How to grow and care for Pygmy Date Palm Indoors

Indoor Palm, Pygmy Date Palm

Botanical name: Phoenix roebelenii
Family: Arecaceae

Pygmy Date Palm also called Dwarf Date Palm is a small-sized Indoor Palm that is tolerant to drought and shade. It is native to the dense tropical forests of Africa and Southeastern Asia from Southwestern China, Northern Laos and Northern Vietnam. The Latin name roebelenii honors the orchid collector Carl Roebelen (1855-1927). It is a slow-growing slender tree growing to a height of 3-5 ft.The leaves are 2-4 ft long, pinnate, with around 100 leaflets arranged in a single plane. The leaflets are about 6-10 in. long and very narrow, slightly drooping and grey-green in color. The fronds develop off a stately central trunk. The flowers are small, yellowish, produced on a 18 in. inflorescence. The fruit is an edible 1 cm drupe which resembles a small, thin-fleshed date. According to a study carried out by NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration), Phoenix roebelenii was found to get rid of common VOCs like xylene, toulene and formaldehyde from indoor air. Pygmy Date Palm is closely related to Phoenix canariensis (Canary Island Date Palm).

How to Grow Pygmy Date Palm

Light

Pygmy Date Palm prefers bright, indirect light but can tolerate some light shade. An east-facing or north-facing window is ideal for this palm. Learn how to ensure your plant receives the correct light in this guide on understanding light for houseplants.

Water

Watering Pygmy Date Palm requires watering thoroughly until water runs through the drainage hole and allowing the top 1-2 inch of soil to dry out between waterings. Reduce watering in the cold season and allow the soil to dry out between waterings. Use chlorine-free water for watering; like all palms, Pygmy Date Palm is sensitive to chlorine and other chemicsl dissolved in water. Do not allow the palm to sit in soggy soil as it may lead to root-rot and eventual death of the palm. Learn more on how to water houseplants.

Temperature

Average warmth with a minimum of 120C is ideal for Pygmy Date Palm. If the temperature is comfortable for you it is suitable for this Palm. Protect Pygmy Date Palm from cold draughts. Find out more on temperature for houseplants.

Humidity

Moderate to high humidity is excellent for Pygmy Date Palm. Mist the leaves frequently or set the pot on a wet pebble tray during hot weather to raise humidity. Occasionally clean the leaves with a gentle spray of water from a hose or spray bottle to get rid of dust.

Feeding

Feed Pygmy Date Palm with a water-soluble fertilizer monthly during the growing period. Water thoroughly until the solution comes out through the drainage holes. Withhold feeding in the cold season as growth is minimal at this time. Learn more on how to feed houseplants.

Repotting

Repot Pygmy Date Palm every 2-3 years at the beginning of the growing season when the palm has become root-bound. Use a pot 1-2 sizes larger that has a drainage hole(s). The soil should be free-draining and rich in organic matter.

Pruning

Pruning Pygmy Date Plam is easy. Cut away the old brown and dry fronds near the soil surface to maintain your plant neat and tidy. Cut off only old brown and dry fronds. Any frond with green continues to provide food (nutrients) to the plant. Where the seeds are required for propagation, allow the fruits to mature and drop then cut away the spent flower stalk. Where the seeds are not required, cut away the flower stalk immediately to prevent the plant from wasting energy on developing the flowers and seeds. Learn more on how to prune houseplants.

How to Propagate Pygmy Date Palm

Pygmy Date Palm is exclusively propagated from seeds. Seed germination can take up to 3 months and requires keeping the soil moist through out the period. Sow the seeds in moist soil and place in a warm place. Keep the soil moist through out the period until germination takes place. Move to cool shaded place after germination and maintain the soil moist until the plant is well established.

Common Problems in Pygmy Date Palm

  • Leaves with brown tips
  • Reasons for brown leaf tips in Pygmy Date Palm are dry air, underwatering, cold draughts and damage by touching. Trim off the brown tips with sterilized scissors. Correct the faults by raising the humidity, watering correctly, protecting Pygmy Date Palm from draughts and placing the palm away from traffic respectively.

  • Yellowing of leaves
  • Underwatering Pygmy Date Palm is the reason for yellowing leaves. Water thoroughly during the growing season and allow the top 1-2 in. of soil to dry out between waterings. Never allow the soil to dry out completely.

  • Leaves with brown spots
  • Overwatering or sudden decrease of temperature are the causes of brown spots in Pygmy Date Palm. Remove the affected parts and improve the growing conditions by correct watering and maintaining the right temperature by protecting Pygmy Date Palm from cold draughts.

  • Brown leaves
  • The lower leaves of Pygmy Date Palm may turn brown and droop due to age; remove by cutting and not pulling. If browning is general and accompanied by rotting the reason is Root-rot Disease due to waterlogging.

  • Pests
  • Pygmy Date Palm is rarely attacked by pests. However, common pests are Red Spider Mites, Scales and Mealy Bugs. Regularly check underneath the leaves for these pests. Isolate the plant to prevent spread to other houseplants.

Toxicity

The foliage of Pygmy Date Palm is non-toxic to both humans and pets. However, this palm bears sharp spines at the base of the frond which are extremely sharp and toxic. They often snap off once they penetrate the skin and may cause pain and swelling in the affected part of the body. Always wear leather gloves, eye protection and thick clothing when handling this palm.

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