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Palm FAQ

What you will find here are some of the most frequently asked questions we encounter and the answers to them. In order to avoid pages and pages of explanation, we will simply state the Q&A and if you need explanation or desire more detail on a particular topic, please email us and we will respond as time allows.

All of the answers and conclusions contained herein are based upon the opinions and real time experiences of our staff and are a reflection of our in house procedures and practices. We offer this information with the understanding that your use of it does not in any fashion constitute any liability on our part.

We make no warranty what so ever as to the correctness or fitness of purpose of any of the information contained herein. When handling our material, you must rely upon your own experience and judgment as your assurance of correct handling, installation and maintenance.

Canary Island Date Palm
Phoenix canariensis

Canary Island Date palms are native to the Canary Islands which are located in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of northeast Africa. Cold hardy Canary Island Date palms are popular landscape items in near warm climates around the world.


In the Canary Islands, the leaves are used to make baskets and to decorate houses and churches on Palm Sunday. The trunks are also tapped to produce a thick sweet syrup, “palm honey”.


Canary Island Date Palms can grow up to 60' (18m) and have:

  A thick trunk covered with interesting diamond designs
  Crowns that can grow up to 50 huge arching pinnate leaves that may reach 18' long

  Leaves that are a deep green shading to a yellow stem where the leaflets are replaced by spines


The Canary Island Date Palm tree is a suckering palm that is usually pruned to have only one trunk. Trimmed in this manner the tree will grow to heights of 100 feet. Leaflets near the base are modified into 3-4 inch spines. The yellow-orange to red fruit, called 'dates', are oblong and about 1.5 inches in length. They consist of a large pointed seed surrounded by sweet sugary flesh. Dates are formed from flowers on 4 foot inflorescences that emerge from among the leaves in spring. Male and female flowers grow on separate plants. Only female plants produce dates and only if a male tree is nearby. Dates are not formed in climates that are too cool.


Canary Island Date palm tree has been utilized as a theme generating focal point in landscapes worldwide for decades. Its majesty and substantial presence make the Canary Island Date Palm a powerful choice where you a looking to bring natural maturity to a site. Utilized in rows or as a freestanding centerpiece, there really aren't many locations on site where you cannot use Canary Island Date palm tree successfully. Probably the best adjective that one could use to describe Canariensis is Stunning.


The Canary Island Date Palm is very widely planted as an ornamental plant in warm temperate regions of the world, particularly in areas with Mediterranean climates, where temperatures never fall below −10 °C. It can be grown from southernmost England in the north to New Zealand in the south. It is particularly popular in Spain, Italy, Greece, southern France, warmer parts of the USA, Australia and South Africa.

This very slow growing tree can take up to fifteen years or more to reach a height of 3 m and is generally propagated by seed. Its drought tolerance contributes to its widespread use as a roadside or park landscaping element.

Due to the palm's eventual size, it is not recommended for smaller residential gardens or yards. In addition, dead leaves must be removed by hand and the petioles produce hooked spines that can be quite dangerous.


Height: 40-60 feet (12-18 meters)              
Spread: 20-25 feet (6-7.5 meters)
Leaf: 12-18 inches (31-46 cm)

General Care Tips

Canary Island Date Palms need full sun. Trees tolerate a variety of moist, well-drained soils. Prune sparingly. Avoid damaging lower trunk and roots.

Things to Watch For

Insect pests include giant palm weevil, palm leaf skeletonizer and scales. Trees are vulnerable to ganoderma rot, lethal yellowing disease and leaf spot.



Hardy Palms

Since arriving in Australia on the First Fleet, hardy palms have contributed to some of our most distinctive landscapes, such as St Kilda beach in Melbourne. Of the 2800 worldwide species of palms, less than 20 are regarded as hardy in a Mediterranean climate. This means that, having been planted and watered in, they then have to survive on natural rainfall. In North Adelaide 60 palms had to be moved to accommodate a widening of the road. It is a tribute to their toughness that they were moved in the hottest February on record with 100% success.

The hardiest palm for Australia's Mediterranean-climate areas would have to be Phoenix canariensis, the Canary Island Date Palm, named for its place of origin. Provided it is not subject to frost in its early years it'll thrive on low rainfall and live for at least 200 years. The Cretian Date Palm (Phoenix theophrastii) is a grey-leaved palm from Crete, where the climate is just as hot as in Adelaide. It is named after Theophrastus, the third century Greek scholar who wrote nine books that became, effectively, the first botanical encyclopedia.

To prune any of these palms, use an offset lopper, leather gloves and a leather apron as the fronds are very sharp-edged. Never use a chainsaw on them - you'll wreck the chain. It's better to buy a disposable, cheap pruning saw costing about $9 than to replace a $35 chainsaw chain.

To propagate palms from seed, squeeze the stone out of a ripe date and wash it clean. Push it under the surface of standard potting mix in a terracotta squat pot. Providing the soil temperature can be raised to 33* C it will germinate. Try putting it onto an actively brewing compost heap to achieve this temperature. It will germinate into a single root and leaf. Let a potful of these seedlings sit for a year then pot them out to other pots or to the piece of ground where they are to grow.
The Waite Arboretum at the University of Adelaide has a display of hardy Dwarf Date Palms (Phoenix roebelenii). These can start out their lives as indoor potted palms. Unlike other palms, after 7 or 8 years they can be transferred outside, where they will survive quite well.

One of the most overlooked of the hardy palms is the Jelly Palm or Yatay (Butia capitata). In a dry site it will grow to about 12m in 70 - 80 years. In a lawn it will grow a lot faster. From late summer to early autumn, the palm abounds with succulent tasty fruit tasting like a cross between a sour plum and an apricot. They can be used to make Jelly Palm wine.

Washingtonia spp. are very popular in public and roadside places because they are tolerant of pollution and shed their own fronds, maintaining a clean-looking trunk. At the Millswood railway station, Washingtonia filifera var. robusta have been growing for 80-100 years. Very thick trunks and lack of height indicates that these have not received a lot of water over the years. As a specimen in someone's home garden, where they would get a lot more water, they would grow twice as high with a much thinner trunk.

REFERENCE: Jones, David, Palms in Australia (Reed Books, Australia, 1996)


Palm Safety

The Canary Island Date Palm (Phoenix canariensis) is grown everywhere in Australia. As each frond is heavily armed with spines, it's safest to prune off the oldest fronds before they die. Otherwise they can fall on people below and deliver a nasty wound.

Birds, possums and rats sometimes live in their crowns, coating the spines with droppings and bacteria. The spine tips are very fragile and they can often remain in the slightest of wounds. If they are not cleaned up, this can lead to blood poisoning.

The safest way to prune them is to wear sturdy gauntlets and to cut off the non-spiny parts of the fronds first. The fibres in the fronds clog up most chippers so recycling them is very hard.

Next, trim off the spiny sections and keep them separate, perhaps in a cardboard carton. Put a warning sign on the carton so that when waste collectors pick them up they know exactly what they are handling.

Remember, if you are spiked, always seek professional advice and do so promptly.

Feel free to send us an email with any other questions you may have.


P 8268 4848
M 0410 693 282





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