White sandy beaches, crystal clear water, tropical fruits and cloudless blue skies as far as the eye can see. We may not all be able to enjoy this tropical paradise but with a few wise plant choices you can transform your own garden into an Oasis. There is a range of palms to suit most situations, from the garden to potted specimens for indoors. A tall stately Bangalow is an impressive addition to any garden. With the right soil preparation and good summer watering you can enjoy the tropical lifestyle without leaving your back yard.
Bangalow Palm, Piccabeen Palm
Australia (Queensland, N.S.W.)
Height: Up to 15m.
Graceful fern-like fronds 2-3m long, with green undersides in contrast to the Alexandra Palm's silver undersides. The trunk is smooth and straight, ringed by scars of fallen leaves, with a rusty scurf coating the base. In autumn it produces pendulous panicles of shell pink flowers.
Can be grown as an indoor plant, tolerating slightly darker conditions than the Alexandra Palm. As an outdoor plant it tolerates slightly cooler conditions but is still unsuitable for growing in the Adelaide hills. It requires regular watering in summer to be at its best.
syn. Neanthe bella, Collinia elegans
Parlour Palm, Mexican Dwarf Palm
Mexico, Central America
Height: Up to 2m high, more commonly 1m.
A graceful slow growing small palm that becomes multi-stemmed with age. Bears insignificant yellow-green flowers on long stalks, female plants bearing small black fruit on orange panicules. An ideal indoor plant, the Parlour Palm can take less light than most indoor plants and can tolerate a reasonable degree of neglect. Fertilise in the warmer months and water well in summer.
Height: Up to 2m
Small palm with clustering cane like stems with broadly spread pinnate fronds.
Can be used as an indoor plant, but requires more light than the Parlour Palm. It is also more sun tolerant, and can withstand a moderate degree of cold. Fertilise regularly to promote bushiness.
Golden Cane Palm, Butterfly Palm
This palm thrives in the warm coastlines of the tropics, where it is larger and more robust than in temperate regions. It makes an excellent potted specimen growing to about 2 metres. If grown outside it will need protection from the hot sun and the cold winters, and may not always look its best. A dense clustering palm with arching feathery fronds and golden/green stems. Often used as an indoor plant, requiring good, indirect light.
Kentia Palm, Thatch Palm, Sentry Palm
Lord Howe Island
Graceful, pinnate fronds to 2m, with glossy, fern-like arching fronds above a tall slender trunk. It bears yellow-green, olive shaped fruit in heavy clusters. It makes an excellent indoor plant . As an outdoor plant, it is most effective when planted in clusters. Somewhat slow growing, it enjoys warm climates, prefers a moist well drained soil and can withstand coastal conditions. Can be grown on the Adelaide plains, but not outdoor in the Adelaide hills. Prefers a shady position when young.
Dwarf Date Palm, Pygmy Date Palm,
Laos, Vietnam and southern China
Height: 1m to 3m in ideal conditions, width similar.
An attractive small palm for a sunny to partially shaded position in the garden or pot. Long arching deep green fronds atop a short rough stem. Will perform better with some regular summer watering. A great palm for creating a tropical feel around pools and smaller gardens.
Lady Palm, Miniature Fan Palm
Southern China and Taiwan
Height: Up to 4.5m
A beautiful palm forming a dense multi-stemmed plant with dark glossy green fronds, deeply divided into 3-8 finger like segments. An excellent indoor palm for low light situations. For outdoor cultivation, the Lady Palm prefers a warm climate with some shade - the leaves may burn if in full sun. A slow growing palm which makes it ideal for container gardening. Will tolerate some dryness but prefers regular watering in the warmer months.
syn. Cocos plumosa
Cocos Palm, Queen Palm
Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia,South America
The grey trunk is smooth and upright. The arching plume like fronds reach 1-5m long and are a soft, dark shiny green. The flowers are insignificant, but it produces edible orange-red dates which can attract bats and insects. Can self seed readily if the flower stems are not removed. It is not self-cleaning.
Can be grown in cooler climates than many palms. It is one of the hardier palms for cultivation in the Melbourne and Adelaide areas. They prefer fertile, moist, well-drained soil in full sun or semi-shade.
Chinese Windmill Palm, Chusan Palm
Northern Myanmar to Central China
Height: 7m to 10m in ideal conditions
An extremely cold tolerant slow growing palm which prefers cooler, temperate areas in full sun. It must have good drainage as it can suffer from root rot if too wet, but regular watering in summer will produce a more robust plant. As the palm ages it produces a trunk covered with dense brown fibers and large metre wide dark green fan shaped fronds. These large leaves can become quite tatty if in a windy exposed site. It is not self-cleaning so will have a skirt of dead branches hanging under the uppermost fronds.
These palms are occasionally available:
Height: Up to 15m.
An elegant palm with arching fern-like fronds 3-3.5m long; the silver-grey underside of the leaves catches light beautifully. Cream flowers appear mostly in autumn.
Thrives in wet, tropical climates, and can be grown indoors in a well-lit situation. Can be grown outdoors in the Adelaide plains, but will not tolerate the colder winters of the Adelaide hills.
Triangular Palm, Three-Cornered Palm
Height: 4 – 6m
This palm is particularly noted for its trunk, which is triangular in the cross section. It is generally short and stout and ringed with scars from fallen fronds. The pale, greyish-green fronds can grow up to 2.5m long.They prefer a tropical or subtropical climate and full sun, but may be planted in more temperate climate including the Adelaide plains and Perth. They must have well drained soil with regular watering in the warmer months. They will tolerate sandy soils and brief periods of dryness particularly if planted in a shadier spot.
Height: up to 30m in ideal conditions
A very tall palm with a thick trunk that takes full sun but will tolerate low light and cool conditions. It needs good summer watering and magnesium to keep the fronds green.
Sago Palm, Sago cycad, Japanese Sago Palm
A very slow growing plant that will eventually develop a stem. The fronds have narrow, densely packed, spine tipped leaflets and are a deep green. Can be single or multi stemmed.
Grows happily in the shade as long as it is not too wet, but will also tolerate a full sun position. Prefers a tropical to sub-tropical climate, but will grow quite easily in Adelaide, although it will be slower. All parts of the plant are poisonous especially to animals. Makes a good pot specimen.
Cardboard cycad, Cardboard Palm
Height: 1.3m x 2m
Slower growing when young this plant has tough fern like leaves that radiate from the centre. They will grow in the full sun or part shade in well-drained soil, and are quite salt and drought tolerant, but do not like the extreme cold. Grows well in a pot. All parts are poisonous.
Height: Up to 4.5m
A very slow growing evergreen plant with a single stem, a bulbous base, which stores water, and tufty grass-like leaves on top. Grows in full sun to part shade, needs excellent drainage and minimal watering. Drought tolerant. Makes a great container specimen indoors or out.