Phoenix - Date Palm
DESCRIPTION: These are Palms that are grown for their ornamental foliage. They grow wild in several different parts of the world such as northern Africa, India, China, and the Canary Islands. The Date Palm, P. dactylifera, forms sturdy trunks that are covered with the stumps of dead leaves. They can grow 5-100 feet tall. The feathery leaves, which can grow 3-14 feet long, grow in a cluster at the top of the tree and gracefully curve down toward the ground. The leathery leaflets are long, narrow and pointy. The flowers, which aren't very attractive, grow in large drooping clusters and bear fleshy drupes (fruits). Since these Palms don't bear fruits until they grow quite large, they are mainly grown for their decorative foliage. The Date Palm will bear fruit only where the temperature is high and the atmosphere is arid during the important periods of the year. Fruits are produced in parts of California, Texas, and Arizona. In other warm parts of the country, these plants may be grown outdoors successfully. While they're young, moist soil and light shade are best. A couple of the toughest plants are P. canariensis and P. sylvestris. One of the most tender is P. roebelenii. It's similar to the Date Palm but has softer leaves and only grows 2 or 3 feet tall. Most of these Palms can be grown in a greenhouse where the minimum winter temperature is 50 degrees. They can be used as house decoration and large plants look great on a terrace or patio. They can be buried outdoors in the summer to give a lovely tropical look. In addition to producing the edible Date fruits, P. dactylifera has other economic uses. Baskets can be made from the leafstalks, and ropes and mats are made from the fiber of the leaves.
POTTING: The best compost to use consists of three parts of loam, equal parts of leaf mold (or peat moss) and well-decayed manure, with coarse sand added freely. Repotting is done in March. The plants are taken out of their old pots and the loose soil and crocks should be removed from their roots. They are then placed in clean pots two sizes larger that are filled with crocks and compost that is patted firmly. After they have been repotted, they should be sprayed frequently and a humid atmosphere should be maintained by wetting the benches and floors quite often. The soil shouldn't be watered until it's fairly dry and then it should be soaked through. Repeat this method of watering until the roots have penetrated the new soil, after which the compost is kept moist throughout the summer. As fall approaches, the water supply can be decreased and during the winter, watering is only done when the soil becomes fairly dry. Less humidity is required in the winter but it shouldn't become too dry for a long time. Plants that are already growing in large pots or tubs can be kept growing actively by top-dressing them with rich compost in the spring and by watering them weekly with a dilute liquid fertilizer. The leaves of these plants should be sponged once in a while with insecticide to keep them clean and bug free.
PROPAGATION: Trees that are grown for the production of fruit are usually raised from suckers, otherwise they're grown from stones (seeds). First they are soaked in water that's room temperature for a couple days to soften them. Deep seed pans are used for planting them. They need to be well drained with crocks that are covered with rough leaves. The rest of the space is filled with a compost consisting of equal parts of finely sifted loam and coarse sand. They should be planted an inch apart and an inch deep. The soil should be watered well. Lay a pane of glass over the pan and place in a propagating case that has a bottom heat of 70-80 degrees. The seedlings will sprout slowly and when they are 2-3 inches tall, they should be potted in 3-inch pots and later, in larger pots. Seedlings of the common Date Palm can easily be grown by sowing seeds in pots on a windowsill or even in the open ground. P. roebelenii is propagated by offsets in the spring or summer. These are detached and inserted near the edges of small pots that are placed in a propagating case with bottom heat until they have a sufficient amount of roots. They are treated as advised above for seedlings.
VARIETIES: P. reclinata; P. roebelenii; P. rupicola; P. canariensis; P. acaulis; P. sylvestris; P. dactylifera, (Date Palm).
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