Puzzling Questions for a New Palm Enthusiast

Ivan Hares poses palm questions, and relates his trials and tribulations as a new exotics enthusiast.
Ivan Hares, Spring Cottage, 141 London Road, Cowplain, Waterlooville, Hants. PO8 8XJ, U.K.
Chamaerops No.42 - 2001

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I am a new member of the European Palm Society and have, until now, never felt the urge to write to any magazine. This is not due to a lack of hobbies, as my interests range from astronomy to watergardening. The reason why I am putting pen to paper now is because I have never before needed to know the answers to so many puzzling questions concerning such a seemingly mysterious subject, where there is equal scope for great success and miserable failure.

I have been interested in growing palms for about a year and, after managing to kill a succession of coconut seedlings (the usual fate for this palm when kept as a house plant, I'm told), I decided to try some easier subjects, such as Kentia, Chamaedorea, etc. While all of these seem to be happy, I am a bit concerned about my Lytocaryum weddellianum. I bought it about six months ago as a two-year-old plant and (I found out later not to do this) repotted it as a delicate seedling! It survived and has since almost doubled in size, now measuring a foot in height, and will one day need a bigger pot. How can I do this without damaging the roots, which I understand results in the death of the plant? I also have a Phoenix canariensis, approximately four feet high, as a house plant, which is in and out of the house in good weather. It seems to be growing quite fast and will eventually be planted out.

Late last year I bought a Trachycarpus fortunei (35 litre) and a Chamaerops humilis (15 litre), which I repotted immediately (again, as I now understand, not the best thing to do). Both, however, survived the winter well and continued to grow, though I'm not sure if that's a good thing or not. The Chamaerops has many suckers, some of which I would like to remove in order to shape the plant and propagate new plants. What is the best procedure for doing this without causing any fatalities? In April I bought a Butia capitata in a 35 litre pot that was bulging at the seams. It is a good size with approximately two dozen old leafstalk remnants, and it has four large fronds with two more on the way. As it appeared to need a larger pot, I decided to repot it. The pot I used for this, and the Trachycarpus, was a 75 litre plastic builder's bucket (modified with drain holes) with rope handles (excellent value from Wickes).

I wasn't too concerned about the aesthetics as it is my intention to put them in the ground next year. However, after reading about "pot planting" (an idea I like), I am not entirely convinced these extremely tough and indestructible-looking pots would be able to split and let sufficient roots out. (Is that how it works? Maybe someone can explain the mechanics of it to me?) At any rate, they are somewhat beyond the ideal five gallon size! Having said that, if it works, I'm all for it. I can't think of an easier way of planting them, especially taking into consideration the weight and possible damage factor.

I have some plans for the garden, still very much in the embryo stage at the moment, which include digging out another pond but with an exotic theme, using palms (of course) and other plants such as Cordyline, Phormiums, Fatsia, Bamboo and Bananas. Wish me luck!

Readers Comments:

On 11-11-2001 Björn Destree wrote:
Chamerops suckers:
I tried already to pot the suckers in order to get new plants. From 50 suckers there is still 1 alive.(still with no roots). I tried many hormons and treatments but I think this is very hard to manage.

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  15-12-19 - 08:02GMT
 What's New?
 New palm book
 Date: 24-05-2004

An Encyclopedia of Cultivated Palms
by Robert Lee Riffle, Paul Craft.
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Chamaerops 48
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'Palmen in Mitteleuropa'
by Mario Stähler
This german book tells you all about how to cultivate your palms in Central Europe. more...