Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Growing Palm Trees from Seed ...

My wife has always wanted a palm tree in our garden.  Despite my insistence that this is bloody-freezing Northern England and therefore it's just not possible, I've had to endure the accusing glances and disparaging comments whenever we've driven past other local gardens in which, admittedly, many appear to be flourishing.

Our nearest garden centre also stocks several of them, but they're all under the protection of the glasshouse areas and not standing out in the open ground.  The smallest versions are more than twenty-five quid each and they even want around £300 for some of the larger specimens !

Anyway, we were on holiday in scorching-hot Mallorca in early August, and on one of our many trips out and about on the hired motorbike we passed a Spanish garden centre and stopped for a browse.  

The upshot was we bought three packets of palm tree seeds;  Washingtonia Filifera, in which there were around 50 seeds per packet, date palms Phoenix Dactylifera which contained only four seeds, and Chamaerops Humilis of which they were six seeds in the packet.

Of these, the Chamaerops seemed the most promising for our location simply because they were the only ones described on the packet as being 'hardy'.

I should point out also that this same Spanish garden centre had many large specimens of various palms on sale for up to 8,000 Euros each...

The day after our return to the UK, I planted all these seeds in trays within the greenhouse.   And lo and behold, after just over five weeks we already have around 10 shoots from the Washingtonia Filifera.

one of the palm tree shoots.....

But no sign of life as yet from the other two palm variants.....

We'll bring all these cells trays into the house before there's a chance of frost, and see if we can at least grow them on to small plants.

P.S. we also bought two packets of Pyracantha Coccinea, i.e. an orange Firestorm thorn, with a view to perhaps eventually augmenting our damaged fence at the southern boundary of the main garden.   Of course I've seen many Pyracantha plants for sale at various stages of development, including very small cell-grown trees available quite cheaply, but I've never before seen the seeds available from UK garden centres.  As yet, there's no sign of growth from these at all, but we planted nearly 100 seeds and so we'll wait and see.

Update 26-Sep-15

The Filiferas turned out to be the only seeds from the original sowings to germinate, and they're now looking very good after spending their first summer in the greenhouse.   

eleven of our sixteen Filiferas, with the leaves
already starting to divide into palm fronds

These plants will be brought back into the house for the winter, before the first frosts.

We also sowed some Trachycarpus Wagnerianus seeds in the late spring, from which we now have six plants at the single leaf stage.

the six 'waggis'...

This is a much hardier palm than the Filifera, and so they'll be left out in the greenhouse over winter.

In the summer, we bought a couple of larger specimens of Trachycarpus Wagnerianus and Fortunei, and these are in pots on the rear patio area, sheltered from the winds.

waggi on the left....

We tried sowing Aloe Vera seeds we bought when in Lanzarote in January, but none of them germinated... 

However, we'll still try to sow further batches of other hardier palm varieties.  It seems the key to successful germination is using fresh seed, so it's best to avoid the temptation to buy packets from souvenir shops in the holiday resorts.


  1. I can't help think you're planting these seeds at the wrong time of the year. Planting in Spring would have meant you'd have stronger, more mature palms heading into winter.
    Good luck though!

    1. Hi. The planting time doesn't make a lot of difference for these palms - they'll overwinter inside the house with the other tropicals, i.e. the citruses and gardenias.

      Generally, plants only know the time of year from the temperature and the length of daylight, both of which can be controlled in an artificial microclimate.

      In the tropics, neither the temperature or the length of day changes significantly throughout the year, hence in places like Central America they plant one crop of e.g. maize straight after a previous one matures and get three harvests a year - I'm lucky to get one sweetcorn crop here, although hopefully there'll be a few cobs to pick very soon....