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A Floridata Plant Profile #227 Phoenix roebelenii
Common Names: miniature date palm, pygmy date palm
Family: Arecacea/Palmae (palm Family)
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Palm  Tolerant of Shade and Low Light Conditions Can be Grown in Containers Grows Well Indoors. Has evergreen foliage Has Unusual or Interesting Foliage

pygmy date palms
A big bed of pygmy date palms planted in a neat grid are a centerpiece of Miami Beach's fabulous Lincoln Road Mall.
This delightful little palm is a favorite landscape item in areas where it is hardy. It is just as likely to be encountered as a popular indoor container plant often used in shopping mallscapes and other commercial plantings. Pygmy date palm grow slowly reaching heights of 8-10 ft (2.4-3.1 m). The stem is covered with old leaf bases and is topped with a dense head of bright green pinnate leaves that grow to about 4 ft (1.2 m) in length. Delicate leaflets, arranged neatly along the upper length of the gently arched leaf stem lend the plant a very graceful aspect. Lower leaflets are modified into sharp pointed 2-3 in (5-8 cm) spines.

Cream colored flowers are held on short, 1 ft (0.3 m) inflorescences and are followed by small black dates on the female plants (male flowers are borne on a separate plant). Although this palm is single stemmed most nurseries offer it in containers planted with 3 to 5 specimens. When grouped like this, the stems tend to curve gracefully away from the center of the clump creating an especially attractive arrangement.

pygmy date palm infloresence
Immature pygmy dates hang from a female palm.
Phoenix roebelenii is native to the tropical forests of Southeast Asia, in particular Thailand and Burma (called Myanmar by that country's dictatorship). This popular little palm is grown around the world indoors and out.

Very adaptable to most soils (use light, fast draining soils in containers). Fertilize 3 times a year.
Light: Bright sun to partial shade.
Moisture: Needs adequate moisture for best look. Has some drought tolerance when mature.
Hardiness: USDA Zones 9-11 May be cold damaged at temperatures below 30ºF (-1ºC).
Propagation: By seeds (they take about 3 months to germinate)

leaf spines
Over the past several years Floridata has received several reports of injuries caused by the sharp leaf spines. Puncture wounds resulted in infections and nerve damage that required surgery. Exposure to the sap causes dermatitis (skin irritation) in some people.
Pygmy date palm excels in containers of all kinds. Also looks great by patios and entry ways. Use clumps of these palms as specimens and to serve as focal point in a mass planting of annuals. Also nice combined with evergreen shrubs in a mixed hedge. This rugged little palm looks great indoors - just give it a bright spot and keep it out of drafts (and away from where someone could brush against the spines - see Warning).

Small stature, delicate lacy appearance and easy care make this an exceptional palm that everyone can enjoy whether in the landscape or indoor containers. Pygmy date palm is inexpensive and available from mail order, nurseries and plant shops everywhere.

The pygmy date is related to the edible date (Phoenix dactylifera) which, as you might guess from its common name, it closely resembles in miniature.

Many palms are armed with dangerous spines and other sharp edges. But we are most likely to come in painful contact with those of smaller stature like the pygmy date palm. This palm has sharp needle-like spines arranged near the base of the leaf stem. These can easily penetrate skin, tissue - sometimes even protective clothing. This often results in painful infections and possibly other, more dire complications. Keep this plant away from children's play areas and walkways. Use caution and sturdy protective clothing when gardening near this and similar palms.

Jack Scheper 05/24/98; updated js 10/19/00, 10/30/04

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