Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Reliable Palms for the Sonoran Desert

Agua Caliente Park, pic taken back in October of 2010

I waited to post this series because you need heat to make it all happen. Starting now and through September, you can start putting palms into your landscape.  There are 4 primary palms that I will write about....the California Palm, Mexican Fan Palm, Canary Palm, and Date Palm.  These palms are the most visible in our landscape and while there are many more, it's only this group catgory in which I have experience .  For palms to succeed as a transplant, gardeners and landscapers need to wait and put these plants into the ground during the warm and hot months.

I have observed the following with palms. Here are some quick facts. Trying to move an already established palm will usually kill it. While it is possible, it can be a tricky procedure. If you don't clean up the palm seeds quickly after they drop, you will have them everywhere.  This is especially true if the ground has been dug up around the area.  Palm fronds left hanging on a tree attract wildlife.  Birds, bats, rodents, and scorpions are popular critters that call this plant home. In the city limits, birds and bats are popular while on the outskirts of town, rodents and scorpions LOVE hiding out in the "skirt" around the palm.  If you "skin" your palm,  it will have a lovely appearance but it can also expose the palm to extreme freezes which does affect some palms as it did this year.  I'll write about the 2 that were affected the most.  Usually owners will skin once a year as the palm grows up.  Palms LOVE sun and grow from the middle. Give palms room to move and plant together or separately, but ALWAYS plant in groups of 3-5 for that lovely tropical island feel.   Palm trees make a great addition to any yard and are low maintenance once established.  Here is another write from the University of Florida on the amazing palm. While it's a different state, the rules are the same for the planting procedures.....

"Several factors should be considered before selecting the planting site for a palm. If you have a specific type of palm in mind, be sure to consider how the plant will fit in the landscape in 10-15 years, when it reaches maturity. Are there overhead utility wires, buried cables, or irrigation lines? Would the palm pose a hazard during a windstorm, microburst, or monsoon? Is the sun exposure full, partial, or shade? As a general landscaping rule, small lots with one story houses look best with medium sized or smaller palms.

Large palms such as washingtonias, look best when planted in large areas or in the
vicinity of larger buildings. Clusters of odd numbers of palms (1, 3, 5) are generally more aesthetically pleasing than even numbered groups, unless more than seven are being planted in one area. Palms can be transplanted at any time of the year although they establish themselves far more quickly
and with fewer problems if they are set out in the spring and early summer. Palms do not grow as rapidly during the winter months and several experimental observations have shown that cold damage
is much more severe in palms that are not well established(which is what happened in my situation at El Presidio). The dry winter season also requires more irrigation to insure the survival of the newly planted palm." Source: http://www.plantapalm.com/vpe/horticulture/planting-a-palm-tree.pdf

There you have it......another fun series on a group of plants that will make your landscape pop!  Stay tuned for a quick look at several popular palms for the Tucson area.  No Queen Palms in Tucson. It's too cold and most of them died during our freeze. 


  1. Wow, that's a gorgeous image of Agua Calliente Park! Many of the palms in my neighborhood haven't recovered from the freeze, maybe they were Queen Palms.

  2. Hello! Want to thank you for this wonderful blog, for I lived in Tucson for nearly 40 years and your pictures and stories and plant facts, make me feel like I'm taking a little vacation back 'home'! I moved to NE Mississippi over 2 years ago, it's where my husband was born and raised and where we wanted our daughter to go to high school, because Tucson schools are, sadly, in need of repair. It was a good move for that reason.

    But the desert will ALWAYS be 'home' to me and my daughter. Living here in MS is beautiful, green and more green, and we have an acre, which we could NEVER have afforded in Tucson ;-)

    I worked for Pima County in the Floodplain division and as a Riparian Specialist (retired early for health reasons) so I am very happy to read of your Aventuras in the home garden!

    A very good day to you, enjoy the unusual cool weather you're having! When will the ice break on the Santa Cruz, do you think?? (Ha!)


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