In New Zealand the perception of a palm tree is more than not likely to be a tall, solitary plant. That’s not necessarily the case in the tropics where many palm trees cluster to form a number of trunks from the same plant. This isn’t an exclusively tropical phenomenon; there are plenty of exceptions to the rule on both sides. It does however appear to be something that occurs more in tropical palms and, in many cases, looks more tropical. For this reason we cherish those species of palm which do cluster yet grow well in New Zealand. They provide a tropical feel to our gardens without the need for year-round heat.
Clustering palms need not be dainty and reed-like. The rather large (and in some cases massive) Phoenix reclinata clusters heavily as do several other less common species of Phoenix. Equally there are species of Chamaedorea such as Chamaedorea microspadix which produce manageable clumps only around 3m tall with trunks less than 2cm across. Some barely even form a trunk as is the case with the gorgeous Chamaedorea cataractarum.
What we believe all of these clustering palms have in common though is that indescribable tropical appeal; be it the rainforest appearance of various Chamaedorea species or the tough desert look of the clustering Phoenix species.
Our pick of the best clustering palms for New Zealand are:
Dypsis baronii (Sugar Cane Palm)
Chamaerops humilis (Mediterranean Fan Palm)
Phoenix reclinata (Senegal Date Palm)