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Pygmy Date Palm

Robellini palm.
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How to Trim Pygmy Date Palms

The pygmy date palm, also known as Phoenix roebelenii, originated in southeast Asia near forest clearings, riverbanks and rainforests. In the wild it is generally found as a single-trunked specimen. However, nurseries typically sell them in groups of two or three as multiple-trunked specimens. As with any palm tree, the pygmy date palm needs regular trimming to ensure it stays looking its best. Trimming, though, should be done in moderation. An overly trimmed palm tree may suffer health consequences.

Prune off brown or yellowing fronds from the pygmy date palm tree. Grasp each frond with a gloved hand and snip it off an inch or two from the trunk with your pruning shears.

Look for diseased fronds. Diseased fronds will have spotting on them--usually brown or black in color. Prune these fronds off in the same manner as the brown or yellow fronds.

Trim off other fronds that are horizontal or lower to the ground for aesthetic reasons. Leave fronds that are above horizontal to the ground intact.

Clean your pruning shears with alcohol before moving on to the next pygmy date palm tree. This ensures no disease is transferred between palms.

Robellini Palm Diseases

Bud Rot

Bud rot is a bacterial and fungal disease that occasionally attacks robellini palms. One of the initial symptoms of bud rot is the dying of the leaf spear, after which no newer leaves will appear. The palm's canopy will also become brown, starting from the newest leaves all the way down. The disease can be treated with fungicides.


Pestalotiopsis, a minor fungal disease, attacks leaves injured by poor growing conditions. The dead foliage–usually located near the plant's base–turns from green to yellow to deep brown. It's best to remove the dead foliage.

Texas Phoenix Palm Decline

Texas Phoenix Palm Decline is a systemic and sometimes fatal bacterial disease. One of the first signs is fruit dropping off prematurely. The lower leaves often turn brown and die. The spear leaf then dies, which causes all of the canopy leaves to also quickly die. When a robellini has this disease, the palm must be immediately destroyed to ensure it does not spread.

How to Plant a Pygmy Date Palm

Choose a location for your pygmy date palm. These tropical plants like full sun but can tolerate light shade. Look for an area with good drainage and room for growth.

Purchase a young pygmy date palm from a local nursery. Pygmy date palms commonly come in 3-gallon, 15-gallon and 25-gallon pots.

Dig a hole that's at least 6 inches larger than the width of the container, and deep enough to cover the root ball with 2 to 3 inches of soil.

Fill the bottom of the hole with about 2 to 4 inches of sand to ensure proper drainage.

Fill the rest of the hole with a mixture of 50-percent sand and 50-percent original soil. The root ball should be 2 to 4 inches below the surface.

Firmly stamp on the soil with your foot to flatten the soil and eliminate any air pockets.

Cover the surface with mulch. Spread mulch 2 to 3 feet around the base of the plant. This will keep the soil moist and prevent an onslaught of weeds.

Water your palm immediately after planting. During hot summers, water your palm three times per week to keep its leaves green.

Care of the Crimson Pygmy Barberry

Plant your crimson pygmy barberry in full sunlight and in well-draining soil. Spread a 3- to 4-inch-thick layer of bark mulch on the ground around the base of the shrub to help retain soil moisture and control weeds.

Water your pygmy barberry once per week in the absence of rainfall to provide 1 to 2 inches of water each week. Water the shrub two to three times per week during extreme summer heat or droughts.

Feed your crimson pygmy barberry once each year in early spring, right before new growth emerges. Apply a slow-release, all-purpose fertilizer according to the instructions on the label.

Trim the barberry shrub in winter to keep it tidy. Remove all damaged, broken, crowded or crossing growth, and shear the shrub to shape it if desired.

How to Plant a Phoenix Roebelenii Palm

Plant Phoenix roebelenii in sites with full sun to partial shade and well-drained soil. Allow enough space for the tree's mature height and spread.

Dig a hole the same depth of the container and twice as wide. Water the palm in the container before planting.

Put the Phoenix roebelenii in the center of the hole and backfill partway. Flood the hole with water to get rid of any air pockets. Finish filling the hole and saturate with water to settle the tree in place.

Cover the area around the palm with a 3-inch layer of mulch to prevent weeds. Stay at least 3 inches away from the trunk of the Phoenix roebelenii.

Water the palm once or twice weekly to retain moist soil throughout the first growing season, from spring to fall. Water the Phoenix roebelenii less during rainy periods and in the winter season.

How Often Do You Water a Potted Pygmy Date Palm?

The pygmy date palm (Phoenix roebelenii) grows well in containers. Water the palm regularly, twice a week in cooler months, three times a week in the summer. Do not allow pygmy date palms to dry out, and avoid leaving palms standing in water that has drained from the soil.