Nothing says tropical paradise quite like a palm tree. If you live in warmer regions, you can take your pick of palms. But what about those of us who live in colder climates? Is there a palm tree that will survive the cold, or are we quite literally barking up the wrong tree? Fortunately, there is and we’re not. If you haven’t heard of the pindo palm, now’s the time to change that. This versatile palm is cool hardy. Despite looking like it’s just flown in from Florida, it doesn’t mind the occasional frosty day: providing all the other conditions are as they should be, it will tolerate temperatures as low as 10 degrees Fahrenheit. If you’re ready to introduce some tropical delight into your garden, here’s what you need to know about how to take care of a pindo palm.
What is the Pindo Palm?
Before we get too deep into the whys and hows of taking care of a pindo palm, a quick explanation for anyone not familiar with the tree. Sometimes referred to by its Latin name of Butia Capitata but more commonly known by its popular name of the jelly palm, the pindo palm is found primarily in the Gulf States, California, and the Southeast. With its luxuriant, light green foliage and its abundant fruits, it’s unquestionably a beautiful tree. Thanks to its ability to withstand colder climates, not to mention how well it grows both in containers and in the ground, it’s widely considered one of the most versatile and trouble-free palms around.
Pinto palms mature slowly, but you can eventually expect them to reach heights of around 15 to 20 feet (4.5 to 6 m.). Their trunk diameter typically measures 1 to 1-1/2 feet (30 to 45.7 cm.). The fruits, which can vary in color from a light yellow to a deep, brownish red, can be gathered and turned into jelly. Its seeds can be roasted and ground into a caffeine-free alternative to coffee. As the fruits are something of a magnet to wildlife, you can expect to be visited by plenty of birds when it’s in bloom.
How to Care for a Pindo Palm
Pindo palms are delightfully low maintenance, but there are still a few pointers to bear in mind when to comes to their care. As pindo palms grow very slowly, you might want to start with a nursery stock tree that’s at least three years old. There’s no obligation to do so, but you’ll have a long wait in front of you before you start enjoying the benefits if you don’t. Regardless of the age of the tree, the following tips should ensure it reaches its full potential.
Choose the Right Spot
As Hunker notes, pindo palms do best with plenty of light. Regardless of whether you’re growing it in a container or planting it directly into the ground, look for a spot that benefits from full sun. Although pindo palms will tolerate most types of soil providing they’re at least moderately salt-tolerant, they do best in well-drained, sandy loan or clay loan soils with a pH of 5.5 to 6.5. Although it won’t make any difference to how well the tree grows, try to avoid planting it within ten feet (3 m.) of decks, patios, or paved surfaces- as gardeningknowhow.com notes, the palm’s fruit, while tasty, can make a mess, and will leave hard-to-remove stains on wood or concrete. As a mature pindo palm can grow to 20 feet and occupy a spread of 12 feet, avoid planting it within 10 feet of any sidewalks or anywhere else it either won’t have room to grow or will encroach on other plants.
Plant it in the Warmer Months
It’s best to plant your pindo palm during either spring or summer. Start by digging a planting hole that’s around twice the size of the root ball. Once you’ve positioned the palm, refill the hole with soil and add palm tree fertilizer to help nourish the tree’s initial growth. You’ll need around 2 ounces of fertilizer per inch of the palm’s diameter. Next, create a berm around the palm to help conserve water and promote root establishment. You can do this by shaping the soil around the planting hole into a ring measuring around 6 inches high and 8 inches wide. Once you’re done, fill the ring with water.
Water, Rinse, Repeat
For the first two weeks after planting, your pinto palm will be thirsty. If it doesn’t get adequate hydration, it’ll get stressed. Aim to water it daily, or even more if the weather is particularly dry. Check the soil frequently: if it appears dry, add some more water. However, resist the temptation to overwater: too much water is as bad as too little. If you spot any standing water around the tree, cut down on the watering for a while. As the tree begins to become more established, you can gradually reduce your watering schedule. By the second year after planting, you won’t have to worry about watering very much at all unless the conditions become particularly dry. As sfgate.com notes, in addition to watering your palm, you might also want to give it the occasional rinse with the spray nozzle of a garden hose. This will help remove the dust, sand, and grime that can easily accumulate in the pinto palm’s lush foliage. It’ll also do a good job of washing away any mites or other insects making themselves at home in the fronds.
Fertilize Twice a Year
To encourage healthy growth, add a slow-release palm fertilizer in the spring and again mid-summer. Use a 12-4-2 formulation and add around 8 ounces per inch of trunk diameter. After the fertilizer has been applied, help its absorption by watering the palm.
Don’t Forget to Prune
Although pindo palms shouldn’t be pruned in winter, watch out for any yellowing, loose, or damaged fronds so you can remove them come summer. Removing green, healthy fronds to maintain a certain appearance isn’t advisable, and could stress the tree. If you’re adamant about training your palm into a particular shape, only remove fronds that are growing vertically or pointing downwards.
Check for Trouble
Although pindo palms are generally trouble-free, it pays to keep an eye out for trouble. As realpalmtrees.blogspot.com notes, one of the most common problems that can afflict the palm is a boron deficiency. To correct the problem, treat the soil with 2 to 4 ounces of sodium borate or boric acid twice a year.