An Article by Debbie ‘Greenfingers” McNeill with The Voice
Palm trees do not need to be tall to be beautiful and you don’t need a big garden to grow one in.
I am not talking about the typical very tall growing palms you see around the island, but stunning smaller varieties that can give you all the enjoyment of owning a palm, but in a more confined space.
Big palms may look nice, but there are some downsides which need to be considered. Some varieties of palm have very big and deep root systems which can damage your house footings. They can also block out the sunshine, as they grow up into fully grown trees with sizeable ‘mop’ heads. Palms also need professional pruning and some varieties need specialist treatments, which can only be administered by certified professionals, which can also make them expensive to maintain.
I find as much pleasure from the great variety of smaller palms, which are widely available at all the garden centres on the island, as I do from their taller counterparts. It is advisable to plant all the species of palm into the ground, as they do like to be able to spread their roots. They can grow in large pots for their juvenile years, but overall, they will do much better once they are planted in the ground. Some of the smaller palms can be kept in containers and I am happy to help with advice in this matter. You can also speak directly to the staff at your chosen garden centre, as most of them have English speaking staff nowadays too.
Easy to Grow
The majority of palms need little water, don’t require specialised soil and tolerate the wind and full or part sun. Some palms like to be more sheltered; these kinds tend to be the smooth stemmed varieties, known as the bottle palms. The popular multi-stemmed Kentia palms, grown as house plants in the UK, are happy to grow in a shady spot away from the sun, and are a good option for difficult areas with low light. Slow Growing Palms I have some favourite palms. The first are the Butia varieties; these are slow growing with arching foliage of a blue/green colour. They are tough and hardy and very ornate, with the majority growing up a maximum of 3 metres (10 feet). A smaller relative that I have used in many gardens are called Neodypsis. They are a beautiful, manageable palm that needs very little maintenance.
A very popular and common palm here is the Draceana drago palm. You will see this all over the island. It has a smooth greyish stem with long, single green leaves. These palms tends to grow multi heads over the years, but are still a containable plant. It is known as the Dragon’s Blood palm because it can produce bright red colouring at the base of the leaf stalks. Date Palms f you want a real mini palm with a rough stem and a mop head, I find the pygmy date palm, Phoenix roebelinii, very hard to beat. Growing up to about 1.2m, tolerating our weather well and requiring very little maintenance, this palm works well in rockeries, small spaces and grows well in most situations and soils. Another of my favourites are the Trachycarpus palms. These grow up a single stem and have rough pinnate leaves. They grow up to 3 metres (10 ft) but do not have a wide crown. They are easy to grow and give your garden a really tropical feel.
Caryota palms need more protection from the wind, but they are delicate and beautiful, with great movement provided by their unique, divided leaves, known as fishtails. These more delicate plants are happy to live in part sun and are a real joy to grow, but the ideal position is essential for them to flourish. Sago’s & Cycads I cannot finish this article without including the Sago palms, the Cycads. Extremely slow growing and thought to be the most primitive plants alive today. With dark green, shiny foliage, these guys can be grown in pots and can be grown in many positions whether that be semi-shade or full sun. They do require well drained soil and are a real feature to any garden.
I hope this article gives you some ideas and the confidence to include these wonderful palms in your garden. They provide elegance, movement and can add a different dimension to any garden.