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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Things You Will Need
- Young tree
- Sunny area with good drainage
- Palm fertilizer
- The foxtail palm can be grown in a large pot and used indoors. Provide plenty of natural light or hang a shop light with fluorescent bulbs above it.
- The foxtail palm is known as a "self cleaning" palm because when its fronds die, they drop cleanly away from the truck, making pruning unnecessary.
- 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.