Phoenix loureirii: Dwarf Date Palm

The palms are tropical species and enjoy very hot conditions except for the last one, which requires a rather moderate climate. All do very well in modern homes with central heating if provided with ample light, best of all direct sunlight. Licuala requires the least amount of light, for in its native land it generally grows in the shade of luxuriant vegetation, but still it needs a well-lit spot.

All palms should be grown in fertile heavy compost. John Innes potting compost No. 3 would be ideal for mature plants. The compost must never be allowed to dry out completely. Palms need lots of water and this should therefore be supplied liberally, particularly during the growing season. Feed, best of all liquid manure or an organic fertilizer, should likewise be supplied in summer.

Palms are generally propagated from seeds, either brought home from a holiday or else purchased together with the fruit in a package of dates. First of all they should be soaked in tepid water for two days or else carefully grooved with a file and then put in a mixture of peat and sand in a small pot, which should be watered and covered with a piece of glass to keep the compost adequately moist. The seeds will germinate in 1 to 3 months, depending on the species. When the seedlings have two leaves they should be potted up individually in small pots of John Innes potting compost No. 1.

There is no disputing the many uses to which palms have been put by man. Their leaves are used as roofing by natives, the trunks often serve as building material, and some have edible fruits such as dates and coconut. Copernicia cerifera from South America has leaves which are covered with wax which is collected; Arenga saccharifera yields palm sugar, and Elaeis guineensis has oily fruits that yield a good-quality palm oil. These are only the better known examples.

15. November 2011 by Dave Pinkney
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