Caring for the Date Palm

By Evan Williams , last updated May 6, 2011

Caring for date palm trees is not difficult, but they are a bit different than most other palms. Palm trees act as a widely recognized symbol of tropical weather and beach locales; they often imply that a margarita is within reach. California palm trees are most associated with this reputation. Date palms, however, are a different breed. Though their appearance is similar to the California palm tree, date palms thrive mostly in the Middle East and produce one of the sweetest fruits to originate from that part of the planet: the date.

The date palm, also known as phoenix dactylifera, has the largest growth potential of every palm tree in existence – if properly cared for in optimal conditions, it may reach an imposing stature of seventy feet. Like every palm tree, however, it requires high amounts of sunlight; a date palm may therefore imply warm weather and margaritas as effectively as a California palm tree.

Necessity of light will require any date palm kept indoors to be not only within reach of a window, but also in direct contact with ample sunlight. Regular watering (not excessive) is also essential, as is regular maintenance and washing of individual leaves to keep pests and diseases at bay. Date palms grow during the summer, and so fertilizer usage may be limited to this season. If air conditioning is utilized in the environment in which the date palm lives, ensure that temperatures do not drop below 70 degrees during the summer months and 60 degrees during the winter months.

To grow a date palm, all that is needed is the stone that may be found at the core of any date. Each stone will vary in terms of coat thickness, and water may be utilized to remove this covering and reveal the seedling inside. Treatment of this stone begins by placing it in a clear plastic container with compost and placing it in a cool, dark area for at least two weeks. Employ minimal watering, and check regularly to notice when a root has poked its way out of the stone’s stubborn coating.

When this point is reached, remove the stone and compost and place both items in larger pots; the stone should be buried at least 2 cm deep in multi-purpose compost. Repotting is a recurring step in the process of growing date palms, as they will quickly outgrow their living habitats especially in the early stages. Fret not, however, for date palms grown indoors are unlikely to reach their 70-foot potential.

The soil one chooses to plot the fully grown date palm is of utmost importance; consult a local, reliable gardening outlet for soil that not only caters to date palms but is also of sufficient nutrients. The potting one chooses to house the date palm is of equal importance. Date palms tend to release more water from its soil than other household plants, and so drainage holes are a necessary consideration when shopping for potting. The warmer the water one uses for the date palm, the better. Date palms thrive in the warmest of every condition. Relocating a date palm outdoors during the summer months will be a relief for the date palm and ensure its full health.

Because date palms are often kept for their glamorous beauty, pruning is a vital concern to their respective owners. The leaves of date palms are referred to as “fronds.” Those who prune date palms will often sever fronds that have become yellow or brown, and may therefore be dead. It is crucial to remember, however, that date palms often retrieve nutrients from these dead fronds, and they may only be appropriately severed from the plant when they have broken and remain hanging.

During the winter months, if one is unable to store the date palm in an environment that does not dip below 60 degrees, it is essential that the date palm is covered in an insulator material; straw is commonly used for this purpose. The material, however, must be resistant to water so as not to soak up any hydration meant for the date palm. Bubble wrap is another common option used for this purpose.

Occasionally, a date palm will sprout a greenish-looking flower – it is preferable to eliminate this growth during pruning to further safeguard the entire plant from diseases. Flowers and broken froths are the most attractive qualities of a date palm to invaders, and it is perhaps the most crucial aspect of caring for these plants that such attractions are eliminated. Specific diseases or pests that may harm a date palm include spider mites and "leaf spotting" (a fungal disease).

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