Caring for your palms
Always use a good quality potting mix, to combine free drainage with moisture retention. The compact root system of palms suit containerisation, so only pot-on to a slightly larger pot when absolutely necessary, e.g. every third year.
Water regularly in spring and summer (their growing period) and hardly at all in winter e.g. once a week in spring and summer and down to as little as once a month in winter. They like a good soak each time but don't leave them with their roots sitting in water.
Apply a small amount of slow-release fertiliser, e.g. Osmocote or Nitrophoska Blue each spring. Although palms are relatively pest free, watch out for scale or mealy bugs. In severe cases, Orthene is the best cure.
Check if your indoor palm needs high or low light levels. Move them from one location to another. This allows you to adapt a palm to various climatic conditions or to shift focus of attention in a living room or on a covered deck, etc.
Palms from shade or greenhouses must be acclimatised carefully before planting outdoors, especially in hot, sunny exposed locations. Start by putting your palm under a tree or shade cloth, for at least three weeks. Keep the palm moist and spray the fronds with water occasionally. After this time you can start moving your palm to a brighter area of dappled sunshine. If it is a sun-loving species, move it gradually into full sun and observe daily. If any discolouration of the fronds occurs, move it back to dappled light and try again later.
Do not plant palms into the ground while they are too young. The New Zealand growing season is only five months followed by a cold and windy winter. Palms around a metre tall survive better than palms half that size. Our cold-hardy range of palms can be grown from Kaitaia to Invercargill.
Plant your palm into a hole twice the size of the roots. Never plant it deeper than it was previously. Put some compost in first and a stake if necessary. Keep your palm moist but not overly wet. Use much to retain moisture in summer, but not in direct contact with the trunk. Tidy any untidy fronds using sharp secateurs from around the base and never interfere with the central growing tips.
Each spring place a small amount of slow-release fertiliser around every palm, e.g. Osmocote or Nitrophoska Blue, taking the usual precautions of adding it to moist soil and water in well.
You can plant other plants right up to the trunks of palms or even add stones over weed-matting for a truly low-maintenance garden.
Remember, palms can outlive you, they are worth the care that you give them.
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