The date palm, Phoenix dactylifera, is the true date palm tree species. The tree is native to North Africa and has been grown as a main source of food for North Africa and Asia. Date palm trees are a single stem palm that produces fruit in the spring and summer.
The date palm is a variety of palm tree that grows to a height of 100 feet with a branch spread of 30 feet. The tree is slow-growing and takes up to 15 years to grow 10 feet. Each branch is 15 to 20 feet long and forms a feather-duster look at the top of the tree. The leaves are featherlike with a pinnate formation. Female date palm trees produce cream-colored flower clusters in the spring and summer that turn into 1- to 2-inch edible date fruit.
Date palm trees are hardy to plant in USDA zones 9 through 11 where there is a low risk of freezing weather. The tree grows best in a well-draining, acidic soil such as sand or clay loam. Date palms require full, bright sunlight during most of the daylight hours. The soil pH should be tested to verify it has a pH of 4.5 to 8. Ground rock sulfur can be worked into the soil to lower the pH number and make it more acidic.
The date palm is a drought-resistant tree since the root structure grows deep. Provide a deep soaking of water each month during periods of dry weather and drought to assist in faster growth and create a visually appealing tree. Date palm trees should be fertilized with an all-purpose fertilizer every other year in early spring to maintain the health of the tree. Suckers growing around the base of the tree should be removed each year unless they are needed for propagation. This will prevent a tree with multiple trunks or stems.
Date palm trees can be propagated to create new trees by transplanting suckers that grow around the base of the tree at ground level. The suckers should be dug from the ground once they are 3 to 5 years old and weigh 40 pounds or more and can be transplanted into a new location once they have been seasoned for 10 days. Seasoning involves leaving the sucker out of the ground so it loses 10 to 15 percent of its moisture. No more than two suckers should be removed from a tree each year.
The date palm tree is susceptible to the fungal diseases leaf spot and lethal yellowing. Palms with a leaf spot infection will produce lesions that appear as water spots on the leaves. The spots turn red and black as the infection matures. Leaf spot can be treated with fungicide applications. Lethal yellowing is a systemic disease that causes the fruit to rot and fall from the tree and the foliage to turn yellow in color. Trees can be treated with antibiotic injections if they have less than 25 percent of damage to the tree.