There are 2,500 to 3,500 species of palms in the world, according to the Palm & Cycad Societies of Florida. Palms tend to grow as a solitary tree or are found in large clumps around a water source. Palm fossils have been found that date back 85 million years, which makes the palm an ancient species that has undergone very little change. Most palms thrive in tropical and subtropical regions, so finding a palm to withstand desert conditions can be difficult. Temperatures in many deserts dip below freezing at night, which can injure the palm. However, there are nine species of palms that can thrive in a desert condition with care and persistence.
Plant more then one palm in a desert setting. More then one palm will afford the palms added cold protection to each other. Desert palms should be planted around a body of water, such as a pond. Water adds warmth to the atmosphere after the sun sets and will help the palm trees withstand freezing desert temperatures at night.
Choose palm varieties that are known to withstand desert conditions. A few ideal desert palms are the queen palm, Chinese fountain palm, windmill palm, date palm and Canary Island palm. Plant the palms in the late spring or early summer so the palm has a chance to acclimatize before the cold nights of winter arrive.
Water the palm abundantly in the desert during its first year. Many desert palms such as the date palm grow very deep roots in search of water. This helps the palms survive in desert conditions but the roots take time to establish so abundant water is required. Water the desert palm several times a month until established.
Supply root shade to the desert palms by planting small sago palms around the base of the trees. The dwarf plants will help shade the desert palms' root systems during intense desert heat. They will also help protect the palms' roots during a hard desert freeze.
Prune any dead, brown leaves from the palm as they materialize. Do not remove live green leaves or you will weaken the palm. The palm needs its green foliage for nutrients and sunlight.
Fertilize the palm tree during the spring and summer using only a palm tree fertilizer. Palms have very specialized fertilizer needs and only a palm fertilizer will meet the trees requirements. Follow the directions on the label for application.
Work holes into the soil around the desert palm using a simple pitchfork. Apply mycorrhizal fungi to the holes at the recommended dosage on the label. Mycorrhizal fungi comes in a granulated form in a bottle. It is sold under a variety of brands for palm trees. Water the palm tree thoroughly after application. The fungus is beneficial in colonizing the soil around the palms roots and producing nutrients for the palm. A healthy desert palm with all required nutrients will be better able to withstand the harsh desert sun and the cold desert nights.
Wrap the trunk of a young small palm tree using burlap bags if the night is going to dip below minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Hold the burlap in place using simple rope. Remove the burlap bags during the daytime heat.