Nothing symbolizes the exclusive beach resort experience quite like a stately palm tree. Lucky for us, there are many varieties to choose from that grow well in our tropical climates and salt-hearty soils.

For those unfamiliar with palms, our state tree, the Sabal Palmetto(or Cabbage Palm), is the only palm that is native to Brevard. This means that any other palm you choose to plant will require special care in order to ensure it thrives.

Selecting the right palm for your landscape, following good planting practices and establishing a maintenance routine will reward you with the relaxing tropical beauty, softly swaying leaves and, perhaps, a coconut or two.

The following is a short list of palms you are likely to run across at retail nursery locations, with information on helping you select the palm best suited for your needs.


(Wodyetia bifurcata)

The Foxtail Palm, from down-under Australia, is a popular choice due to its love of humidity, full sun and ease of care. These palms are “self-cleaning,” meaning they shed their own fronds, saving you from the chore of cutting and pruning.


(Cocos nucifera Linn)

Nothing conveys the tropics quite like the stately coconut palm. Originally from the South Pacific, this tree fares best among the barrier islands and Merritt Island on the Space Coast. Those in zone 10 who can suc- cessfully grow the palm will be rewarded with their own coconuts, nature’s perfect container for backyard cocktails!


(Bismarckia nobilis)

Without a doubt, the majestic silver Bismarck is the ultimate statement palm. With its silvery-blue foliage and massive size, this Madagascar native adds sophis- ticated tropical flair to your landscape. This palm is a slow grower, but eventually can get to heights nearing 60’, so make sure you have the space for it.


(Hyophorbe lagenicaulis)

This palm gets its trademark name from the bottle-shaped trunk it possesses. Certainly a standout, it grows to about 8’ max, positioning it as a great accent for the garden. Cold-hardy and shade-tolerant, this is a great choice for yards across the county.


(Bismarckia nobilis)

A clumping palm, this tree also doubles as a screen to block out the neighbors, an air conditioning unit or any other undesirable landscape feature. Maxing out at 15’, its fuller than typical foliage offers a lush tropical look ideal for smaller properties.


(Caryota mitis)

Like the fan palm, the Fishtail has dense foliage that helps create a fuller look when it is young. Growing to approximately 25’, the jagged foliage adds texture and dimension to a yard not usually provided by other palms. To add to its appeal, it does well in both sun and partial shade, and is cold hardy.


(Veitchia merrilli)

Smaller than many palms, with the max height being 25’, this is another self-cleaner popular with the low maintenance crowd. Nicknamed Christmas Palm due to the red berries that arrive near the holiday season, these are commonly sold as doubles (even triples), which is more bang for the buck—multiple trees for the cost of one!


(Syagrus romanzoffiana)

If you want the full-swaying-in-the-breeze-tropical-island-looker, a Queen Palm will do quite well. Tall and majestic, they most certainly earn their royal title. This palm does require more maintenance as it is not self-cleaning and tends to be quite susceptible to the cold, nutrient deficiencies and disease.


(Phoenix roebelenii)/em>

The Pygmy Date Palm, or Robelenii, might not produce edible dates when grown in Florida, but is a phenomenal choice for areas in need of a small, cold-hardy, disease-resistant specimen. Like the Adonidia palm, it can be grown as a single, double, or even triple, adding visual interest and a splash of tropical flair. This is an especially popular choice to plant poolside, as they tend to not be terribly messy.

Raising Healthy Palms

After planting, palms require regular maintenance throughout their lives. Palms are heavy feeders, so you want to be sure to feed them at least once every 3 months with a quality palm fertilizer. Palms tend to be deficient in magnesium and manganese, which causes yellowing and curling of the ends of the fronds. This curling is known as “frizzle top” in the horticulture world and can generally be corrected with the right nutrients.

Though we are known for our mild winters here, your palms are used to neotropical climates, and may require covering on nights when temperatures dip below 40 degrees.

Choosing the right palm for your space will result in the creation of your own beautiful, lush Eden, a worthy backdrop for summer get-togethers for years to come.

Steps to Planting Success

Be sure to follow these eight steps to get your palm off to a great start!

  1.  Remove all grass 3 feet from where you plan to plant your palm
  2.  Loosen the soil by digging 2 feet from intended planting area
  3. Dig a hole slightly wider than the palm, so that it can sit comfortably in the space
  4. Place the palm in the soil taking care that the root ball level is level with the ground

     5.  Backfill with a mix of your own dirt and an enriched soil (halfway) and water

6.  Backfill the rest of the hole with remaining soil and water again

7.  Use three inches of mulch, if desired, around the planting site, making sure to avoid putting it too close to the tree

8.  Water! Create a watering schedule to ensure your new palm is being properly hydrated. Water daily for the first 2 weeks, taper off to every other day for the next 2 weeks, and so on until you rest at 2 times a week (when it hasn’t rained).

Amanda Rose Newton
Gardening Information and Education Specialist, Rockledge Gardens Instructor of Horticulture, Eastern Florida State College

Amanda Rose Newton is a Florida certified horticulture professional; board certified entomologist, beekeeper, and educator. She holds an Associates of Science in Horticulture Technology, A Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry, a Master’s of Science in Entomology with a specialization in Integrated Pest Management, and is currently pursuing a Doctorate at Florida Institute of Technology.