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Thursday, March 24, 2016

Queen Palm Not A Good Choice in Desert Climates and Soils

Q. Our backyard is in full sun, gets very windy, and has very poor soil. We are landscaping around a new pool and would like a tropical look. We would love to put in a queen palm but we read they may not do well here. Any suggestions for a different palm like Kentia or Foxtail?

A. The queen palm won’t work in your situation. It does not like poor soils, heat, lack of humidity and wind. It is not a good choice for our hot desert climate in general.
Queen palm tends to look "ratty" in our desert climate and soils.
Be careful planting palms near a pool. Most people do not like the seeds dropping and the mess it makes.
The only palm which stays small and hearty for our area is the windmill palm. The pygmy date palm is a possibility but it is sensitive to our winter temperatures and may suffer from winter freezing. The Mediterranean fan palm stays short but can get quite large in diameter. Both Kentia and Foxtail palms are not meant for our climate.
Kentia palm is considered a "tropical" palm and intended for interior use in desert climates.
There are plenty of plants that give a tropical look to a landscape that are desert adapted and tolerant of our soils. Mesquite, desert bird of paradise, flax, ornamental grasses, canna lilies, rose of Sharon, crape myrtle, Gold dust plant (shade), papyrus, nandina, mock orange, cats claw vine, can be used to mention a few.

Tropical looking landscapes should be densely planted and designated as a high water use area. Use compost and wood chip surface mulches that won’t blow easily to improve our soils and their growth. 

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