The Palm family is diverse and useful. Palms provide coconuts, dates, oil, sugar, rattan, raffia and sago, and play an important role in the global economy. As a houseplant, they are the defining symbol of the (sub-)tropics. There are over 200 genuses and 3000 species, which grow in the warm regions of Asia, Africa, America and Australia. Most palms have a straight trunk with a crown of feather or fan-shaped leaves at the top. Palms are always grown from seed, and the production time depends on the size of plant. The larger or older the plant is, the longer it takes to cultivate.
Livistona rotundifolia originates from Malaysia. Rotundifolia refers to the round, hand-shaped palm leaves. Rhapis grows in China and South-East Asia. Caryota, recognisable by its ‘ragged’ leaves, comes from a region stretching from India to the Philippines. Finally Cycas is not actually a palm, but is a member of one of the oldest plant families, the Cycadaceae. Cycads existed millions of years ago, in the Carboniferous and Jurassic period, also known as the era of the dinosaurs. in Jesus’s time the leaves were used to pave the roads, which is why the plant is also called the peace palm. Cycas occurs widely in southern regions, and is native to South-East Asia. The young leaves unfurl like those of fans. Cycas can reach a great age, up to 1000 years, but grows extremely slowly.
What to look for when buying specialty palms
- When buying specialty palms, it important to look at the number of plants per pot, since this indicates the thickness of the plant. Cycas, Rhapis and Livistona will usually contain no more than 1 to 3 plants per pot, and Caryota features multiple plants so that the plant has some volume straightaway.
- Also look at the plant's pot size, height and leaf length, which together say something about the age. The older and larger a specialty palm is, the more expensive it will be.
- When buying specialty palms, the plant must be free of pests and disease, particular mealybug and scale insects.
- If specialty palms have been kept too dry, they can suffer from red spider mite, which can be identified by grey discolouration of the leaves. Brown leaf tips are caused by insufficient humility, yellow leaves by soil which is too dry or wet.
- The plant must be well-rooted, may not wobble in the pot and may not be so top-heavy that it cannot stand independently.
- In the colder months it’s a good idea to place specialty palms in a sleeve, since they are very sensitive to cold.
Choice of products
The range of specialty palms is limited. It’s notable that no varieties are offered - all palms are botanical species.
Rhapis, also known as Lady Palm, is characterised by dark green fan-shaped leaves. The stems resemble bamboo poles and are covered in brown fibres, which makes the plant particularly decorative.
Caryota, or the Fishtail Palm, is very eye-catching because of its leaf tips which look like they’ve been torn, creating an exciting silhouette.
Livistona (Chinese Fan Palm or Fountain Palm) has large composite leaves. Because they are largely joined together, they appear to be one large leaf. Livistona has spiky leaf stems, which makes this plant particularly special.
Cycas (Sago Palm, Peace Palm) is characterised by sturdy feathered dark green leaves which grow on the trunk in a rosette. When the plant is young, the trunk looks like a ball. All the plants have massive, thick trunks the grow taller. Both young and older Cycas are available for sale.
Care tips for consumers
- All palms are ‘easy care’. However, every specialty palm requires a different approach, because the plants all grow differently, have different leaf thicknesses and structures, and originate from different regions. In order to be able to advise consumers correctly, look at the individual palm.
- he plant may require more or less water, depending on position, the size of the plant and the thickness of the leaves. For thicker and more rugged leaves (Cycas and Rhapis) give less water. For thinner and more fragile leaves (Livistona and Caryota) give more water. The latter two also like being sprayed from time to time, particularly in the winter months when the heating indoors is on, causing the air to be particularly dry. A light rain shower is also great for refreshing these plants in the spring and summer months. It also prevents browning of the leaf edges and tips.
- Plant food once every four weeks is enough to keep specialty palms healthy and beautiful for a long time.
- Palms generally prefer a moderately light or light position, but not in bright sunlight. The Cycas is the exception: in the summer months it can stand outside in the sun after it has slowly acclimatised to it. When Cycas produces a new leaf rosette, it will shed the old, lowest rosette. It’s best if new leaves are produced in a light, sunny spot outdoors, so that the leaves are nice and compact. The leaves will be more stretched in the living room.
- In the cold months, wrap up specialty palms carefully for transporting home: as tropical beauties they cannot cope with the cold.
Sales and display tips for specialty palms
A specialty palm is a statement plant which is best displayed with some space around it in order to do it full justice. A pedestal can thereby be effective. Specialty palms are popular gifts for a new home and a new venture, but are particularly bought by the general public for decorative reasons. Motivating sales arguments are thereby the air-purifying effect, the possibility of using them to create a green partition, and the natural, tropical look. Specialty palms also fit with the trend to use houseplants outdoors as well in the warm months.
Images of specialty palms
You can download the images below free of charge crediting Thejoyofplants.co.uk.
Specialty palms posters
You can download the posters using the link below.