The Q&A Archives: Care Of Palm Trees

Question: I just recently received 3 trees, they are a Raphis Palm, Kentia Palm, and a Bird of Paradise Tree. They are already 6 feet tall. What is the proper care for these trees?? They are being housed in Pennsylvania right now. I do aplogize for the spelling of the names, they may be slightly off. I would appreciate any information you may have for me.

Answer: Ladyfinger or Raphis Palm, as they are called have very shiny dark leaves. Their fronds stretch out like fingers on a hand from an upright furry trunk.

They like their soil to stay moist. Drying the soil severely can cause the foliage to turn gray, brown and crunchy. If the soil becomes too moist, the soil can encourage root rot and damage will eventually show up in the foliage with brown tips, spotting on the new growth and entire parts of the plant turning brown.

Kentia palms do not have a multitude of fronds - the few they produce create an elegant airy look. The fronds themselves are long and finger-like, and bend downward gracefully. They last for many years and are durable, though like most palms cannot tolerate severe dryness or continual over watering.

Spotting on the upper leaves can sometimes mean it is in too bright a light, or there is an excess of certain chemicals in the water (fluoride). These plants are well worth the investment.

Remove lower leaves as they discolor. If due to incorrect watering, the tips of the leaves become brown. If this happens, trim to the shape of the leaf.

The Bird of Paradise, or "Travelers Palm" (Ravenala madagascariensis) is a very unique plant which has a very attractive foliage habit. Not a true palm, but a striking plant that can grow up to 40' outdoors in the tropical and subtropical regions. It gets its name from the fact that thirsty travelers find water in the plants flower bracts and leaf folds. The plant has a trunk like a palm with large erect banana-like leaves arranged in a fan shape. The foliage is evergreen, medium green in color and coarse in texture. Small white flowers are held in a series of canoe-like bracts.
It can be grown indoors and in greenhouses where size is restricted by the container in which it is growing. Provide full sun for best growth. This plant will require a lot of overhead light, especially when grown indoors. Soil should be rich, moist and loamy.

Use a slow-release fertilizer such as 18-18-18. A high nitrogen, high potassium fertilizer can be used during the summer growing season. The large leaves may become tattered in wind. When this happens, the outermost leaves can be removed.

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