Palm trees are good for the health, and boost the spirits too. Here's 4 hardy palms for UK gardens and 3 excellent palms for indoors.
Why are people pleased by the pleasures of palms? These iconic plants signify hot weather, holidays, gentle breezes and relaxation. Theres something about palm trees that needs a blue sky and yellow sun to make them look comfortable. Here in the UK there are many people who give palms some garden space, presumably in the hope that they might create some sort of tropical paradise. Some of these plants fail miserably to achieve much growth. Others die during their first tough winter. A few, however, are hardy and can grow into sizeable trees. Given the right environment, underplanting and setting, these palms can create an impressive impact, even in the depths of winter.
Palms with fan shaped leaves. These 'windmill palms' are hardy in the UK
Trachycarpus fortunei and T. wagnerianus both have fan-shaped leaves.
Palm trees are iconic, provided they sit comfortably within their surroundings
Palms are architectural evergreens which will bring structural grandeur to their setting. Be sure to provide effective planting partners, however. You could consider strappy Phormiums, bamboos, bananas
and many different ornamental grasses.
A palm in isolation looks a little forlorn, but create an avenue of trees leading to a focal point and the picture is completely different.
Many people prefer to cut off the flower and seed heads of Trachycarpus fortunei so that the tree can put its energy into foliage.
Choose the right variety
Our hardiest palm tree species is Trachycarpus, or fan palm.
There are several different varieties, but the two you are likely to see for sale are Trachycarpus fortunei and Trachycarpus wagnerianus.
Theres also a dwarf fan palm called Chamaerops humilis
which is hardy to at least -10 degrees, or even lower in a sheltered spot. These trees have similarly-shaped foliage, appearing almost like a fan hence their common name.
Trachycarpus wagnerianus is a smaller palm and the foliage is more compact. It is also stiffer and can withstand greater wind.
also known as the chusan or Chinese windmill palm, is probably the most common and these trees can grow to 8m high, given the right location. In their more natural setting they will grow to 20m or more. The main drawback is tattiness of the foliage which tends to become rather battered by wind as the age of the plant progresses. Its a great idea to remove the damaged fronds, but once the tree reaches three metres tall it can be hard to reach the foliage!
The older fronds on a Trachycarpus fortunei can get rather tatty as it matures.
Perhaps a better bet for long-term beauty here in the UK is T. wagnerianus
which is also known as the dwarf chusan palm, the miniature or dwarf windmill palm. This is a slightly smaller tree and it has the bonus of foliage which is a little stiffer and more robust than T. fortunei. Its foliage is, however, slightly smaller too so it might not provide maximum impact to the same degree.
Trachycarpus wagnerianus makes a slightly smaller tree and its foliage is more robust than T. fortunei
Although not completely hardy, this Mediterranean fan palm can often survive in a sheltered garden spot. It can tolerate temperatures down to at least -10 degrees provided the ground is free-draining. A horticultural fleece covering will also help to protect the foliage during winter.
In the UK this will probably make only a small palm tree, but they easily reach 3m in the right conditions.
Chamaerops humilis is another wise choice of palm tree for UK gardens, but it might need some winter protection under minus 10 degrees.
And there's more, if you can manage to source this unusual palm
There is another hardy option available to UK gardeners, in the form of the more unusual Rhapidophyllum hystrix,
which is also known as the needle palm. This is a slow growing plant which is said to be probably the hardiest palm in the whole world. It gradually forms a neat mound of fan-shaped leaves and it loves sunshine, although it can cope with damp soils, provided they are free-draining.
The main point to consider is the slow growth rate of the Rhapidophyllum hystrix. It needs a lot of patience! In UK gardens it will rarely reach more than about 1.5m high.
Rhapidophyllum hystrix is seen only rarely in the UK but it's said to be one of the most hardy palms of all.
Palms for indoors
Phoenix canariensis hails from the Canary Islands and there are other varieties including P. roebelenii which make great house plants.
There are several palm trees that are not hardy in the UK and these include the highly popular Phoenix canariensis,
or Canary Island date palm. It has been awarded the coveted RHS Award of Garden Merit (AGM)
because its feathery leaves and forgiving, robust nature make it an excellent choice for many different environments. It needs winter protection as it is hardy only down to around -8 degrees, but could be the perfect choice for an atrium situation or sun room where it will add a bit of drama.
The pygmy date palm, Phoenix roebelenii, forms a dignified, typical 'palm tree' shape with its upright trunk and feathery fronds. A great indoor plant for an office or larger room.
The smaller Phoenix roebelenii, pygmy date palm,
is also highly suitable for a house plant. It grows to a height of about 3m, but will be contained indoors by the size of the pot.
Areca palms and Kentia palms
But by far the most popular palms for those wanting to deck their home or office space with a touch of the tropics are the Areca palm
(Chrysalidocarpus lutescens or Dypsis lutescens), and Kentia palm
Areca palms make wonderful house plants that are really easy to look after.
Its not surprising. The Areca palm has long, evergreen fronds that appear on golden stalks that arch upwards, outwards and down. The Areca palm
will generally reach a height of up to 2.5m indoors, whereas in its natural outdoor setting it could easily reach 10m tall. It is generally free from pests and diseases but, in common with many house plants, its enemy is over-watering.
The Kentia palm is a great indoor plant for darker places. It can cope with medium light but won't like direct sunlight.
The Kentia palm
, Howea forsteriana, is even easier to please. It has a similar, elegant form and easily provides the illusion of a tropical oasis. Its well suited to being grown in a container and it is one of those rare plants that doesnt mind a darker position. This palm wont much appreciate a bright conservatory but it will be happy in medium to low light.
Filtering out toxins from the air
There are so many reasons to love palm trees, not least the fact that they are good for your health too. Palms are excellent air-filtering devices that are capable of absorbing toxins
from the air. These potentially harmful substances include toxic
agents such as benzene
and plants such as palms help to neutralise the effects of sick building syndrome
Beauty, air cleaning, good health and elegance can all be achieved by adding a palm to your home.
Palms and other house plants available from www.perfectplants.co.uk
. Delivery to your door, across the whole of the UK, including Highlands and Islands.