusiasts have particular
situations like oceanfront gardens, hot inland gardens, arid gardens, and windy
gardens. All of these have their own specific conditions and preferable palm
species. Within your
garden itself, there also may exist different
microclimates. You may have wet areas. You may have dry soil areas.
But this is not a problem and you can take advantage of this and plant species specific to each
microclimate. Research will lead you to the right palms. Or,
drop by our nursery and we'll help guide you to the perfect plant
DON'T OVERPLANT ANY GIVEN SPECIES
Be experimental in what you plant. Mix species, textures, types, and looks when growing palm trees. Importantly, try to avoid planting too many of one species just because you got a good deal. The latter will lead to a boring garden. I once knew a man who planted one hundred Queen Palms in his front yard. He said he got a good price and thought he'd make some money by digging them up later. He planted them all in rows. Needless to say, it was the worst landscape job I have ever seen. Eventually he lost money because he had to pay tree-removers to correct his mistake. Remember the saying that more may not be better. Its also more fun to expand your collection. One exception to repetitive plantings might be along a parkway or along a driveway. In these locations repeating Royal Palms or King Palms look very nice. See photograph to the left where many Roystonea regia are planted in a row and are very attractive.
THINK ABOUT THE POTENTIAL LOSS OF SUN IN THE FUTURE
You may have wide open sun today, but with planting of the fast growing species, your sun is going to diminish and your palm tree care will suffer.. Plan on this. In other words, think about where you shade is going to be when your palms are large. For instance, if you are trying to keep sun shining on a swimming pool, don't plant canopy-forming species on the southern side of the pool. Also don't plant a sun-loving species in an area that you know will eventually be shaded out. I have lost Dypsis decaryii, Phoenix roebellini, and Aceoelorrhaphe wrightii in my garden because they got shaded out.
Make sure your palms are
acclimated to your area and your sun before planting palm trees. If
a plant is coming from a greenhouse or filtered light, gradual
acclimate it to full sun over a few months. Alternatively, one can
use temporary overhead shade structures for protection while growing
your palm trees before planting. Remember to water thoroughly
after planting a new palm. If you are craning in large specimens,
you can get some instant shade for under-story palms. Take advantage
Read How to Acclimate Palms
SUMMARY AND WHAT TO ANTICIPATE
TO LEARN MORE:
Thank you for reading this article.
Owner of Jungle Music, Palm and Cycad Author and Creator of this Website
Phone: 619 291 4605
Nursery Location: 450 Ocean View Ave., Encinitas, CA