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Care Guide: Growing Palm Trees in British Gardens

Palm trees evoke the feeling of tropical holidays, but did you know you can grow hardy palm trees in British gardens? In this article, we will explore how to grow and care for palm trees in the UK, making it easy for you to enjoy these beautiful additions to your garden.

Hardy Fan Palms in Garden
Hardy Fan Palms in Garden

The different Palms that are available range enormously, sometimes stiff and jaunty, sometimes soft and floppy; the trunks can be hairy or grooved, bulbous or lean, each with their own shape and character. In the UK, Palms are very slow-growing but otherwise easy to keep. They can be kept potted at the size you want – effectively dwarfed, simply by keeping the root run restricted, which they actually love and benefit from, provided they are kept well fed.

Positioning a Palm Tree

Your new Palm will enjoy full sun or dappled shade; a hot sheltered position is best with lots of water after planting and until established, thereafter no need to water unless very dry. You don’t need to prune garden Palms but do cut off any dead leaves. They are generally very easy to grow and long-lived.

How to Plant a Palm Tree

Planting Palm Trees is similar, in most ways, to planting other kinds of trees. Try to plant your tree shortly after delivery; if there is going to be any time gap between delivery and planting, make sure that the tree’s root ball is kept moist but not soaking. The best time of year to plant is during the warmer months of the year.

Steps to Planting Your Palm Tree

  1. Remove your Palm from the nursery pot – be very careful; you may have to cut the pots off from many Palms as they are restricted to smaller pots.
  2. Dig a hole wide enough to fit the root ball with plenty of spare space. Twice as wide might be a good rule of thumb in many cases. The hole should be just deep enough so that the tree is planted at the depth at which it was grown.
  3. Do not plant the tree any deeper, as this may deprive the roots of nutrients and water.
  4. When the tree has been situated in the hole, backfill it with the freshly dug soil. It is beneficial at this time to incorporate good quality compost into the soil being used to backfill the hole and use Root-grow to help the Palm get established.
  5. You must plant your Palm in free-draining soil; if your soil retains excess moisture, this could be detrimental to the Palms health in winter. We recommend incorporating large volumes of compost, sharp sand, and gravel into heavy soils before planting to help drainage.

Steps for After Planting Your Palm Tree

  • Once planted, firm your Palm in well.
  • We recommend you lay down a layer of mulch around the tree – this could be chipped bark, gravel or another topping 5-l0cms thick. This will help retain moisture over the summer while the Palm is getting established.
  • Frequent watering and feeding are crucial for newly-planted Palm Trees. Daily for about the first two weeks and then tapering off over several months as the tree establishes itself.
  • In the early stages over the warm summer months, it is important never to allow your tree to dry out as this will severely weaken your new Palm.

Planting in Containers

If you plant into planters instead, providing drainage in these containers is essential. First, drill several holes in the planter’s base, then add a layer of gravel, stones or old broken plant pots. Next, add a good quality multi-purpose compost around the root ball of your tree. We have root-grow and feed available online to help your new plants get established.

Caring for an established Palm Tree

As autumn arrives and temperatures drop, Palms seek warmth and protection like us. Potted Palms can be moved to a well-ventilated greenhouse or conservatory for shelter from winter winds and rain. If that’s not an option, place the planters close to the house for additional protection. Avoid overwatering during winter; keep the soil damp, not wet or saturated. Some people use bubble wrap to insulate the roots.

Before snowfall, which usually occurs by mid-December in the UK, tie up the Palm’s leaves to shield the crown. This prevents excess rain and snow from accumulating at the centre, which could be harmful if it freezes. Remove any debris from the heart of the plant before tying it up. Cold conditions and winds can cause dehydration. Consider wrapping the Palm in horticultural fleece or adding a plastic or bubble wrap layer.

For Palms in the ground, ensure good drainage and follow the wrapping-up method for protection. Remember that these methods are not foolproof, and extremely low temperatures may still cause freezing.

An alternative option is to use a special plant jacket that easily fits over the Palm and zips up, protecting without the need for extensive wrapping. The older and more established the Palm becomes in your garden, the better its chances of surviving each winter with minimal protection.

Ultimately, these methods can be beneficial but do not guarantee absolute protection from severe winter conditions.

FAQ’s

What is the easiest Palm Tree to grow in the UK?

“The easiest Palm Tree to grow in the UK is the Trachycarpus fortune. Commonly known as the Chusan Palm or Windmill Palm. This palm species is well-suited for the UK climate and is relatively hardy compared to other palm varieties. It can tolerate colder temperatures and thrives in many parts of the country,” says Chris Bonnett, gardening expert for The Express.

How long do Palm Trees take to grow in the UK?

The growth rate of Palm Trees in the UK can vary depending on various factors, including the species, environmental conditions, and care provided. Generally, Trachycarpus fortunei can take several years to reach maturity and start looking like a typical palm tree. It may take 10 to 20 years for the palm to attain its full height, ranging from 7 to 12 meters.

What is the lifespan of a Palm Tree in the UK?

The lifespan of a Palm Tree in the UK can vary significantly depending on the species and the conditions it experiences throughout its life. On average, a healthy Trachycarpus fortunei can live for several decades. Often living up to 50 to 100 years or more, with proper care and protection from severe weather conditions. Other palm species may have different lifespans, so it’s essential to consider the specific type of palm tree.

Download Care Guides

We have created two care guides to help you grow a happy and healthy plant. We have an In-depth Care Guide and a Simplified Care Guide. For more gardening ideas and plant care tips, check out the rest of our Knowledge Hub here.

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Updated on December 14, 2023

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