Care for Palm Trees

Palm trees are a common sight in New Zealand and are much loved for their graceful elegance and how they add a hint of the tropics to any area. While only the Nikau is endemic to New Zealand, there are now over 100 palm species you can grow here.

It is important to remember that different species grow different ways — while some take a long time to reach maturity (think 25 years), others can do it in a matter of months. Take into account also that no matter how cute and small the seedling you brought home, you need to know the maximum height of the specie as it can easily go over the roof of your home and interfere with overhead powerlines. So before you choose, make sure the size is aligned with your overall landscape design.

Here are some popular species that you can consider adding to your garden:

  • Queen Palm (Arecastrum romanzoffianum) – This is an attractive, fast-growing palm. It is tolerant of sun but requires plenty of water to grow. Full height is about 15 meters. It has a smooth, straight trunk with a high foliage.  
  • Bangalow Palm (Archontophoenix cunninghamiana) – Also called seaforthia, this fast-growing palm with a dramatic banded, bright green trunk and nice decorative feather prongs. It needs bright light and moist soil and grows well outdoors. It grows to around 20 meters. Keep it away from strong winds to keep the leaves in good shape.
  • Kentia Palm (Howea belmoreana, H.forsterana) – This palm is great for growing in a container. It is slow growing and more compact than other palm species. It has a graceful arching foliage. It grows well in normal room temperature and can tolerate dry air. If it grows too big, it can be planted in a shady area outside your home. They can reach a full height of 15 meters.
  • Parlour palm (Chamaedorea elegans) – This specie is widely used as an indoor palm because it is the easiest to care for and to control. Since it is considered a dwarf, maximum height is only one meter. It has graceful soft fronds. It will tolerate low light and does not like direct sun.
  • Phoenix Palm (Phoenix Canariensis) – This large feather palm is a great feature plant that needs plenty of sunlight. Drought resistant and hardy to cold weather, it is a great year-rounder addition to any garden. It has a maximum height of 6 meters and can grow to a width of 5 meters.
  • New Zealand Nikau Palm (Rhopalostylis sapida) – This slow-growing palm wants shade, water and a moist, rich soil to grow in. Once it reaches maturity, it can tolerate full sun and light frost but will still need plenty of water. It develops an upright feather duster appearance as it ages.

Because of the height that it grows to, some species of palm have become difficult to care for. Pruning almost always requires a cherry picker, except for smooth-trunked varieties like the Queen Palm where a ladder can get the work done.

Pruning Palm Trees also requires knowledge about how palms grow. Remember, they grow from the centre out, which means the lower leaves die naturally. Only these should be removed. If you cut or damage the central growth spear, it will definitely kill the plant. The dead prongs can fall on you if you are underneath the tree and they are unsightly, so regular maintenance is a must.

If you already have palm trees in your garden or are planning on planting some, call us for a quick consult. A1 Sure Services offers removal and maintenance services for palm trees. We can do a crown lift of the canopy or even prune it into a nice “pineapple” shape. Call us today for more information.