Phoenix canariensis
Common Name: Canary Island date palm 
Type: Palm or Cycad
Family: Arecaceae
Native Range: Canary Islands
Zone: 9 to 11
Height: 40.00 to 60.00 feet
Spread: 20.00 to 40.00 feet
Bloom Time: Seasonal bloomer
Bloom Description: Creamy white to pale yellow
Sun: Full sun
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Medium
Flower: Showy
Leaf: Evergreen
Fruit: Showy
Other: Winter Interest
Tolerate: Drought

Culture

Winter hardy to USDA Zones 9-11 where this date palm is best grown in fertile, medium moisture, well drained soils in full sun. Tolerates light shade. Although this palm will withstand some frost in winter, it is likely to suffer significant frond damage or die when temperatures dip to 20 degrees F. Best with deep and even moisture. Established plants have respectable drought tolerance. Plants will naturalize to the point of being invasive in some growing conditions (seed floats down watercourses or seed is spread by bird populations). Invasive spread has been observed in southern California where plants have invaded watercourses, orchards, coastlines and to a lesser extent some landscaped areas. This palm performs well in containers where much more compact growth typically occurs. Container plants often thrive in a soil based potting mix in full sun, but with some part shade during the heat of the day. In cool climates, containers may be overwintered indoors in bright but cool (55-65 degree F.) temperatures. If container soils are overwatered, leaflet tips turn yellowish-black. If container soils are underwatered, fronds will sag. Reduce watering of indoor plants in winter but do not allow soils to totally dry out. Container plants tend to remain compact for long periods of time.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Phoenix canariensis, commonly called Canary Island date palm, is a large evergreen palm tree with a massive trunk that matures to 40-60' (less frequently to as much as 90') tall. Notwithstanding size, this palm is a slow grower which may only reach 10' tall over the first 15 years. The trunk is topped with a rounded crown of upright arching palmate leaves which gracefully spread to 20-40' wide. Although native to the Canary Islands, this palm is now grown in frost-free areas around the world. In the U.S., it is grown in Florida, Georgia (southern coast), Gulf Coast, Texas (southern), Arizona, Nevada and California. It will grow in Hawaii, but distribution there appears to be limited. This palm is noted for having a massive, thick, columnar, single, gray-brown trunk (matures to as much as 4' in diameter) with distinctive diamond-shaped leaf base scars. Trunk is topped by arching pinnate fronds (each to 15-20' long). Each frond has 80-100 rigid, narrow, lanceolate leaflets (to 12-18" long) on each side of the central rachis. The leafless lower portion of each petiole is covered with sharp spines (2-3" long). Creamy white to pale yellow flowers in dense, pendant panicles (to 3-4' long) bloom on male and female plants (dioecious) intermittently throughout the year. Flowers on female palms are followed by yellow-orange, date-like fruits (to 1" long) which are ornamentally showy but poor-tasting to the point of being only technically edible.

Genus name comes from the Greek name.

Specific epithet means of the Canary Islands.

Problems

Susceptible to lethal yellowing. Leaf spots and rots. Mealybugs, scale and thrips are often present on young plants. Spider mites may attack container plants. Fruit drop can be messy.

Garden Uses

Where winter hardy, this palm may be grown in a variety of locations including along streets, slopes, skylines or parks. Excellent in groves or small groupings. It can be planted on residential lawns as a specimen, but it needs a very large space. Additional residential area options include growth as a container plant on patios or near entrances. Where winter temperatures are too cool, container plants can be overwintered indoors.