Like all date palm species, the Phoenix roebelenii – the dwarf date palm – is very popular as a robust houseplant. The name “dwarf date palm” is no coincidence, as the small plant reaches a trunk height of just 1 meter. The compact growth of the palm from Laos is compensated by its fine-feathered fronds, which can often be over 1.10 meters long. Phoenix roebelenii are also the ideal plants to create a Mediterranean flair in conservatories or bright rooms without much effort. In midsummer, however, nothing stands in the way of cultivation on the terrace or the balcony at home.
Table of Contents
origin and growth
- The trunk diameter of the dwarf date palm can reach a circumference of up to 20 centimeters with increasing age.
- The Phoenix roebelenii originally comes from Laos.
- The finely feathered fronds of the palm tree can reach a length of up to 1.10 m.
- The main trunk of the date palm is formed by the petioles of dead fronds. Rarely does the plant reach a height of more than 1 meter.
- Older palm trees can develop flowers, but this is rather a rarity in our latitudes.
location and cultivation
Dwarf date palms prefer warm temperatures, which is why they are the ideal plants for Mediterranean conservatories and light-flooded living spaces.
- The Phoenix roebelenii needs a bright location, but does not tolerate direct sunlight.
- The small date palm species also gets along very well with partially shaded places.
- The plant with its narrow feathered fronds is extremely sensitive to temperatures below 16°C.
- After an acclimatization phase, older plants can also be exposed to direct sunlight for hours without being damaged.
- Avoid windthrow and drafts.
The optimal floor
Date palms need a special mixture as a plant substrate to prevent waterlogging and soil compaction:
- 2/3 humus-rich soil is mixed with 1/3 gravel or coarse sand – this provides the palm with nutrients and ensures a loose soil consistency.
- Prepare a drainage of stones, potsherds or lava granules at the bottom of the pot so that excess irrigation water can be drained off quickly and root rot does not occur.
- Hydroponics are also well suited for dwarf date palms, although it is not necessary to install drainage.
The right climate
Members of the Phoenix roebelenii family require high humidity. Water vessels or indoor fountains placed in the immediate vicinity of the plant can meet the needs of the small palm tree. By regularly spraying the fine-feathered fronds, the plant cells are supplied with moisture directly.
The dwarf date palm needs warm temperatures of at least 16°C. Only in the cold winter months, when the plant restricts growth, is it possible to drop the temperature down to 10°C.
watering and fertilizing
The water requirement of the moisture-loving date palm depends on the ambient temperature and the season.
- In the main growing season, provide large amounts of water regularly and as needed.
- As soon as the top layer of substrate has dried, it is poured again.
- The soil must never dry out completely.
- In the cold season, increase the watering intervals and reduce the amount of water.
- Lime-free water at room temperature is preferred.
Despite its subtropical origin, the dwarf date palm does not tolerate waterlogging. Standing water in the saucer should also be avoided.
Whether conventional universal or special palm fertilizer, the Phoenix roebelenii gets along with both fertilizers without any problems.
- From April to September, fertilize the palm every 14 days.
- For an even distribution of the fertilizer, administration via the irrigation water has proven itself.
In the winter months, the plant hardly needs any additional nutrients. If you fertilize during this period, there is a risk of overdosing and damaging the palm.
Palm trees are relatively uncomplicated when it comes to pruning: the fine fronds of the subtropical plants hardly ever need pruning. Improper removal of brown spots could even damage the plant and encourage fungal or other pathogen infestation. The short trunk of the dwarf date palm is formed by the stalks of old fronds.
- Cut off dried palm fronds to about an inch or two from the stem.
- Brown tips or a pest infestation can be used to remove the affected areas with sharp scissors.
In order to regulate the height of the Phoenix roebelenii, it is also possible to shorten the root system by a few centimetres. In the first few days after the procedure, only water the palm moderately and do not use any fertilizer.
Due to the slow growth of the date palm, repotting is only necessary every 3 to 4 years. This step is necessary at the latest, however, when the flower pot is completely filled with the palm tree roots.
- The best time to transplant the plant is in early spring or late autumn.
- The new planter must be higher than the one previously used to provide adequate space for the taproots reaching down.
- Prepare a drainage and the substrate mixture.
- The roots are carefully freed from old soil and completely submerged in the new flower pot.
- Fill up with the fresh plant substrate and press down carefully.
- Sufficient watering in the next few days to make it easier for the palm to take root.
cultivation and propagation
The easiest way to propagate the popular houseplant is vegetatively via saplings. These shoots sprout on the main stem in spring and can be removed with a sharp knife.
- prepare a small flowerpot with a mixture of sand and humus-rich soil
- insert young shoots and press the substrate only lightly
- Water regularly
- Avoid waterlogging and complete drying out of the soil
- Warm temperatures between 20°C – 24°C accelerate root formation
- Ensure sufficiently high humidity
- Avoid direct sunlight even with young dwarf date palms
- The palm saplings need about 3 months before fine roots appear
- Do not fertilize the young dwarf date palm in the first 6 – 9 months
The cultivation of palm seeds is tedious, but can be done indoors all year round. Getting the small date palm to germinate requires a lot of patience and a little finesse:
- Soak commercially available seeds in lukewarm water for a few hours
- Process promotes germination
- Conventional potting soil is unsuitable as a cultivation substrate
- Prepare a mixture of perlite and coconut hummus
- Plant seeds about 1 centimeter deep and cover lightly with substrate
- To avoid premature selection, never sow more than 3 or 4 seeds in a planter
- Warmth and darkness are required for successful germination
- avoid direct sunlight here too
- The substrate mixture must not dry out, so moisten it regularly and carefully
- It can take 1-3 months for germination
- From a size of about 8 – 15 centimetres, prick out the young dwarf date palms
- Additional supply of fertilizer not required in the first year
The dwarf date palm is relatively sensitive to cold, which is why it is only commercially available as a houseplant. Older plants and hybrids are often more robust than the younger representatives of the Phoenix roebelenii, but they should not be exposed to temperatures below 10°C for long periods of time. Even direct proximity to the house or a special plant fleece does not protect the sensitive, subtropical plants from frost damage when cultivated outdoors.
- As soon as temperatures drop permanently below 16°C, dwarf date palms have to vacate their airy outdoor space.
- The conservatory or rooms flooded with light are suitable for wintering.
- The popular ornamental plant also gets along well with a place in the bright stairwell.
- In the winter months – in the rest period – the palm tree can also tolerate ambient temperatures of at least 10°C.
- Between October and March, the Phoenix roebelenii does not need any fertilizer.
- Water moderately – but the plant substrate must not dry out completely.
- Spray the fronds of the palm tree regularly with lime-free water. This is particularly necessary in warm rooms.
- In warm spring, slowly get the plant used to brighter locations again.
Recognizing and avoiding possible care mistakes
Brown Tips: Brown discoloration of the fronds is rarely a sign of disease or pest infestation. Dwarf date palms are extremely sensitive to changes and problems of any kind. Possible causes for the discoloration could be, for example:
- Nutrient Deficiency – Palm requires an immediate supply of liquid fertilizer
- Over- fertilization – transfer the palm immediately to fresh plant substrate and do not fertilize for the next few weeks
- The problem occurs particularly frequently in the winter months, when the dwarf date palm restricts its growth and hardly needs any nutrients
- Lack of water – not only regular watering of the plant substrate is necessary, but also the spraying of the finely feathered palm fronds with an atomizer
- Waterlogging – Too frequent watering and a lack of drainage provide the dwarf date palm with too much water. Even before root rot occurs, the plant reacts with brown discoloration of the frond tips.
- Wrong location – too much direct sunlight
- In its original home, it thrives in the shade of large jungle giants and only needs indirect sunlight here
- Incorrect watering behavior – Never pour large amounts of water over the palm fronds from above, but only directly over the ground
- Discolouration occurs particularly if the water is too calcareous.
Fronds become long and thin: a clear indication of a lack of light. The wrong place was chosen and the palm tree should move to a brighter location.
diseases and pests
Dwarf date palms are extremely hardy and rarely provide a nutritious home for pests and fungal diseases. Nevertheless, the plants with the Mediterranean flair are not immune to damaged spider mites .
Spider mites are particularly common in the winter months when the palm trees are permanently exposed to dry heating air. The “common spider mite” is one of the most common pests that occur on indoor plants. By sucking and biting the insects, the nutrient-rich cell sap is withdrawn from the infested host plants. The pests, which are only 0.5 centimeters in size, can hardly be seen with the naked eye. With a water atomizer, however, you can make the fine webs visible – but only the “common spider mite” is able to form such a web. With the right measures, you can prevent an infestation and even already infected palm trees are quickly freed from the annoying pests.
- Signs: Creamy to silvery discoloration on the fronds
- separate infected palm from other houseplants to avoid transmission
- Wash off with soapy water and – if available – a decoction of stinging nettles
- Repeat the process over several days
- increase humidity
- This prevents an infestation and makes life difficult for existing spider mites
- in case of massive infestation, wrap the palm in transparent foil and create a tropical climate over several days by regularly dusting with water
- Predatory mites or other predators are only suitable for use to a limited extent
- There are also commercially available insecticides that are effective against the pests
- only use them in moderation and according to the instructions