Friday, January 30, 2009

Christmas Palm / Manila Palm

Botanical name : Veitchia merrillii syn. Adonidia merrillii

Christmas Palm is medium size palm that is a long-time favorite in South Florida yards. One of its common names is Dwarf Royal Palm because it resembles a "Mini-me" version of the Royal Palm (Roystonea regia). Christmas Palm has a very neat appearance and is well-suited to use as a patio, terrace, specimen, or framing tree.

Christmas Palm has a smooth slender grayish stem ringed by semi-circular frond scars. A 2-3' green crown shaft supports a crown of almost a dozen pinnate fronds. The fronds are arched to about 5' long with leaflets that are about 2' long and 2' wide. Where the crown shaft attaches to the trunk 2' long inflorescences sprout. Small butter-cream colored flowers form light green 1" long ovoid fruit. By December, most years, the fruit ripens and turns a crimson color.

How to grow
This palm is easy going in its requirements and will grow in most soils with well-drained except those that are constantly soggy. Christmas palm is moderately salt tolerant. Sow the seed directly into soil about 3-4 inch depth. The seed will germinate within 1-3 months.
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Hardiness: USDA Zones 10 - 12, does poorly in prolonged cold weather below mid-30F. Frost-free area. Prefer full sun, watering regularly. Young tree prefer partly shade area.

The showy Christmas palm is a compact beauty whose small stature makes it perfect for use in courtyards, atriums and other small scale plantings. It is sometimes closely planted in groups of two or three. This causes the twin's (or trio's) stems to curve in graceful arcs away from the center of the planting creating a lovely living sculpture. The formal symmetry of Christmas palm is nicely showcased when it is grown in a container. Indoors or out this is a glamourous container plant that can maintain its looks despite hardship and neglect.

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