Well-used, palms give gardens the feeling of being in a tropical resort – even if you live in the suburbs. There are many types of palms to grow in home gardens and even indoors in brightly lit positions. Palms are flowering plants that produce fruit. The best-known fruiting palms are date palms and coconuts. Most palms grow rapidly, adding their appeal to gardeners. Check out your local hardware or garden centre for a palm that would suit your location, inside or outside.

Palms come from regions all over the world including Australia. The best palms for gardens are clumping palms, which tend to stay small enough to be able to enjoy their lush fronds. Some of the most popular palms found in gardens and in pots include:

  • Foxtail (Wodyetia bifurcata), a narrow palm that makes it ideal for lining driveways or along a fence line. Native to Queensland it has a tall, slender, hardy habit with a striking canopy.
  • Alexandra (Archontophoenix alexandrae) is a tall, slender palm that is native to Queensland but found in all parts of Australia for its tropical appeal.
  • Bangalow (A. cunninghamiana) is one of the most popular palms in Australian gardens. They are a beautiful foliage palm which create a lush green canopy for other palms and ferns underneath.
  • Kentia palm (Howea forsteriana), which is native to Lord Howe Island, is a popular indoor palm with arching, glossy dark green fonds with lush foliage inside.
  • Windmill palm (Trachycarpus fortunei) is one for the cooler regions. An attractive palm that grows 7-10m high.
  • Lady palm (Rhapis excelsa) is a compact, dense palm with lush green fronds that suit a courtyard or small space and can also be grown in a large pot.
  • Golden cane palm (Dypsis lutescens) is an ideal choice for a container and can be grown indoors. It forms a clump of multiple stems and has a golden hue to its fronds and stems

Growing conditions

Aspect Most palms need an open, sunny to shade aspect depending on the variety. Indoor palms need brightly lit locations.

Soil Palms tolerate a wide range of soils but do best with moist, humus-rich soils with good drainage. When planting add homemade compost or organic matter and/or Seasol Super Compost to give your palms a great kick start to life. Small, clumping palms can be grown in containers with good quality premium potting mix such as Seasol Advanced Potting Mix.

Climate Palms are found in nature growing in tropical and sub-tropical locations, however, there are palm selections for every climate including cool climates. Palms also grow well indoors or outside in a sheltered temperate or mild environment.

How to grow and look after palms from planting to feeding and pests & diseases
How to grow and look after palms from planting to feeding and pests & diseases

General care

Watering Regularly water as plants become established after planting and during extended dry periods. As plants mature many need little additional watering although those in containers will need regular water.

Feeding and mulching  Palms can be fed via your preferred method, either liquid or granular food or a combination of both, depending on your plant variety. Keep plants lush and leafy with a granular fertiliser such as PowerFeed Controlled Release All Purpose including Natives during the growing season. Remember to water it in thoroughly after application. If you prefer liquid feeding apply PowerFeed All Purpose including Natives at half strength monthly during the growing season.

Spread mulch such as composted bark or gravel to deter weed competition and retain moisture.

Pruning It’s restricted to removing spent fronds. Some palms such as date palms have spiky leaves so care should be taken when pruning. Fallen spiky fronds can also be a danger. Tall growing palms that don’t naturally shed dead foliage can provide a maintenance issue as they grow.

Watch for These plants are generally free of pest and disease problems although some plants may be attacked by various caterpillars. Palm dart is a caterpillar pest of palms including indoor palms. Some palms including date palms can become nesting sites for pest birds including starlings. Cold weather and fungal disease may cause brown spots on fonds. Remove affected fonds and if palms are in pots move to a warmer, sheltered position.

Indoor palms may get brown tips to their fonds caused by dry air. To increase humidity, mist the leaves with water every week.