Care of Foxtail Palm Tree

Overview

The foxtail palm tree, or Wodyetia bifurcata, is a tropical palm that originated in the north of Australia. Named for its spiraling, feathery fronds that resemble a fox's tail, it is a tall, attractive tree and one of the most used palms in warmer climates. The foxtail palm is hardy; drought, wind and salt tolerant; and can thrive in many different soils. It's a relatively fast grower, and will attain its mature height of 30 feet within 10 years if conditions are right. If you live in southern Texas, Florida, California or throughout Hawaii and other tropical and subtropical areas, you can grow this tree.

Growing Foxtail Palms

Step 1

Plant your young tree in a sunny location that has soil with good drainage. If you dig in one or two shovelfuls of compost, this will enhance the soil texture and provide nutrients to the growing tree.

Step 2

Water regularly and deeply but do not allow the soil to remain soggy. Good drainage is mandatory, especially in climates that receive large amounts of rain.

Step 3

Use a fertilizer designed for palm trees---foxtail palms need plenty of potassium, so choose a fertilizer that contains this nutrient. One or two applications per year should be sufficient.

Step 4

Treat your foxtail palm with a soap spray if you notice an infestation of palm aphids or scale insects. These palms are mostly free of pests and diseases. In Florida, the palm borer can afflict this tree: watch for brown sap that starts "weeping" down the trunk and then call a palm care specialist to treat this insect.

Step 5

Protect your foxtail palm from frost if you do not live in hardiness zones 10 or 11. Mature trees can survive brief periods of time at temperatures as low as 27 degrees Fahrenheit.

Tips and Warnings

  • If you cut fronds off, be careful not to nick the trunk because doing so can open the door for insects or diseases. In Hawaii, an invasive caterpillar often eats palm leaves. If you find any stinging nettle caterpillars on your foxtail palm, treat them with Bt, Bacillus thuringiensis, a soil bacterium sold in powdered form at nurseries.

Things You'll Need

  • Young tree
  • Sunny area with good drainage
  • Compost
  • Shovel
  • Water
  • Palm fertilizer

References

  • Palm Trees Now
  • Real Palm Trees
  • Floridata

Who Can Help

  • Palm Doctor
Keywords: foxtail palm, tropical gardening, Wodyetia bifurcata

About this Author

Barbara Fahs lives on Hawaii island, where she has created Hi'iaka's Healing Herb Garden. Fahs wrote "Super Simple Guide to Creating Hawaiian Gardens" and has been a professional writer since 1984. She contributes to "Big Island Weekly," "Ke Ola" magazine and various websites. She earned her Bachelor of Arts at University of California, Santa Barbara and her Master of Arts from San Jose State University.