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Palms for Europe

Carlo's personal list of many of the palms suitable for growing, outdoors, in various parts of Europe all of which can be seen on his own island of Sicily.
Carlo Morici, Via N. Fabrizi 3, 98123 Messina, Sicily, Italy
Chamaerops No. 14, published online 23-08-2002

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Over the last few years, by visiting many botanical and private gardens, I have built up a list of many of the palms, which should be suitable for outdoor growing in different parts of Europe. The list is not exhaustive; there are undoubtedly many other species, which should do as well.

Perhaps the most suitable species for the Mediterranean area, where drought is common, are Washingtonia filifera and robusta, Phoenix canariensis (the most common) and dactylifera, and of course Chamaerops humilis. They are sometimes to be seen in a semi-wild state, aggressive enough to compete with the indigenous vegetation.

All the plants on which I based my work have survived many winters without protection, such as wrapping, mulching etc. Sometimes a south facing wall behind the plant may have helped during the critical period.

I have taken account only of established plants (at least 3-4 years old); seedlings are much less strong. All the plants listed are actually growing outdoors in Sicily.

The most tender species listed are not suitable for public areas such as parks or street-side planting because their leaves may be damaged by cold winter winds, and in February may look very messy, but in June or July a whole new crown of leaves will have grown.

Don't forget that acclimatization is important for palms to be grown in a temperate climate.

Finally remember that different palms have different habits and needs. Always choose the right palm for your site or the right site for your palm.Palms For Outdoors In Europe

1. Very tender, needing sheltered sites:

Chrysalidocarpus lutescens
Dictyosperma album var. 'Rubrum'
Latania lontaroides

2. Suitable for southern Italy, Sicily and areas with similar climates where frosts are very rare, light and of short duration:

Acoelorraphe wrightii
Archontophoenix alexandrae
A. cunninghamiana
Areca triandra
Arenga engleri
Caryota mitis
C. rumphiana
C. urens
Chamaedorea cataractarum
C. costaricana
C. ernesti-augustii
C. metallica
C. oblongata
C. radicalis
C. seifrizii
Chambeyronia macrocarpa
Coccothrinax argentata
Copernicia alba
Howea forsteriana
Laccospadix australasica
Linospadix monostachya
Livistona alfredii
L. decipiens
L. mariae
Neodypsis decaryi
Phoenix acaulis
P. paludosa
P. roebelenii
P. rupicola
P. theophrastii
Ptychosperma macarthurii
Ravenea rivularis
variegated forms of Rhapis excelsa
Rhapis humilis
Rhopalostylis baueri
Rhopalostylis cheesemanii
K. sapida
Sabal etonia
S. princeps
Serenoa repens (various forms)
Trithrinax brasiliensis.

3. Hardy in the "Riviera" (Down to -2°C):

Chamaedorea elegans
C. microspadix
C. graminifolia
Howea belmoreana
Livistona australis
L. chinensis
Phoenix sylvestris
Rhapis excelsa
S. umbraculifera
Syagrus romanzoffiana
Trithrinax campestris

4. Hardy in Rome and similar climates (down to -50C):

Brahea brandegeei
B. dulcis
B. edulis
B. eriospatha
Nannorrhops ritchiana
Phoenix canariensis
P. dactylifera
P. reclinata
Sabal mexicana (syn. S. texana)
S. palmetto
Syagrus schizophylla
Trachycarpus martianus
Washingtonia filifera
W. robusta.

5. Very hardy, most even in parts of the U.K.:

Brahea armata
Butia capitata
Chamaerops humilis (various forms)
Jubaea chilensis
Rhapidophyllum hystrix
Sabal minor
Trachycarpus fortunei
T. takil
Trithrinax acanthocoma

There are many new palms that will in time be added to the lists, and will hopefully be available through the nursery trade. But already we can plant up a complete palm garden with: crownshafts (Archontophoenix, Rhopalostylis), spiny species (Trithrinax, Rhapidophyllum), trunkless palms (Sabal minor, Phoenix acaulis), three-ranked leaves (Neodypsis), fishtail leaflets (Wallichia densiflora, Caryota spp.), variegated leaves (Rhapis excelsavanegata'), simple, undivided leaves (Chamaedorea ernesti-augustii), branching trunks (Nannorrhops ritchiana, maybe even Hyphaene), blue leaves (Brahea armata, Chamaedorea metallica, Serenoa repens).

The list of palms we can grow is thankfully long, and getting longer. If you have the space, the money and the time, it would be possible to set up a little Fairchild Garden - just add Cycads!

The author would like to thank Mr Pietro Puccio, from Palermo, Sicily, who, with his experience, helped add many taxa to the list.

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