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  • Andy Turner

Palm Talk : 4 Palms to Know About ( Zone 9b )

Who doesn't love palm trees? Well, we've met a few people who don't, but let's not focus on that. We're absolutely crazy about palm trees and our mantra is that you can never have too many of them!

In this article, we want to highlight some of our favorite palm tree varieties for Northeast Florida. Let's dive in!

Serenoa repens ( also known as Silver Palmetto )

This palm holds a special place in my heart. Growing up in Northeast Florida, it symbolizes home to me. It's not only our company's namesake, but also a palm that embodies elegance, versatility, beauty, and the tropical essence of Florida. Silver Palmettos, as they are commonly known, can thrive in both shady and sunny environments, withstand salt, water, pests, and drought. They are truly tough and resilient, just like the gardens we love to create.

Rhapidophyllum hystrix (also known as Needle Palm)

The Needle Palm is one of my newfound favorites. These palms are incredibly underrated and deserve more recognition as staple must have for northeast Florida gardens. They are impressively adaptable, tolerating cold, drought, and even flooding. Sun or shade, it doesn't matter to them! One of the best qualities of Needle Palms is their polite nature. Unlike their wild cousins Serenoa repens ( repens meaning creeping ), they stay put where you plant them. They have a slow growth rate, forming a bushy appearance while remaining in their designated spot. These are awesome plants

( Check out these Needle palms in their natural environment along a spring at Goldhead Branch State Park )

Technically, palms are not classified as trees but are more closely related to grasses. However, the following palms at least resemble trees due to their trunk. In contrast, the first two examples have trunks but resemble more bushy types of palms.

Sabal palmetto

Sabal Palms are truly captivating, especially when they are surrounded by their companions - the more, the merrier! Sabals awesome for similar reasons as Needle Palms and Silver Palmettos. They are versatile, slow-growing, native Florida palms that thrive in various environments.

When it comes to coastal areas, Sabal palms often become the go-to choice for adding structure and scale to landscapes. They stand as the first line of defense against the waves, salt, and strong winds that batter our coast. You can find Sabal palms in hardwoods, pinelands, swamps, marshes, and along the ocean coastline. It's no wonder they are our state "tree."

Additionally, Sabal palms serve as excellent pollinator plants, attracting and nourishing native Florida fauna, including buzzing native bees. However, I always advise caution when it comes to tree service providers who view Sabal palms as an opportunity for unnecessary trimming. In my opinion, these palms are beautiful just the way they naturally grow. They have a lush "head of hair," a natural skirt or beard, and require minimal maintenance. In the wild, Sabal palms shed their fronds when they are ready, without the need for chainsaws. Unfortunately, many have witnessed the negative effects of improper pruning, known as "hurricane cut," which can harm these majestic and often ancient plants. Palms have their unique way of flourishing, and it's best to let them be.

Palms have a unique way of obtaining nourishment - they rely on their leaves to absorb sunlight through photosynthesis. When we excessively trim the fronds, leaving only one at the top, it can have detrimental effects on the palm's health.

Additionally, palm fronds serve as natural habitats for various species, including squirrels, bats, birds, and other animals. Climbers who trim these trees often use spiked shoes, which can cause irreparable damage to the trunks.

In summary, I strongly advise against excessive trimming of Sabal palms. While it may be necessary to trim fronds that touch the roof or deal with staining caused by berries on the pool deck, it's important not to go overboard. Consider consulting an expert designer who can assist with proper placement, ensuring a harmonious coexistence between you and your Sabal palms for a lifetime.

Ok.. So 3 palms in and if your still reading this good for you!

Now for some other cool palms you may have never heard of before...

Everglades Palm ( also known as a Paurotis Palm )

Everglades palms are stunning palms commonly found in South Florida. They feature architectural multi-cluster trunks and beautiful flowers. Despite their showy appearance, these palms are native to Florida. However, it's important to note that they are slightly more sensitive to cold compared to the first three palms mentioned on this list.

If you decide to use Everglades palms, I recommend planting them on the south-facing side of your property, if possible, and in a microclimate area. Microclimates are spaces within a garden or environment that are protected from the harsher surrounding climate. It's crucial to familiarize yourself with this term, especially if you're a palm tree enthusiast!

For instance, living close to the beach in Jacksonville exposes you to different plant options compared to areas across the intracoastal. Being beachside provides a slightly warmer temperature during winter, expanding your plant choices. Similarly, by planting your more tropical plants on the south side of your home, you expose them to abundant sunshine throughout the winter months.

When working with Everglades palms, it's essential to be cautious and plant them wisely in areas where they will be sheltered from harsh elements. Some ways to create microclimates include planting near water sources like lakes, ponds, streams, or ditches, as the water releases heat during winter. Another option is using boulders, which act as "batteries" by absorbing heat during the day and radiating warmth during cold nights. These advanced strategies are employed by experienced tropical garden masters. However, simpler approaches include planting on the south side or corners of your house. Planting under live oaks, clusters of Sabal palms, and giant magnolias can create a natural living greenhouse that provides protection for your tropical plants. Living in Northeast Florida brings both blessings and challenges, but it also presents a fun opportunity to experiment with what's possible. We are on a tropical frontier where certain plants may thrive in one area but not in another. So, whether you prefer to play it safe or want to embark on a gardening adventure, I would be delighted to assist you in exploring the possibilities for your garden. Feel free to reach out anytime!

Click below for more palm talk w/ Andy

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