Growing Spindle Palm Trees: How To Care For A Spindle Palm


By: Bonnie L. Grant, Certified Urban Agriculturist

Plant enthusiasts are often looking for a bit of tropical flare to add to the landscape or home interior. Spindle palms are about as tropical looking as you can have, along with ease of care and paced growth that makes them a trouble free addition. This endangered plant is commonly cultivated and performs well in a range of areas provided enough light and space are available and freezing temperatures are not an issue. Learn how to care for a spindle palm plant and invite exotic specimen to your home.

Spindle Palm Plants

Spindle palms (Hyophorbe verschaffeltii) are slow growing plants equally at home in containers or in-ground. The plants are native to the Mascarene Islands in the Indian Ocean. Spindle palm plants are so called because of the ridges on the trunk that resemble a spindle and the shape, which is narrow at the base, widens and then constricts where fronds begin to grow.

The spindle palm is a true palm that may grow up to 25 feet in full sun conditions. The fronds are pinnately compound and up to 10 feet long with a foot long petiole. This creates an arching effect that is elegant and pleasing as the leaves rustle in the wind. The trunk is light gray and swells midpoint, narrowing again into a slim, smooth green crown shaft from which leaves emerge. The creamy inflorescences are up to 2 feet long in clusters and become orange to red fleshy fruits just under an inch in diameter.

In habitat, spindle palm growing conditions include sandy, well-drained soil and full sun. They often cluster together naturally in a grove. These plants look amazing in a similar form in the landscape or as stand-alone specimens in containers or garden beds. Many states do not have the correct spindle palm growing conditions for outdoor plants, but they can perform well potted in the home interior or greenhouse.

Growing Spindle Palm Trees

As an outdoor plant, spindle palms are recommended for United States Department of Agriculture zone 10 and down to 9b. In areas with minimal frost, plant them in a large container on casters so you can move the palm to a protected area if a cold snap threatens.

Container plants require good drainage, bright light, consistent moisture and annual fertilizing. The nutrients most often needed in larger amounts are potassium and magnesium. Potassium deficiency will exhibit by large orange spots on the fronds. Good spindle palm tree care recommends an annual fertilization with a high potassium ratio once per year in early spring.

In ground plants should be planted with top soil or peat moss added to the hole. Growing spindle palm trees in a bright western or southern edge of the house can help protect them and provide the lighting experience they crave. Install them 4 feet away from the house to give the fronds room to grow.

How to Care for a Spindle Palm

Spindle palms are remarkably unfussy. Once established, they can tolerate brief periods of drought and saline conditions. They are not technically self-cleaning, but grow so slowly you will only occasionally need to prune off dead fronds.

Protection from frost is a large part of the plant’s care. Make a frame around the tree with chicken wire and cover with frost barrier fabric or even an old blanket when cold threatens. The plants also benefit from several inches of organic mulch around the root zone. Just be careful to leave a couple of inches around the stem free of mulch to prevent moisture build up and fungal issues.

Water once per week during the growing season but, otherwise, this stoic plant can tolerate quite a bit of neglect and still stand elegant sentry to your landscape.

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How to Repot a Palm

Whether you grow a potted palm outdoors or indoors, container-grown palm trees generally thrive as long as you provide adequate growing conditions for them. Start a palm tree in a small container and then watch as the palm grows because it will indicate when it needs a larger container. Repot a palm tree when necessary to keep these attractive tropical trees lush and vibrant in your indoor or outdoor growing area.

Select a new planting container for the potted palm. Choose a heavy container that will support the weight of the palm and make it approximately 4 to 6 inches larger across than the current container. Select a deep container, approximately 12 inches deeper than the root ball of the palm.

Spread the tarp out to keep your work area clean as you transplant the palm tree.

  • Whether you grow a potted palm outdoors or indoors, container-grown palm trees generally thrive as long as you provide adequate growing conditions for them.
  • Spread the tarp out to keep your work area clean as you transplant the palm tree.

Remove the palm tree from its current container by placing the container on its side on the ground. Gently loosen the sides of the container by tapping them and pull the palm tree from the container.

Fill the new container with approximately 5 inches of new potting soil. Add an appropriate amount of slow-release granular fertilizer to this soil, consulting the package recommendations for the size of the growing container. Mix the fertilizer and soil well.

Place the palm tree into the new container and lightly sprinkle potting soil around the roots to cover them approximately halfway. Shake the container lightly to get the potting soil into all the small areas of the root system. Continue filling the container with potting soil until the soil reaches 2 inches below the top of the container. Tamp the soil down firmly with your hands.

  • Remove the palm tree from its current container by placing the container on its side on the ground.

Water the newly transplanted potted palm tree generously, allowing the water to drain out of the drainage holes completely. Water the palm tree two more times, allowing the soil to drain completely each time.

Place the potted palm back into its growing location and keep the soil carefully watered during the first two to four weeks after transplanting. This ensures the tree acclimates successfully to the move.

Perform transplants of potted palms growing outdoors during the spring and early summer for best results. Transplant indoor palms at any time of the year. When you see roots protruding out from the bottom drainage holes of the current container, this indicates the palm tree requires repotting. If the soil looks sticky in the container, this also indicates the palm tree needs repotting. Generally, repot palm trees every one or two years for best growing results.


Chinese Fan Palm (Livistona chinensis)

The star-shaped leaves of Livistona chinensis set it apart from other palms that have the more classical feathery frond leaves. Although a slow-growing palm, the mature height of the plant can reach 15 feet or greater, so it's worth seeking out the subglobosa dwarf cultivar if you plan on a permanent indoor setting.

Chinese fan palms do well in bright light, but younger plants tolerate shady locations. Water when the top of the soil feels dry. Choose a large pot that will accommodate the long taproot that the Chinese fan palm produces. Feed this palm once a year in the spring with a slow-release fertilizer.

  • Light: Bright indirect light tolerates some shade
  • Water: Water when top of the soil feels dry.
  • Color Varieties: Emerald green foliage


Correct watering (not too much, and not too little) is absolutely essential to keep this plant healthy. If you attend to that, you should have few or no problems.

The only serious disease this palm tree is subject to is lethal yellowing disease. [source] Check to see if this disease is present in your area before planting the Spindle palm tree.

Are Spindle Palms Considered Toxic or Poisonous?

Palm trees are generally non-toxic, but it’s still a good idea to keep your palm tree safe from curious kids, pets, and livestock.

Is The Hyophorbe Considered invasive?

Spindle Palm requires very specific conditions in order to thrive, so it is not considered invasive. In fact, even though it is a popular garden addition in tropical settings around the world, it is sadly endangered in its home setting. In the Mascarene Islands, it is near extinction. [source]


The small Adonidia palm tree is an excellent plant for landscaping when space is limited

The Adonidia palm is a small palm tree with a slender, gray smooth trunk. Also called the Christmas palm, this popular Florida palm tree grows to around 6 ft. (2 m). Its elegant crown identifies the small palm with long arching fronds that spread up to 8 ft. (2.4 m) wide.

The common name of this small palm comes from the fruit that ripens in December, around Christmas time. One of the advantages of growing this palm in your yard is that it’s self-cleaning and low-maintenance. That means that Adonidia palm sheds its fronds faster than some other palm species, and that gives it a better look . The Christmas palm thrives in USDA zone 10.

Landscape uses: Plant the Adonidia palm as a specimen tree to create a focal point in a sunny, tropical garden. In a front or backyard, you can plant the palm trees close together as they have a small root ball—ideal for small gardens.


Windmill Palm

Windmill Palm Trees are rapidly gaining popularity in US home landscapes. You will want to plant your palm tree in a spot that it will receive part shade. This palm tree is not prone to pest and disease problems, giving you a very hassle free plant to grow. The Windmill Palm Tree is long lived and offers unique landscape design possibilities for homeowners across the country. Quickly becomes the center of attention‚ the Windmill Palm is the most cold tolerant of the tall palms. Our design consultant says these are the absolute prettiest cold climate palm trees.


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