Florida is known as the Sunshine State for good reason. With its subtropical climate and the most beachfront in the country, the peninsula is home to many exotic species of plants, and among the highly prevalent are palm trees. With so much sun, plenty of rainfall and miles and miles of white sand beaches running along the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean, palms are part of practically every landscape in the state.
Though there are about a dozen species which are native to Florida, many more have been introduced to the Sunshine State that hail from Asia and South America, according to the Department of Biological Sciences at Florida International University. Surprisingly, the majority of palm trees on the peninsula aren’t native to the state, but the climate is just perfect for these trees associated with tropical living. Of the native species, six are Paurotis, Needle, Cabbage, Thatch, Silver, and Royal; and, there are another half dozen which are also native, however, the transplants still outnumber these species.
Regardless of species, these trees love the sun but surprisingly, some of them thrive remarkably in what many lay-people would believe to be too adverse. There are actually palm species which grow and survive in cold climates where temperatures can fall to 10 degrees below zero. Though these species cannot tolerate cooler temperatures, especially when the mercury falls below 50 degrees or more.
Best Time to Plant Palm Trees in Florida
Most people know that the best time to plant ornamental trees and shrubs is during the early fall. The reason for this is because there’s enough time for the roots to take hold and grow before the first summer, a season that’s typically most stressful. However, the quite the opposite is true for palm trees. Though palms can be transplanted during any time during the year, the best time to plant young palm trees is during the spring or early summer.
Of the 17 nutrients that are essential for plant growth, only the 6 nutrients discussed above typically cause deficiency problems for south Florida landscape palms. Fertilizers for palms should be chosen carefully, with attention to the content of K, Mn, Fe, Mg, N, and B. Like most plants, palms can be affected by innumerable pests. There are, however, 3 key pest problems in south Florida that produce significant symptoms on mature landscape palms: Royal Palm Bug, Lethal Yellowing, and Ganoderma Butt Rot. —Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida
Palms planted during the spring and early summer can take advantage of rising soil and air temperatures, two key components to their young health. This provides ample time for the roots to develop, take hold, and nourish the tree before temperatures begin to fall five to six month later in the late fall and early winter.
How to Plant a Palm Tree
Timing is important to growing a health palm, but equally so is planting in the right manner. Because these come in a variety of species, not all tolerate full sun exposure well. Some species do not thrive or even grow under direct sunlight. If you have a young palm that prefers partial shade, you can acclimate it to the sun by placing it in a pot and exposing it to sunlight incrementally over several weeks.
When you’re ready to plant a palm tree, you should follow these steps to give it the best start and grow healthy in its first five to six months prior to late fall and early winter:
- Pick a spot that will accommodate your palm in its maturity. Depending on the species, your palm might grow up-to fifty feet and span out its palms several feet in each direction. So, choose a spot that’s free of erected infrastructure, like utility lines if your tree will grow to this height or more.
- Dig a hole that’s sized appropriately. Palms can be shocked by transplanting, particularly when being moved from a container to a hole that’s too deep. It’s important to dig a hole that’s about twice as wide as the root ball, but just deep enough to accommodate it.
- Scores the sides of the hole to promote growth. When you place the palm into the hole, you should score the walls of the hole with a shovel to loosen the surrounding soil so the roots have ample opportunity to grow out.
- Water the roots. To stimulate the tree and acclimate it to its new home, reducing transfer shock, you should wet the roots but not too much.
- Add soil mix to the dirt. Palms need a bit of a primer to help them get off to a great start. Add soil mix, Canadian peat moss works best, along with about 30 percent of sand. Palms thrive in well-drained soil that’s moist but not soaked.
- Create a barrier around the base. Use organic mulch to build a three inch barrier around the base of the tree to help trap nutrients and moisture.
Water your newly planted palm daily for two weeks and then slowly taper-off over the next few months for best growing results.