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Phoenix

Date palm
Arecaceae (Palmae)
Palms and cycads

These feather palms are mostly large trees, though the following list includes one dwarf. Trunks are patterned with bases of old leaf stalks. Small yellowish flowers appear in large, hanging sprays. On female trees, blossoms are followed by clusters of dates—but only if the tree has been in the ground for at least several years and if a male tree is nearby. 

Dates of Phoenix dactylifera and Phoenix sylvestris are the ones found in produce markets; those of other species don’t have as much edible flesh. Date palms hybridize freely, so buy these trees from a reliable nursery that knows the seed or plant source.

Phoenix canariensis
Phoenix canariensis

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Phoenix canariensis

Canary Island native. Hardy to 20°F/–7°C; slow to develop new head of foliage after damage from hard frosts. Big, heavy-trunked plant to 60 ft. tall, with a great many bright green to deep green, gracefully arching fronds that form a crown to 50 ft. wide. Grows slowly until it forms a trunk, then speeds up a little. Young plants do well in pots for many years, looking something like pineapples. Best planted in parks, along wide streets, or in other large spaces; not for small city lots. Takes seacoast conditions.

Phoenix dactylifera, photo courtesy of Gilles Delacroix/Garden World Images
Phoenix dactylifera, photo courtesy of Gilles Delacroix/Garden World Images

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Phoenix dactylifera

Leaves killed at 20°F (–7°C), but plants have survived 4°F (–16°C). Native to the Mideast. Classic palm of desert oases. Slender-trunked tree to 80 ft., with a crown 20–40 ft. wide; gray-green, waxy leaves havestiff, sharp-pointed leaflets.Sends up suckers from base;natural habit is a clump ofseveral trunks. Bears dates ofcommerce; principal variety is‘Deglet Noor’. Too large andstiff for most home gardens.Does well at seaside, in desert.

Phoenix reclinata

Native to Africa. Grows 20 to 30 ft. high and wide. Produces offshoots, forming picturesque clumps with several curving trunks; if you want a single-trunked tree, remove offshoots. Fertilize for fast growth. Good seaside plant. Damaged below 25°F/-4°C.

Phoenix roebelenii
Phoenix roebelenii

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Phoenix roebelenii

Native to Laos. This small, slow, single-trunked palm grows 6 to 10 ft. high. Fine-textured, curving leaves form a dense crown 6 to 8 ft. across. Good in groves or as a potted plant. Full sun or partial shade. Indoors, provide bright indirect light. Foliage browns at around 26°F/-3°C but recovers rapidly in spring.

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