Coconut palms are found in tropical environments and are named after the fruit that they produce. Dwarf coconut palms (Cocos nucifera) are similar to standard palms with one important difference: their size. Dwarf palms are both shorter and less broad than their standard counterparts. This smaller size makes them popular with homeowners, as they are easier to fit into a back or side yard. Unlike dwarf-sized fruit trees, a dwarf palm cannot be grown inside of a house.
Preferred Growing Climate
Like full-sized coconut palms, the dwarf coconut palm thrives in tropical weather. It grows best in USDA Hardiness Zones 10 through 11, which encompass Florida, Hawaii and parts of Southern California. Dwarf coconut palms thrive in places where the average cold temperature does not go below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, although there are some cold hardy palms that can tolerate temperatures down to 25 degrees Fahrenheit. Despite this, palms prefer temperatures that range from 80 degrees up into the 100s. Like standard-sized plants, the dwarf coconut palm prefers loosely packed soil that is slightly moist. It thrives in hot, humid climates that receive plenty of sunshine and, on average, 60 inches of rain.
A semi-dwarf coconut palm grows to a height of between 30 and 60 feet, while a true dwarf coconut palm reaches 15 to 25 feet. In contrast to this, a full-sized coconut tree can grow to be over 100 feet tall. The branches and leaves of a semi-dwarf coconut can span up to 25 feet in diameter, with the true dwarf varieties reaching 20 feet at the most. Again, this is in comparison to a full size palm, whose branches can grow into a 50-foot canopy.
Malayan Dwarf coconut palms can reach a height of 60 feet, putting them in the semi-dwarf category. They have fronds that are between 18 and 36 inches long and produce green, brown or yellow coconuts that are around 9 inches in diameter. Like full-sized coconut palms, the Malayan dwarf is susceptible to lethal yellowing disease. Look for "Red Malayan Coconut Palms," as this particular varietal is more resistant. Other varieties are called "Golden" and "Green," after the colors of the fruit that they produce.
Fiji Dwarf Coconuts
Fiji Dwarfs, also known as Niuleka, grow slowly and can take up to 20 years to reach their full height of 15 to 25 feet tall, putting it in the true dwarf category. Unlike Malayan Dwarfs, studies have shown that the Fiji dwarf is more resistant to lethal yellowing disease. However, their leaves, or fronds, are less attractive than those of the Malayans. They also have thicker trunks, and produce gold or green coconuts.
Chowghat Dwarf Greens
The Choghat green dwarf coconut palm bears fruit within 3 to 4 years after being grown from seed. It reaches a maximum height of between 16 and 22 feet, making it a true dwarf variety. It produces a small green coconut that has a characteristic point or "beak" on it. This variety of coconut palm is mainly grown in India, but can be found throughout the tropical areas of the world. It is one of the varieties tested against lethal yellowing disease, but was found to not be as resistant to the disease as the Fiji Dwarf Coconut.
The Chowghat orange dwarf coconut palm is very susceptible to wind, and should not be grown in areas with sustained wind speeds of 50 miles per hour. Like the Chowghat green dwarf, this is a true dwarf tree, as it reaches heights of between 16 and 22 feet. The fruit is orange in color. The tree is a specific cultivar that was created in 1991 by the Central Plantation Crops Research Institute in India.
Pilipog Dwarf Coconuts
The Pilipog dwarf coconut palm is native to the Philippines. It is distinctive for its very high fruit yield, despite its short stature, which is similar to that of the Fiji Dwarf, with a maximum height of 25 feet. Because of the large amount of green-colored, round-shaped coconuts that the Pilipog dwarf produces, it is considered a farming tree.
Another coconut palm native to the Philippines is the Catigan dwarf. The Catigan produces green colored coconuts that are medium in size, and round in shape, with a small protruding tip and a very thick outer husk. This is a true dwarf coconut palm and reaches a height of between 15 to 25 feet.
Brazilian Green Dwarfs
True to its name, the Brazilian green dwarf coconut is native to Brazil, but grows in tropical areas throughout the world. It is considered a "true dwarf" and reaches 15 feet tall at the most. Its trunk grows to between 7 and 9 inches in diameter. Despite its small size, the Brazilian Green Dwarf produces green, oblong coconuts with very sweet milk and meat.
King Dwarf Coconut
King coconut palms are semi-dwarfs, and reach a height of between 40 and 50 feet. They are native to Sri Lanka and produce flowers and fruit later in the growing season than other coconut palms. The fruits produced by the King coconut are orange in color, ovoid, and known for their very sweet milk and meat.
Cameroon Red Dwarf
The Cameroon red dwarf coconut is known for its distinctively colored orange-red fruit, which can vary between shades on the same tree, with some redder in color than others. This tree is similar in size to the Brazilian Green Dwarf, with a thin trunk (of around 7 inches in diameter and short height -- around 15 feet. The Cameroon dwarf originated in the nation of Cameroon, in Africa.
- Donald P. Watson, Coconut as an Ornamental, University of Hawaii
- Edward F. Gilman and Dennis G. Watson, Cocos nucifera, Malayan Dwarf Coconut Palm, University of Florida IFAS Extension
- Timothy K. Broschat and Jonathan H. Crane, The Coconut Palm in Florida, University of Florida IFAS Extension
- Charlie Beck, Growing Fiji Dwarf in Palm Beach County, Palm Beach Palm Cycad Society
- Dr. Don C. Wilkerson and Dr. William M. Johnson, Cold Hardy Palms for Galveston County and the Texas Upper Gulf Coast, Texas A & M Agrilife Extension
- Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, Coconut Botany and Varieties
- NIR Board of Consultants and Engineers, The Complete Book on Coconuts and Coconut Products
- AGFishTechPortal: Coconut
- Dr. Roland Bourdeix, Brazilian Green Dwarf, Diversiflora Editions and the Coconut Palm
- Dr. Roland Bourdeix, Cameroon Red Dwarf, Diversiflora Editions and the Coconut Palm
- Photo Credit yongkiet/iStock/Getty Images
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