Home Home & Garden Needle Palm Brings Simple-Care Aptitude to Southern Gardens – FineGardening

Needle Palm Brings Simple-Care Aptitude to Southern Gardens – FineGardening


There’s extra to palms than coconuts and tropical islands. The extra you get to know this glorious group of vegetation, the extra you notice how various they are often. In actual fact, the palm household, Arecaceae, comprises hundreds of vegetation. These embrace well-known palms with tall trunks, but in addition many shrubby and even some climbing palms. There are a lot of Southern gardeners who’re adept at rising palms of their landscapes. Nonetheless, as you progress to much less coastal areas of the South, we don’t typically take into consideration including palms to our panorama. Needle palm (Rhapidophyllum hystrix, Zones 7–10) stands out as one of many hardiest and best palms to develop within the South.

A Chilly-Hardy Native

Needle palm is a shrubby palm native to central Florida, the Florida panhandle, and decrease Alabama and some surrounding areas. Within the wild this plant has misplaced habitat and been commercially exploited. Nonetheless, it’s out there from a wide range of respected nurseries. One in every of this palm’s biggest attributes is its chilly hardiness. It could survive brief durations all the way down to 0°F, and it performs properly in USDA Hardiness Zones 7–10. I’ve even seen it grown in protected areas of Zone 6b.

The needles covering the crown of this needle palm spear leaves and debris, protecting the interior of the plant. Photo: Andy Pulte
The needles masking the crown of this needle palm spear leaves and particles, defending the inside of the plant. Picture: Andy Pulte

Depraved Defenses

Needle palm has giant dissected leaves radiating from a central crown on the base of the plant. On the base of these leaves are the “needles” that act as a pure barrier from any creature which may need to get into the plant’s inside. Though I’ve by no means seen it occur in particular person, I’ve heard tales of small rodents assembly their demise after getting too near the bottom of this palm.

Discovering a Good Dwelling

Needle palm grows in moist environments, notably on forested slopes. I’ve seen it thrive within the panorama in locations the place gardeners have cracked the code on the magical steadiness between moisture and good drainage on the identical time. That is an understory plant within the wild, and it appreciates some shade, notably within the afternoon. I’ve additionally seen it do properly in locations the place brick buildings present an excellent mixture of radiant warmth, shade, and winter safety.

Supporting Younger Vegetation

In lots of circumstances, it’s high quality to transplant very younger vegetation out into the panorama. Nonetheless, if you buy a needle palm and it’s very small when it arrives, it could be greatest to develop it in a pot for a couple of years. If its present pot measurement is ample, I counsel utilizing it as a part of a blended container throughout its first rising season. You’ll be able to merely bury the plant, container and all, after which take away the container throughout colder climate. Overwinter your small plant in a protected a part of the backyard or the window of an unheated storage. Needle palm is greatest planted in spring to permit for a season of multinational earlier than encountering chilly climate.

Needle palm has large, splayed followers of foliage that overlap to create its mounded type. Photographs: Andy Pulte

Tropical Curiosity

In the event you’re trying so as to add one thing completely different to your panorama that additionally has a tropical vibe, this simply could be your plant. As soon as established, it requires little or no upkeep and is a trouble-free addition to the panorama. Once more, spring can be one of the best time so as to add this palm to your private home backyard. Nonetheless, even when it isn’t spring, take a while to scope out a future residence in your backyard for this glorious Southern native.

Let’s take a better have a look at this stunning plant:

—Andy Pulte is a school member within the plant sciences division on the College of Tennessee.