The Washington palm is one of the most distinctive palm varieties. Capable of reaching heights of 80 feet or more, the tree is considered one of the tallest and fastest-growing of the palm species. The trees are most often found in Florida, southern Texas and California with those in California often getting a little taller because of more favorable conditions, such as less wind and lightning.
The most distinctive feature of the Washington palm tree, besides its great height, is the skirt that forms just beneath the crown. Made up of dead palm leaves, it often resembles a hula skirt. Some can extend 20 feet or more from top to bottom. While the skirt gives the tree a different look, in some cases it can blow off or be removed by order of a local code because of its ability to attract pests.
In addition to the distinctive skirt, other Washington palm features include large palm fronds that grow as large as 5 feet, and perhaps slightly larger on some trees. The palm is a single stalk palm. Like most palms, there are no branches, just a trunk leading up the crown. They are also considered to be salt tolerant.
In most all cases, this palm is grown in USDA Plant Hardiness zones 9 and higher. Like all tropical plants, they cannot resist very cold temperatures, though the palm can survive down to temperatures of 20 degrees Fahrenheit. At this temperature, the palm's leaves will likely sustain considerable damage and the palm will need to take the time to regrow new vegetation.
Given the size of the tree, it is generally not recommended for residential use, especially in smaller yards. Planting Washington palms is often done by commercial customers and governments, looking for a simple but decorative solution to lining streets. The palm species is generally not picky on soil type. It is considered able to grow in clay soil as well as sandy areas, and from acidic soils to alkaline. The palm is also drought tolerant. The palms prefer full sunlight to partial shade.
When it comes to having a maintenance-free palm tree, the Washington palm is about as easy as it gets. The palm requires little to no pruning and does not generally need to be watered, unless there is a severe drought. Some cities or counties might require the skirts to be cut, but if not, then the tree can usually be left alone. In essence, it provides beauty without the hassle of constant tree care.