With its stout trunk and symmetrical blue-green crown, the Bismarck palm (Bismarck nobilis), native to Madagascar, is a physically impressive palm that will grow in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 10 and 11. You can plant a nursery-grown specimen throughout the year in Florida where seasonal temperatures are more or less constant. In time it will grow 40 to 70 feet high with a symmetrical crown spreading 10 to 15 feet.
Your Bismarck will grow faster and have a better leaf color if you plant it in full sun. Bismarcks grow slowly at first, less than 12 inches a year. After their trunks develop, they can grow up to 24 inches a year. If you plant Bismarcks in a row, allow 15 feet between trees. Plant them at least 10 feet from building foundations and 8 feet from asphalt to prevent buckling and cracking. A single Bismarck is well-suited for urban landscapes.
Bismarcks are one of the few palms that accept root pruning both before and after they form trunks. Nurseries regularly prune their roots in stages months before the palms are ready for transplanting. Bismarck roots grow more downward than laterally, as most palm species do, so when you buy one in a nursery container look for a deep root ball. You cannot transplant a potted Bismarck unless it has a visible trunk at the base of the plant.
While you can transplant a nursery Bismarck any time in Florida, the best time to plant it is at the beginning of a season when you anticipate rain. Bismarcks have been known to die if they don't get enough water when they are transplanted. Lacking rainfall, water your tree once or twice a day for a month after you put it in the ground, and then two or three times a week until it gets established. This might take one or two years. A mature Bismarck can withstand periods of drought.
Do not fertilize a newly planted Bismarck until you see new growth. After that, apply palm fertilizer recommended by the University of Florida one to four times a year at the rate of 1 1/2 pounds per 100 square feet of palm canopy area. The recommended 8-2-12-4 fertilizer contains the ratio by weight of 8 parts of nitrogen, 2 parts of phosphorus, 12 parts of potassium and 4 parts of magnesium. If your local garden supply center doesn't carry it, ask your local county extension agent for sales locations.
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