Palm trees are fantastic warm weather ornamentals that lend a tropical air to landscapes of all kinds. Palm trees are an exceptionally diverse group of plants, with widely variable foliage forms and growth habits. From the smooth trunk and long feathery fronds of the 40-foot Queen Palm tree (Syagrus romanzoffiana) to the shrubby five-foot Needle Palm tree (Rhapidophyllum hystrix) with its heavy fan-like leaves, excellent specimens are available for spaces of virtually any size. While you’re deciding among the varied species, keep the following considerations in mind.
It goes without saying that you should choose a palm tree that fits your landscaping space. Because palms are so varied, this is typically easy to do. However, because palms do not have a wide crown like most other trees, you may be tempted to buy a very large specimen, which is really to say a very tall specimen. Though soaring palm trees with their fronds swaying in the breeze at 100 feet are majestic, they are distinctly out of place in most medium and small size yards. Indeed, you can better incorporate that classic palm profile into your yard with one of the many species that reach no more than 15 to 30 feet in height.
Many palms are self-cleaning, meaning that they shed their old palm fronds naturally, leaving them for you to pick up at the base of the tree. Other species require manual removal lest the spent fronds collect, hanging brown and unsightly on the tree. It is quite easy to remove the spent fronds if you have a small palm tree. It’s not so easy with a tall palm, however, and typically requires hiring a professional maintenance service. Keep this in mind when selecting your tree.
Additionally, some palms produce copious amounts of fruit, which ripen and fall to the ground, making a gooey mess. This mess must be cleaned up regularly to avoid attracting insects and various other scavengers. If you select a fruit-producing tree, gird yourself for the seasonal clean-up.
Finally, many palms require a highly fertile, acidic soil for healthy, vigorous growth. In many cases, a palm tree will require regular applications of specialized palm fertilizer to keep the tree green and healthy. Palms in alkaline or nutrient deficient soils can suffer from numerous ailments and can even die, in short order, without appropriate regular fertilization. Before placing a palm tree in your landscape, test the soil to determine what kind of fertilization regimen will be required.