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Pygmy Date Palm Care – What You Need to Know

Pygmy Date Palm Care – What You Need to Know

Pygmy Date Palm (Phoenix roebelenii) is an evergreen plant that’s part of the Arecaceae family, native to South-Eastern Asia. It naturally grows in tropical and semi-tropical regions of China, Laos, and Vietnam. 

It can also be grown as an ornamental plant in beds and borders but is predominantly placed in pots or inside the home or office to help protect it from frost and freezing temperatures.

However, if you have pets at home and you’re not too sure if palms are toxic for them, then you can definitely read one of the articles that answer that question here.

As its name suggests, the Pygmy Date Palm produces fruit in late summer which, although edible, is really little more than a stone surrounded by thin skin. 

This is not a plant grown for its fruit, but for its decorative purposes. Slow to grow, it can take up to 5 years from planting for this tree to bear fruit.

Pygmy Date Palm is a small to medium-sized tree that typically grows to between 6 feet 6 inches (2-7 meters) in height. 

It has one trunk which is decorated with protuberances that appear where fronds once grew but have fallen off as the tree grows. 

The leaves of the plant form delicate feather-like pinnates, each with up to 100 leaflets. These gray-green leaflets are slightly drooped and normally around 24-60 inches (60-120cm) in length. 

Small yellow-hued flowers appear in summer which gives way to the sweet purple fruits. 

So, if you’re interested in taking care of a Pygmy Date Palm, better continue reading the article below.

 

 

Pygmy Date Palm care

Pygmy Date Palm is a hardy, semi-tropical plant that will adapt to a variety of conditions. It will put up with most soil types, temperatures, and locations for a period of time but will not suffer long spells of freezing temperatures or nutrient-lacking soil. This plant favors direct or dappled sunlight and is moderately drought-tolerant, although prefers consistently moist but well-draining soil. Pygmy Date Palm enjoys the heat and thrives in places with temperatures of 65°F to 75°F(16°C-24°C). It will benefit from the application of fertilizer throughout the growing season but is susceptible to deficiencies in magnesium and potassium. As part of your regular maintenance routine, you should rinse and spray the leaves of your Pygmy Date Palm on a regular basis. This will not only help keep the foliage looking its best, but it will also remove common pests such as thrips, scale, or mites. It will also remove excess fertilizer salts that can be damaging to the leaves. Very little is needed by way of pruning, with just brown fronds requiring removal to ensure your plant is spending all its energy on healthy growth.

 

Where to grow your Pygmy Date Palm

Pygmy Date Palm can be grown in full sun to partial shade and will thrive in either. 

A naturally tropical or semi-tropical plant, it will enjoy plenty of sunshine but will not tolerate temperatures below 26°F (-3°C). It is often grown in containers in the garden so it can be moved to a frost-free area over winter.

If planted outside, you should ideally find an East facing location which does not suffer from frost. Pygmy Date Palm is a moderately drought tolerant plant and will cope well with most soil types. 

A sandy soil that you find difficult to grow other plants in might be an ideal spot for this beauty. But, if you want a more detailed analysis of the soil that’s best for palm trees, read the linked article.

It will thrive under glass in a greenhouse or conservatory but is also an ideal pot plant for the home or office as it requires relatively low maintenance. 

Provided it is given plenty of sunlight throughout the day, you should get many years of enjoyment from your Pygmy Date Palm.

 

Watering

Pygmy Date Palm will cope during short spells of drought and too much water is likely to cause it more problems than too little. 

It prefers consistently moist soil but should never be left in standing water or sodden soil. 

Typically a thorough watering once a week will be ideal. Provided it is planted in appropriate free-draining soil, thorough watering once a week should suffice. 

Before watering, check that the soil is dried to a depth of 2 inches. This can be done using a water meter or simply by pushing your finger into the soil and feeling it.

 

Temperature

The ideal temperature for your Pygmy Date Palm is around 65°F -75°F (16°C-24°C). It shouldn’t be exposed to temperatures that fall below 50°F (10°C) for long periods of time. 

If grown outside your plant should be kept free from frost. It may survive a mild frost but a full frost or regular exposure to temperatures below freezing will kill it. 

Grown indoors, your Pygmy Date Palm will adapt to any comfortable room temperature which is generally within the plants’ optimum range.

 

Humidity

Humidity levels of around 50% will suit your Pygmy Date Plant just fine. If humidity regularly falls below that, or in dry spells, it may require misting. 

Usually, though, a proper watering regime will ensure the plant has sufficient moisture, and it can be positioned near to a tray of pebbles during spells to boost humidity without adding extra water to the leaves.

Remember, too much moisture can cause rot and fungal infections if left on the leaves or collected in crevices.

 

Fertilizing

Throughout spring and summer, your Pygmy Date Palm will benefit from the application of standard houseplant fertilizer (diluted to half) once a month. This will encourage foliage and flowering. 

Throughout winter you will not need to fertilize your plant at all. 

If kept in soil with a pH of 7 or more, your plant could suffer from deficiencies in magnesium and potassium so you may need to supplement these. 

For potassium, you can add potash or any fertilizer with a high ‘K’ rating, but an organic compost produced from food waste will do just as well. 

Banana peelings, in particular, are a fantastic source of potassium. Other options are the addition of wood ash or greensand.

To add magnesium, lime and Epsom salts are good choices. Epsom salts are generally the best option as they will add magnesium without altering the pH.

Lime will add magnesium but will also raise the pH level of the soil. 

After fertilizing, make sure you water your plants to ensure the fertilizer is not concentrated in one area as too much can burn it. 

Take a good look at some of the best fertilizers for palm trees here.

 

Air circulation

Pygmy Date Palms, like many palm species, are susceptible to mite infestations if kept in areas of poor airflow. 

Stale air can also affect the plants’ ability to carry out necessary processes such as photosynthesis. So, you better check out the care guide for indoor palms here.

Plants grown directly in the ground in the correct position, or grown outside in containers, will generally get sufficient airflow from their natural surroundings. 

Pygmy Date Palms grown in containers indoors should be moved outside occasionally on warm bright days during spring and summer. 

They will benefit from the direct sunlight and the fresh air which cannot be accurately recreated inside.

A good source of fresh airflow will help dry the foliage after rinsing. 

Placing your plants outside to dry or near an open window is preferable to using artificial airflow produced by air conditioning systems or fans which can reduce humidity and don’t supply the carbon dioxide your plant needs in sufficient quantities.

 

Propagation

Pygmy Date Plants are one of the easiest houseplants to reproduce, making them the perfect plants for newbie plant parents. Throughout the growing season, your plant will sprout offshoots from its trunk. In its natural habitat, these will spread and the plant will become bushy. 

As an ornamental plant, most owners want the texture the trunk of the tree provides. These offshoots, therefore, can be cut away (taking care to bring the root with it) and planted. 

The offshoots will require the same conditions as the parent plant so just need to be repotted.

To propagate your Pygmy Date Plant from seed, first, harvest the fruits and remove their skin and flesh.

The seeds can be stored over winter or sown indoors immediately. Prior to sowing, soak the seeds for 48 hours in water. 

Seeds can be sown in 4-inch pots in a 50/50 mixture of normal potting compost and perlite. Sow the seeds approximately half an inch deep and keep the soil moist and warm. 

Seedlings may start to appear after around 30 days but it can take up to 3 months before you see signs of life. Three weeks after they first appear your seedlings should be large enough to handle. 

They can then be moved to 6-inch pots, still in the same 50/50 mixture of compost and perlite.

Keep your plant in its new container until the following spring when you can transfer it to its permanent position and follow the normal care procedure.

 

Common problems with Pygmy Date Palms

Pygmy Date Palms are relatively problem-free but can suffer from infestations of mites and insects. 

This can be prevented by providing your plant with fresh air when possible and by wiping down the leaves as part of your routine maintenance schedule.

To get rid of significant infestations you will need to remove the infected leaves and dispose of them.

Pygmy date palms are also generally quite disease-resistant. However, they can suffer from Ganoderma butt rot, a soil-borne fungal disease that rots the bottom of the trunk. 

Ganoderma butt rot cannot be eradicated through the use of pesticides and such. So, the infected plants must be immediately destroyed to prevent the disease from spreading.

If exposed to temperatures below 50°F (10°C) for prolonged periods, Pygmy Date Palms are susceptible to Pestalotiopsis leaf spot. 

This disease causes lesions on the plant which, left untreated, will most likely kill the plant. Small infestations can be treated using any standard fungicide. 

Larger infestations will require the affected areas of the plant to be removed. Again, this can be prevented by inspecting the leaves of your plant regularly as of your ongoing maintenance.

Pygmy Date Palmis also susceptible to spider mite infestations.

Particularly bad or repeated spider mite infestations or can be dealt with using a spider mite treatment which you can get from any garden center or DIY store

Brown spots in the leaves are an indication that your Pygmy Date Palm is suffering from a leaf spot. These spots can be an indication of fungal infection or bacteria and will turn mushy if left untreated. 

It is important that you deal with leaf spot as soon as you see signs of it to prevent it from spreading. Affected leaves should be removed immediately.

Mild leaf spot infestations can be treated with a solution of ½ teaspoon (2.5ml) of bicarbonate of soda to 1 gallon (4.5 liters) of water. If that doesn’t get rid of it or if your plant has a significant 

 

Frequently asked questions about Pygmy Date Plants

 

Why are the tips leaves of Pygmy Date Palm leaves turning yellow?

Your plant is most likely deficient in iron. If it is planted in the ground, try replanting it a little deeper. Alternatively, you can add an iron supplement to the soil. An iron supplement can also be added to potted palms.

 

Should I cut off brown palm leaves?

Though it might break your heart a little, but you should remove or cut off the brown leaves off your palm tree. Your Pygmy Date Palm grows new leaves throughout its growing season. The old brown leaves are no longer necessary and are unsightly.

 

My Pygmy Date Palm is wilting, how do I bring it back to life?

Give it plenty of sunshine and fresh air, and repot it in fresh soil which contains adequate levels of potassium and magnesium. Pygmy Date Palm is a hardy plant and given the right conditions should recover.

 

Conclusion

The Pygmy Date Palm is quintessentially tropical. Its long fronds, slender trunk, and laidback form evoke images of hot sunny days. It is a plant regularly seen in homes, offices, and shopping malls as it is low maintenance and brings joy to the soul.

The combination of form, texture, and color means the Pygmy Date Plant has a little of everything we tend to look for in decorative plants, but there is no doubt that this plants’ crowning glory is the tropical feel it brings to any location.

If you’re looking for a plant that is easy to care for and will last for a long time, the Pygmy Date Palm is a great addition – and if you want to, you can enjoy the sweet fruits it produces too.