Highly adaptable to a wide range of growing conditions, this Christmas palm graces the narrow strip between the sidewalk and street doing its part to make Coral Gables, Florida one of the prettiest towns in the country.
Description Veitchia merrillii is a neat little palm that resembles a dwarf version of the royal palm (Roystonea regia) which it matches in beauty if not in size. It has a single slender gray stem that is smooth, sectioned by leaf scar rings and is swollen at the base. A short green crownshaft supports a neatly compact crown of about a dozen, plus or minus a few, pinnate (feather) leaves. These are arched and about 5 ft (1.5 m) long with leaflets that are about 2 ft (0.6 m) long and 2 in (5 cm) wide. Christmas palm grows to an overall height of about 16 ft (5 m).
From the point at which the crownshaft attaches to the trunk emerge 2 ft (0.6 m) long inflorescences (flower stalk) which support small grayish-green flowers. By autumn these have been replaced by green fruits 1 in (3 cm) long and half as wide. By late fall most of the green fruits are beginning to ripen and by late December are bright and brilliant red - like ornaments on a Christmas palm!
Christmas palm is native to the Philippines. It is a popular landscaping item in the capital city, a fact which inspires another popular name, the Manila palm.
This palm is easy going in its requirements and will grow in most soils except those that are constantly soggy. Christmas palm is moderately salt tolerant. Light: Prefers full sun but will take some shade. Moisture: This palm appreciates regular waterings but will tolerate periods of drought if not prolonged. Hardiness: USDA Zones 10 - 12 Propagation: Fresh seeds germinate quickly within 1 to 3 months.
The Christmas palm decks itself out in shiny red fruits just in time for the holidays. If you see some laying about, pick up a few and plant them. They are fun and easy to germinate and the seedlings are attractive.
The showy Christmas palm is a compact beauty whose small stature makes it perfect for use in courtyards, atriums and other small scale plantings. It is sometimes closely planted in groups of two or three. This causes the twin's (or trio's) stems to curve in graceful arcs away from the center of the planting creating a lovely living sculpture. The formal symmetry of Christmas palm is nicely showcased when it is grown in a container. Indoors or out this is a glamourous container plant that can maintain its looks despite hardship and neglect (but of course we'd always take care of this prized plant so it will look its best!)
For many years the scientific name of the Christmas palm was Adonidia merrillii and you may still see it referred to as that in older publications. That name is no longer correct and is now a synonym but the name adonidia is an often used common name for this palm. Adonidia comes from Adonis, the handsome sun god of the ancient Greeks. From a poetic point of view it's a shame that Christmas palm had to give up a cool genus name for the harsh sounding Veitchia - sometimes I just wish the botanists would just let these names alone!
Before you plant Christmas palm in the landscape check with your local agricultural extension (click here for Florida offices) unit to see if the disease lethal yellowing is present in your area. This palm is very susceptible to this fatal disease for which there is no effective treatment.