Grown outside in tropical conditions the Phoenix Palms grow into tall trees. The Phoenix dactylifera is the edible date.
The date palms normally grow in arid conditions but with access to high groundwater tables – hence their population around the famed oasis areas.
However, when varieties of Phoenix are grown in moderate sized pots, they make attractive or even spectacular houseplants.
The Phoenix canariensis is one of the better more popular palms for house plant use has tall, arching fronds with narrow spiky leaflets. The foliage of the Canary Palm is normally a darker green than the basic Phoenix Date Palm tree. It originated in the Canary Islands – hence its name – but is now found populating many areas of the Mediterranean and Asian countries.
The Phoenix date palm tree growing in its wild habitat
The sap of the Canary date Palm, when cooked, turns into a very sweet syrupy liquid. This sweet sap is sought after by some common houseplant pests – see below.
When grown as a potted house plant, its ultimate size will be determined by pot size and general growing conditions. It is not unusual to see them sold as 2m tall specimens – superb as specimen plants where there is room to show them off to full effect.
Phoenix roebelinii, the Miniature Date Palm, is a more compact version with delicate feathery, arching fronds, rarely exceeding 1.2m. Tiny yellow pom-pom flowers give rise to tiny beige or black seeds.
Phoenix palms enjoy strong light including some direct sun for part of the day. Light shade is also tolerated. Warm humid growing conditions promote palm growth. A rich fertile potting medium should be used which affords good drainage.
Water well through the growing season but sparingly over winter. Apply a monthly feed of liquid fertiliser. Mist leaves in hot weather, clean fronds with a soft damp cloth or a gentle showering.
Good for: The larger Phoenix palms are good for feature plants in larger spaces such as a conservatory. The Phoenix roebelinii, being smaller makes a beautiful, graceful palm, best grown on its own. All of the Phoenix Palms are easy to look after.
Most of the palms send out side shoots – offsets – at the base, and these can be detached with a few roots and potted up individually. They will soon grow into stand-alone palm trees and rarely need any specific treatment other than the care details already outlined.
There are no fungal diseases which present problems. However, the sweet sap is a favourite for mealybugs which find home and hide in the leaf joints at the main stem. Scale insects are normally easier to find – but you will need to look under the leaf fronds where they will be found adjacent to the mai n leaf central spine.
Red Spider mite will normally be first noticed as a mottling of the leaflets, and will be found under the individual leaflets – sometimes with fine webs in attendance.