Facts on Date Palm Trees

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A grove of date palm trees loaded with fruits.
A grove of date palm trees loaded with fruits. (Image: Hemera Technologies/Photos.com/Getty Images)

Date palm (Phoenix dactylifera) is a robust palm commonly grown for its ornamental prowess and its sugary, tasty fruits. The palm may grow to be up to 100 feet tall with proper care, producing large, greenish gray pinnate leaves and scores of flowers. Date palm is a popular landscaping tree, particularly in Florida.

Appearance

Date palm boasts a broad, gray trunk topped with a dense canopy of bluish- or greenish-gray pinnate leaves that may grow up to 20 feet long and 2 feet wide. The canopy spreads out to a width of about 40 feet. Creamy yellow flowers are followed by reddish orange, oblong-shaped fruits known as dates. Dates are edible, consisting of a sugary, tender flesh formed over a long hard seed.

Location

The date palm hails from North Africa, where it has been cultivated as a food source for thousands of years. The tree is grown commercially for its fruits throughout the United States, primarily in southern California and Arizona. As a landscape tree, date palm is grown from Florida to Texas, as well as parts of the American southwest. It is a suitable landscape plant for U.S. Department of Agriculture Plant Hardiness Zones 9 to 11, and may be grown in zone 8 with sufficient winter protection.

Care

Date palm is remarkably tolerant of different soil types, growing in poor soils if need be. The tree requires a bright, full sun location. A native of the desert, date palm is quite drought tolerant, though its deep roots will travel far to seek water. Regular irrigation will result in fast growth and a vibrant, healthy tree. Gardeners looking to grow a single trunk, tree specimen must prune suckers off the tree annually. Date palm may be propagated by seed.

Problems

Young date palms are highly susceptible to fungal problems such as leaf spot, particularly in humid regions such as Florida. Regular preventive applications of fungicide can help combat this problem. Date palm is one of many palms susceptible to lethal yellowing, a fatal disease. The palm should never be planted near other palms suffering from the disease. Male trees may cause allergies in some individuals, as their pollen is airborne.

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