The Q&A Archives: Propagating Palms

Question: Can you tell me how to propagate palms? I'm not sure which method to use with various palms. I'd like to start some from seed, but I'm not sure where they appear and how to collect them.

Answer: Palms are propagated either by seed or by offsets near the base of the plant. Palms begin to flower and produce cones in late May. You'll see the flowers in and around the palm fronds near the top of the tree. Seeds develop over the summer and are ready to be removed in January or February. Soak in water for several days, then remove the skin. They can be planted immediately, or retained in a cool, dry place until March. Plant seed sideways, with only the top edge exposed, in well drained soil. Keep the soil moist but not soggy. Seed will usually germinate in 3 to 6 months, but may require more than three years of growth to reach a small bulb size of 1 inch in diameter.

Offsets, also called "pups", grow at the base or along the sides of mature palms. Remove them in early spring, fall, or winter. Remove all the pups' leaves and roots, then set them aside for the raw spot to dry for a week or so. Plant in well-drained soil or a sandy mixture so that half the ball or trunk is below soil level, and water thoroughly. Allow the soil to become nearly dry before watering. It's best to start new pups in a shady area or a bright indoor area. Roots will slowly begin to form and the first leaves appear several months later.

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