Many types of date palm trees grow very large and require a tropical climate or a controlled indoor environment to thrive. Several palms in the Phoenix genus are native to North Africa, and several of them produce the sweet, tasty drupe fruits we call dates. Species include the Senegal date palm, the traditional date palm, or Phoenix dactylifera, and the Canary Island date palm. The pygmy date palm (Phoenix roebelenii) comes from Southeast Asia and is often grown as a houseplant because it rarely grows taller than 12 feet.
Growing Large Date Palms
Plant a large variety of date palm outdoors if you live in USDA Plant Hardiness Zone 9 or higher. Choose an area with full sun and lots of space because the larger varieties of this palm can grow to 100 feet tall with a canopy that spreads 35 feet or more.
Mix 2 gallons of any type of compost into the planting area to help soil drainage and provide nutrients. Dig a hole twice as large as the tree's root system and backfill with the soil-compost mixture to make the soil level the same depth as the tree's roots.
Set the tree into the planting hole and fill in with the soil-compost mixture. Firm the soil around the trunk and add at least 5 gallons of water at a slow drip.
Water the large date palms sparingly---once a month is sufficient---with at least 5 gallons of water at a slow drip.
Fertilize this tree twice a year with a palm-specific plant food. Add a dose of 15-5-15 fertilizer for a magnesium or potassium boost if the leaves begin to turn yellow. Follow label instructions for correct application.
Prune dead fronds at their base to contribute to the tree's vitality and appearance.
Growing the Pygmy Date Palm
Transplant the pygmy date palm into a large container that is at least 12 inches in diameter, using any potting soil. Keep it near a window that receives plenty of sunlight.
Provide a plant saucer under the palm and keep wet gravel or pebbles in it to increase humidity. Mist the palm once a day to increase the humidity of the plant.
Water the potted palm about once a week before the soil completely dries out and twice a week during hot weather. Water the palm until water drains from the bottom of the pot. Prevent the plant from sitting in water.
Treat spider mites with insecticidal soap if you notice any webbing in the tree's crown or top portion where new fronds emerge.
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, GardenGuides and eHow. She earned her B.A. at UCSB and her M.A. from San Jose State University.