In many ways the notion of the archetypal palm tree is of one thriving in a desert oasis. In truth that’s rarely the case with many palm trees preferring much less harsh conditions. Here we’ve picked out a few palm trees that like the sun.
Okay, it’s not a palm tree it’s a member of the lily family but let’s not let that distract us. What matters is that the Ponytail Palm absolutely adores the sun. It’s tough, drought tolerant and handles neglect. Best of all the new leaves of some varieties turn a deep red in the sun.
Brahea armata and Brahea edulis
Two palms just perfect for sunny conditions. Brahea armata, the Mexican Blue Palm, and Brahea edulis, the Guadalupe Palm, both thrive in full sun. The silver-blue Brahea armata needs dry conditions while Brahea edulis is much more tolerant of high humidity. The Guadalupe Palm is a great plant if you can find one. Think of it as a slower growing, tougher Washingtonia robusta.
Coming from the grasslands of Argentina the Jelly Palm is well used to harsh sun. As with many blue/grey/silver palms it doesn’t burn and takes tough conditions with ease.
Not surprisingly for a palm that originates from around Southern Europe and North Africa the Mediterranean Fan Palm is well suited to hot, sunny conditions. Again, the tough silver-green leaves indicate greater tolerance to hot conditions.
It may seem a little strange placing the graceful Kentia palm in the same category as other tough desert palms but the Kentia Palm takes hot sun better than any other feather leaf palm.
Livistona australis and Livistona decipiens
These two palms both originate in Australia (Livistona australis, the Australian Cabbage Palm predominantly along the NSW coast and Livistona decipiens, the Ribbon Fan Palm from North Queensland) so it’s entirely to be expected that they’ll take both sun and hot, dry conditions.
Several species of Phoenix come from hot, sunny locations but none is more synonymous with the desert oasis than the Date Palm, Phoenix dactylifera. Blue/grey leaves and stiff fronds; this is the palm of the Arabian Desert.
Another species of Phoenix that loves hot, sunny weather is the Senegal Date Palm. Despite its name this is a palm that’s found all over tropical Africa. Mature plants are a striking sight varying from those with graceful, thin trunks to monsters with multiple trunks each every bit as thick as a Canary Island Date Palm.
Sabal minor and Sabal palmetto
These two Sabal palms originate in the south-eastern US so are used to hot sun, hot drying winds as well as humidity (not to mention biting cold). Both species grow best in locations where they receive an abundance of sun and heat. Don’t be put off however – even in Northland’s mild and cloudy climate these palms grow well.
The Queen Palm is another plant that seems just too delicate to be considered a sun hardy palm but it’s a proven performer in hot, dry climates. Long before it was popularised in New Zealand it was grown as a landscape palm in Los Angeles and desert states in the American south. Genetically the Queen Palm is related to both the Jelly Palm and Coconut Palm which may explain its tolerance of the sun.
Originating in northwest Mexico in arid desert regions the Mexican Cotton Palm is naturally suited to hot, sunny conditions. The secret to good growth however is plenty of water. There’s a second species better suited to truly arid conditions, Washingtonia filifera, which succeeds on the east coast of the North Island.