Some Interesting Palms for Your Garden

Richard Lyons’ Nursery is proud to carry a good selection of plants across a broad group of families. Even though our emphasis is on flowering trees and shrubs and fruit trees, we also enjoy growing a number of interesting palm species. Here are thumbnail sketches of some of the palms we currently have at the nursery:

Chamaerops humilis, the European Fan Palm, the only palm species native to mainland Europe, doesn’t require tropical conditions to thrive, but still does well in our climate. It grows slowly to 10-12 ft. and is hardy to about 15 degrees. Plant in full sun in well-drained soil.

Chelyocarpus chuco, a native of Bolivia and Brazil, is still uncommon locally. It produces glossy, circular palmate leaves and grows to 30-40 ft. in southern Florida. Seedlings need light shade, but older plants handle full sun. This species thrives in moist soils and can withstand 30-32 degrees.

Coccothrinax crinita, the popular Old Man Palm, is endemic to Cuba. The undersides of its palmate leaves are silvery. In our region, this sun-loving species can reach 25 ft. slowly. It requires moderate water and good drainage, but is drought-tolerant once established.

Coccothrinax miraguama, another palm endemic to Cuba, is noted not only for the silvery undersides of its palmate leaves, but also for the interesting pattern of fibers on its trunk. It encompasses four subspecies. Mature height is 15-20 ft. Provide a sunny setting, moderate water, and good drainage.

Coccothrinax proctorii, endemic to the Cayman Islands, is another member of its genus to feature leaves which are silvery on the undersides. Plant it in a sunny exposure. It requires moderate water and good drainage, but once established, it is drought-tolerant. Mature height is 15-25 ft.

Coccothrinax spissa differs from most other species in the genus: 1) Seedlings require some shade and 2) The trunk is fairly stout and often swollen in the middle. Native to Hispaniola, it reaches 15-20 ft. in our region. Provide sun and moderate watering. Once established, it tolerates drought well.

Copernicia macroglossa, the Cuban Petticoat Palm, is noted for the distinctive skirt of old leaves that persists around the trunk of the plant for many years. Like many species in its genus, C. macroglossa accommodates copious amounts of water very well, but also handles drought extremely well once established. It reaches 20-25 ft. in southern Florida.

Dypsis cabadae is a water-loving species that was almost unknown here 30 years ago. Its dark green stems with white rings marking where leaves once were gives this palm a bamboo-like appearance. A water-loving species, it reaches 30-40 ft. at maturity and can be grown in light shade to sun. It is native to islands off the coast of Madagascar.

Gaussia maya is one of a small number of palms which flowers from several sites up and down the trunk. The payoff is lots of bright red fruit. Native to Mexico, Belize and Guatemala, it should be grown in shade when young, but can later tolerate more sun. It reaches 20-30 ft. in southern Florida. Provide ample water for best results.

Heterospathe elata, the Sagisi Palm, is native to several southeast Asian island chains. It bears a very full crown of feather-shaped leaves, the newest of which emerges a reddish-brown color before turning green. Requiring shade when young, this species tolerates full sun when older, and it matures in the 30-40 ft. range. Provide ample water.

Licuala grandis, the Ruffled Fan Palm, is native to Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands. It is a striking small palm featuring nearly circular leaves that look as if they’ve been cut out by pinking shears. Best grown in shade when young, this species tolerates more sun later. Given generous amounts of water, it will reach 15 ft. slowly in southern Florida.

Sabal mauritiiformis, the Savannah or Bay Leaf Palm, is native to moist settings from southern Mexico to northern South America. In our region, this palmate species reaches 30-50 ft. Unlike most palms that grow trunks, the leaf bases of S. mauritiiformis remain green a long time. It can be grown in light shade when young and then given sunnier exposures when older.

Serenoa repens is the Saw Palmetto, whose seeds are the source of an extract recommended in alternative medicine circles as beneficial to prostate health. A Florida native, it is a small, slow-growing species whose mildly fragrant flowers are a rarity in the palm world. Stems of this clustering species commonly ‘crawl’ along the ground and, over time, can extend several feet from the center of the plant.

These palm species are available at Richard Lyons’ Nursery in a variety of container sizes. We’re open every day of the week but Thursday.

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