The 2,500 species of palm tree have similar cultural requirements, including the soil in which they grow. Native to tropical and subtropical regions around the globe, palm trees are one of the plants that says "tropical" to many people because they're always present in tropical landscapes. In the wild, many palm trees grow in sandy, loamy soil that humans have not amended with chemicals or other nonorganic materials, so palms grow well in native soil.
Palm trees of all types do not thrive when they are in a soggy, swampy area. They prefer their soil to dry out between rains or irrigation, so if your soil is heavy clay, add 1 gallon of any type of organic compost to every 5 gallons of soil you dig out for your planting hole. Mixing in 2 to 3 cups of sand also helps to improve the drainage. If your soil is very sandy, add the same amount of organic compost to help the soil retain more moisture and to give your palm tree the nutrients it needs.
The Tree Help Web site recommends that palm growers add mycorrhizal fungi to the soil in which their trees will grow. This fungus lives inside of and near plant roots and is beneficial to them. The plant's roots and this fungus coexist in a beneficial, symbiotic relationship that allows the roots to absorb nutrients better than plants growing in areas without the fungus. The University of Hawaii adds that many plants will not survive without the presence of mycorrhizal fungi in their habitat. The benefits of this fungus are many.
Soil For Potted Palms
Smaller species of palm trees perform well in large containers, making it possible to move them indoors when cold weather arrives. The areca palm and the pygmy date palm are two examples of palms that are suited to containers. Use a large pot with at least one drainage hole. Choose an organic potting soil that is slightly acidic and contains perlite, vermiculite or a small amount of sand. Some commercial mixes, such as Miracle-Gro, offer special palm potting soil. Professional palm nurseries, such as Jungle Music in San Diego, California, combine 15 percent peat moss, 15 percent number 2 pumice, 10 percent coarse washed sand, 15 percent pine bark, 15 percent nitrolized redwood shavings, 20 percent perlite and 10 percent topsoil to create a slightly acidic blend with a pH reading between 6.3 and 6.5. This grower also adds 1 lb. of dolomite to every cubic yard of mix. Add additional redwood shavings and perlite for seedlings and younger plants.
Sago Palm Soil
Sago palms are classified as cycads and are one of the oldest seed-producing plants on earth, with fossil remains dating back 200 million years. Although they are called palms, cycads are more closely related to pine trees, so their organic soil needs differ slightly from the true palms. Sago palms require well-drained soil that is high in humus or other organic matter, such as compost. They do not survive well in depressions that tend to remain waterlogged or swampy, preferring soil that is usually drier, according to Rhapis Gardens.