Roger’s Pick – Palms for the Southland

What is more of an exotic Southern California landscape then tropical palms from far away continents?

The family in which palms are in has over 2,500 assorted genus, species and hybrids with either feather- or fan-shaped leaves. Some are short and ground hugging, while others, like the Washingtonia, can tower well over 100 feet on slender trunks.

Palms range from small to huge, single trunk to multi stems, slow to moderately fast growing, tender and hardy to the mid-teen temperatures in some cases, even light snows for short periods.

Their architecture can be dramatic as a solo specimen placed in the right position, or tropical and exotic with a whole collection of assorted types. As a general rule, most palms enjoy full sunlight with rich organic planting pits and good soil drainage.

When landscaping with palms consider other exotic combinations of compatible plants that will be in harmony as dracaena’s, philodendron, monstera, beaucarnia, flax, plumeria, assorted grasses and selected succulents.

With regards to micro-climates; these can range from area to area and an understanding of these is important for your palm’s future.

Hardy palms for the southland

Butia capitata – (Feather fronds) Pindo palm or Jelly palm, wine or jellies can be made from fruits. Also delicious right off the palm inflorescence.

Brahea armata – Mexican blue fan palm (15 degrees) Striking blue-grey fronds

Chamaerops humilus – Mediterranean fan palm, a clumper and magnificent in time, hardy to 10 degrees. Unique arching shapes and a classic look.

Trachycarpus fortunei – Chinese windmill palm – Single hairy trunk help this palm survive to 10 degrees. Nice when used in clumps of different heights

Jubaea chilensis – Chilean wine palm – very slow, very large in time, very spectacular. Plant for your children’s enjoyment; hardy to 15 degrees. This is a palm to plant for an agricultural investment and sit on for 20 or so years.

Cocothrinax species (hairy and thorny) and grown for a unique novelty palm.

Palms for moderately cold weather

Arenga engleri – slow, multi-clumping, feather type, with fragrant flowers; enjoys damp conditions.

Caryota gigas – Giant fishtail palm, unique serrated feather fronds like a fish’s tail. There are single trunk and multi-trunks species.

Livistonia chinensis & australis – both are fan types, slow to start but worth the wait.

Phoenix reclinata – an extra-large clumping type with feather fronds to about 20 degrees. Needs room, water and can be an incredible specimen in time.

Syagrus romanzoffiana – the notorious Queen palm, grown by the millions and is over planted in the southland.

Archontophoenix cunninghamia – King Palm, stately solitary trunk, slow to moderate in growth, hardy to high twenties. Nurseries plant these with my plants one per container

Bismarkia nobilis (grey form foliage) – A single large trunk specimen and if you have room, it’s a show stopper.

Dypsis decaryi – Triangle palm with unique, feather three-sided trunk. Likes heat and matures in time to about 20 plus feet. Hardy to high twenties.

Chamadorea plumosa – Single small trunk palm for that shady space or under canopy trees.

Wodyetia bifurcata – Foxtail palm from Australia – small feather and delicate, thin single trunk, likes heat and not much cold.

Striking interior palms for inside the home

Howea foresteriana – Kentia palm from Lord Howe’s Island in the South Pacific. Can adapt and be very happy in most home interiors. A graceful feather type, with dark green foliage. Planted as clumping forms for interior use and one of my favorites for inside.

Chamadorea seifritzi – Parlor palm- a suckering feather type that is excellent for interior use along with chamadorea elegans and chamadorea erumpens. Likes shade out in the garden.

Rhapis excelus – Lady palm – one of the most elegant of all interior palms taking moderate foot candles of light with a palmate dark green leaf. It is suckering with multi-thin canes and can be a striking interior palm specimen.

Products coming from the palm world are:

Palm oil (Micronesia) , hearts of palm (tropics), palm dates (from Coachella Valley), palm leaves (Palm Sunday), thatched palm fronds (housing panels in the tropics), palm hats (made around the world), coconuts (from the tropic) for milk substitute, coca chips, shell grindings for mulch, tiki huts and palm carved chairs for décor, ornamental palms for landscape pleasure and visual enjoyment.

If you would like to extend your palm experience and learn more and also have the option of visiting creative palm gardens, join the California Palm Society; visit

Roger Boddaert is a Maker of Natural Gardens; he can be reached at (760) 728-4297.

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