The pindo or jelly palm (Butia capitata) is a feather-frond palm native to South America that tolerates winter frosts and prolonged, severe droughts. Slow-growing, it produces clusters of small, golden fruits called pindo dates, which are edible and sweet. It makes an ideal palm in USDA hardiness zones 7b to 11.
Even though pindo palm demonstrates exceptional tolerance to drought once established, it grows faster and looks more robust if the soil remains moist and well-draining in the growing season. From late spring to late summer, 1 inch of rainfall or irrigation each week creates an ideal soil condition. Then, from autumn through the cold of winter, reduce watering as the palm halts growth once soil temperatures drop below 70 degree F. In cold winter regions (USDA Zone 7), slightly drier soils improve chances for winter survival.
Application of organic materials like compost and rotted, scentless manures atop the soil around the pindo palm provides minerals. In addition, especially in sandy soils, the use of a slow-release granular palm fertilizer ensures micronutrients like iron, manganese, zinc or magnesium remain available to the plant while new fronds emerge. Typically, a palm fertilizer with nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus ratio of 3-1-2 suffices, but make sure micronutrients comprise the fertilizer's formula too. Apply the granules according to dosage directions on the product at least three times each year, once in early spring, again just before the summer solstice and again in late summer. A light application in mid-autumn around the trunk base ensures potassium is absorbed for improved cold hardiness.
Maintain a 3- to 4-inch layer of organic mulch atop the root zone of the pindo palm, extending from the trunk to just beyond the reach of the frond tips. Keep the mulch 2 to 3 inches away from the trunk to prevent root rot or other problems caused by overly moist conditions. Mulch retains soil moisture and provides trace minerals that diminish the need for synthetic fertilizers, especially in sandy soils. Scattering compost, coffee grounds or other organic matter on the mulch also aids in providing nutrients. Granular fertilizers may be applied atop the mulch without the need for raking away the mulch.
Refrain from cutting away palm fronds that are not brown, as yellowing fronds provide nutrients to the newly growing fronds in the crown. Premature removal of healthy, growing fronds deprives the palm of food and slows its growth, something most want to avoid on this already slow-growing palm species. The summer-occurring flower stalks, an inflorescence, may be pruned away if desired to prevent formation of the numerous fruits. Mature fruits drop to the ground and become messy. Even when the fruiting stalks remain intact, they may be pruned away for the last stages of ripening and eating.
Reduce watering across the winter months so that only natural rainfall supplies soil moisture. In regions where occasional snow or ice falls, use a broomstick to gently shake off snow or ice from fronds to prevent frond stems from cracking or breaking from the additional weight. Consider wrapping or tying fronds up into a vertical column if heavy ice is anticipated. Freezing rain that collects in the crownshaft, the core of the growing tip from which fronds emerge, can cause permanent damage. If the crownshaft dies, the entire palm will die thereafter. Consider pouring in a 10 percent solution of hydrogen peroxide into the crownshaft after a snow or ice event to ensure no fungi proliferates. Hopefully all water naturally drains away from the crownshaft once temperatures warm above freezing. Lastly, never fertilize the pindo palm in winter.
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