The Hawaiian palm, with the scientific name ‘Brighamia insignis’, belongs to the bluebell family. The German name ‘volcanic palm’ refers to their country of origin Hawaii and their shape reminiscent of palm trees. However, this plant is not a palm, but a stem succulent. The non-succulent leaves are about 12-30 cm long and 6-12 cm wide. When these fall off, they leave scars on the stem of the plant. The inflorescences of the Hawaiian palm are about 10 cm long with 4-7 star-shaped flowers each. In contrast to most other plants, this plant takes a break in summer and grows for it in autumn and winter. Characteristic of this plant are the thick, fleshy trunk and its rosette or wreath arranged fresh green leaves.

Location and soil

The Hawaiian palm needs a bright and sunny location in autumn and winter. During the heating season, bright locations with temperatures of at least 16-18 degrees are ideal. In general, high humidity leads to increased growth of leaves and a lot of light promotes the growth of the trunk of this plant.

From the end of May to September, depending on the weather, the Hawaiian palm can also be in light shade in the garden or on the balcony. This plant should be protected from strong sunlight in summer, especially from the midday sun. If the temperatures drop below 10 degrees at night, it’s time to bring them inside. The soil should be well drained and dry. A drainage layer in the planter protects against waterlogging and therefore also against rot.

Watering and fertilizing

As far as the water requirement is concerned, this plant is very frugal and also copes very well with dry periods. This is mainly due to the fact that the stem of the plant acts as a water reservoir and so it can get by for up to 6 weeks without additional water. The fewer leaves there are on the plant, the less water it usually needs.

During the growth phase, from autumn onwards, watering can be done about once a week. The soil should always dry well before watering. Excess water in the coaster should always be removed. In summer, especially in June / July, the volcanic palm should be kept dry.
Fertilization is done regularly during the growth and flowering phase, once a month with a special fertilizer for cacti and succulents in half the concentration. During the rest phase in summer there is no fertilization at all.

Plants / repotting

  • Under optimal conditions, the Hawaiian palm can grow up to 1 m in height.
  • To do this, it needs, among other things, sufficient space.
  • Accordingly, they should be repotted regularly in a larger planter.
  • You should do this in spring at least every 2-3 years.
  • Commercially available cactus soil is suitable as a substrate.
  • The bottom layer is a drainage layer.
  • This can consist of gravel or expanded clay, for example.
  • This is followed by the substrate in which the plant is placed.
  • Then fill the pot with substrate and press down well.
  • Now pour the whole thing well and place in a bright place.
  • It is essential to protect the plant from direct sun.

Propagation by sowing

The small, 1 mm seeds of the Hawaiian palm ripen in a capsule on the plant. Pollination is a prerequisite for their formation, however, this is only possible by hand with this plant. There are hardly any Hawaiian palm seeds commercially available. Anyone who was able to buy some in spite of everything can try their hand at sowing.

Although this is possible, it is relatively difficult and not always successful. The seeds are spread on an appropriate substrate and lightly pressed. The substrate can for example consist of a mixture of potting soil and cactus soil. It should be moistened well.
It is advisable to only spray the substrate and not to water it, so as not to wash away the small seeds. Then you put the whole thing bright and cool, for example in an unheated winter garden or an equally unheated greenhouse. Patience is required and with a little luck some seeds will germinate. Since propagation by seeds is relatively difficult, it is advisable to buy early young plants from specialist gardeners.

Propagation by hand pollination

Those keen to experiment can also try pollinating the plant by hand and with a little luck win new seeds for sowing. However, at least one additional plant is required for this. If this problem is solved, a soft brush or a cotton swab is needed, for example, a brush would be ideal.

Now you go with the brush carefully over the pollen of an open flower of one plant and then stroke it over the stigma of the carpel of the other plant. The scar is the upper part of the stamp. With a lot of patience and luck, the pollinated plant will develop seed heads after a few weeks. These tiny little seeds grow in a seed pod and can then be used for your own cultivation.

Overwinter

There is no overwintering in the true sense of the word with the Hawaiian palm. This plant is a houseplant and therefore not hardy. Because of this, if she has spent the summer outdoors, she should be brought in when the temperatures drop below 10 degrees at the latest. In contrast to many other plants that take a dormant phase in winter, the Hawaiian palm grows and flowers precisely during this time.

The watering behavior in winter depends on the prevailing temperature. The warmer it is, the more penetrating it should be poured. For example, more water should be poured at over 20 degrees than at cooler temperatures. However, temperatures should not drop below 15 degrees in winter, at least not for long periods of time. The ideal room temperature in winter for the Hawaiian palm is between 16 and 19 degrees.

During the cold season, the plant should not only be warm, but also particularly bright. The brightest place in the apartment would be good, because now it needs an additional portion of light. Under optimal conditions, small, light yellow flowers appear from the end of autumn. In winter, however, not only the dainty flowers develop, but also the fresh green leaves. These form at the top of the trunk in the form of a rosette.

Diseases and pests

The Hawaiian palm is a very decorative houseplant, but it is very susceptible to various pests and diseases. The pests include the spider mite and thrips. In terms of diseases, root or stem rot should be mentioned, which can occur very frequently. In addition, there can be further damage to plants, which can have various causes.

Root or stem rot
Root or stem rot usually occurs when the substrate is permanently too wet or due to waterlogging. To prevent this, it is advisable to use only permeable substrates and to provide the planter with an appropriate drainage system. For example, if the roots are soft and mushy, there may be root rot.

The plant can no longer absorb any water or nutrients through its roots and eventually dies. Rotting usually shows when the plant loses its leaves, but this can also have other causes.

If there is ultimately rot, you should take the plant in question out of the pot as quickly as possible, remove the soil from the roots and the rotten parts of the roots and clean the pot or use a new one. Then a layer of drainage is added to the pot and the plant is planted in fresh substrate. Now it should be watered according to the season to avoid repeated rot.

Waterlogging in connection with cooler temperatures is particularly dangerous for the Hawaiian palm. This can lead to the rotting of the tribe. Then the plant can usually no longer be saved; it eventually dies.

Yellow leaves – causes

If the leaves of the Hawaiian palm turn yellow, it is not necessarily due to a disease, but can have several causes. On the one hand, this can be due to the fact that it is too bright or sunny in summer. As a rule, however, it is normal for the plant to lose some or all of its leaves in summer.

In order to keep leaf shedding as low as possible, it is advisable to protect the plant from the sun in summer and to place it a little darker. Older leaves can also turn yellow. Another possible cause of yellowing of the leaves can be a change of location.

The yellow leaves can easily be removed from the plant. This is not only unproblematic, but also stimulates the plant to form new leaves again. In addition, when the leaves are removed, a white milky sap emerges from the trunk. This closes the wounds caused by the breaking off in a natural way. However, yellow leaves can also indicate a pest infestation.

Pests

Spider mite
The spider mite is one of the most common pests on the Hawaiian palm. With an appropriate infestation, the plant loses leaves, sometimes even all, which is a natural reaction of the plant to protect itself from this pest. However, there is no risk of the plant dying off.

Infestation with this pest occurs especially in winter in places that are too warm or in dry heating air. Infestation is less likely in summer, especially if the plant is outside in a partially shaded place during its resting phase.

In addition to leaf shedding, an infestation can sometimes be seen in fine webs under leaves. It is often sufficient to rinse off the undersides of the leaves in particular with lukewarm tap water. Otherwise, one can use remedies based on neem and potash soaps, for example, and administer them according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Thrips
An infestation with thrips, also known as fringed wings or bladder feet, can also be observed. A corresponding infestation can usually be recognized by the white, silvery shiny spots on the leaves, which are caused by the sucking behavior of the insects that are located on the underside of the leaves. Warm, dry air encourages infestation.

In the case of an initial infestation, non-containing sprays can be used for control. It is also helpful to hang up so-called blue boards, because the thrips have the ability to fly. To prevent it from spreading, it is particularly important to isolate infected plants from healthy ones as quickly as possible.

Conclusion
The Hawaiian palm, one of the succulents, is an eye-catcher in every living room or winter garden with its fresh green leaves and long, delicate flowers that appear from the end of autumn until winter. Under optimal conditions, it can reach heights of up to 1 m. Unfavorable site conditions, on the other hand, can lead to pest infestation or rot. Despite everything, this plant is a very easy to care for houseplant.

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