Date Palm Tree Care: Tips On How To Grow Date Trees
How Long Does It Take To Grow A Date Palm Tree?
The average life span of a date palm tree is between 15-20 years. If you want to plant your own date palm trees, then you need to know that the time required depends upon the climate and soil conditions where they are planted. However, there are some general guidelines which will give you an idea about how long it takes to grow a date palm tree.
In tropical climates like Florida, Texas, California and Hawaii, the average life expectancy is around 20 years. These are places with warm temperatures year round. In these areas, it takes about 10-15 years before a date palm tree reaches its full size.
If you live in a colder climate such as New England or northern Canada, then the average life expectancy is closer to 12-14 years. In these places, it will take about 20 years before the tree is fully grown.
In other words, if you want to grow your own date palm, then you should be prepared to give it at least 15-20 years before it will produce any fruit. In fact, you probably shouldn’t even expect to harvest any fruit for at least the first 10 years.
How To Make A Date Palm Tree Grow Faster
If you are impatient and want to grow a date palm tree faster, then you will need to do some research. Of course, the fastest way is to try and cheat nature by giving it artificial lighting, hydroponics, and other types of special treatments. On the other hand, you can simply move to a place with a warmer climate.
Date Palm Tree Pruning
Pruning is not a mandatory part of date palm tree care. In fact, in its native environment, it grows quite tall (up to 75 feet) with its trunk and canopy taking up a lot of space. However, if you live in an urban area where space is limited or if you want to keep the height down for aesthetic reasons, then it will need to be trimmed on a regular basis.
Pruning is also necessary if you want to harvest any dates. Once the tree starts to bear fruit, you’ll need to have several feet of clearance in all directions so you can easily access the fruit. Most date palms are pruned yearly in order to keep their size manageable.
How To Plant A Date Palm Tree
When you are ready to plant your own date palm tree, there are a few things that you’ll need to take into consideration. First of all, it would be best to plant your tree in an area that gets full sun or at least several hours of sunlight per day.
They can also be grown in artificial environments such as greenhouses, but they will need lots of light in order to thrive. Whatever you decide, keep in mind that they do best in hot and dry conditions.
Another thing to think about is that the soil should be well drained. They won’t survive if their root system is constantly being flooded with water.
It’s best to avoid planting your tree in a location that is prone to extreme temperatures such as next to a large body of water or on a rooftop in the middle of an urban setting. They aren’t resistant to cold weather and they can’t handle extreme heat either. However, they are resilient and can thrive in sandy, rocky, or loamy soils.
When you are ready to plant your tree, dig a hole that is about twice as wide and just as deep as the rootball. Mix in a few inches of compost, manure, and/or bone meal into the bottom of it. Next, place the tree in the hole and back fill it with mixed soil and the organic material that was previously mentioned. Firmly pack the soil around the roots and finish by giving it a good watering.
Watering A Date Palm Tree
Date palm tree care includes providing enough water to the tree, but also makes sure that their root system doesn’t stand in water. In fact, standing water around the roots can cause all sorts of problems such as mold, fungi, and other types of diseases.
It’s also important to note that date palms do not like to be over-watered. This can result in the roots not getting enough oxygen which will then cause them to rot. If this happens, the tree will most likely die.
What this means for you is that you should only water the tree during the hot summer months or if a drought is on going. Estimate how much water the soil needs by digging about 6 inches deep and then testing the moisture. If it’s dry, then the tree needs water.
If you don’t want to get down on your hands and knees to test the soil, there is an easier way to do it. You can simply look at the base of the tree. If the ground around it is cracked and dry, then it needs water.
Water the tree thoroughly and make sure that it soaks at least a few inches deep. Do this until the soil is well drained.
Fertilizing A Date Palm Tree
Another part of proper date palm tree care is providing it with the right type of fertilizer. You can either use a slow-acting natural blend or an organic one. Either one is fine to use as long as it’s NOT a high-nitrogen one. This will result in excessive leaf growth and not a lot of blossoms or fruit.
If you can’t find a fertilizer that is specially made for date palms, then a slow-acting blend of 10-10-10 should do the trick. Don’t over do it though. All you need is a small handful for each plant per year.
Also, don’t apply any fertilizer to the soil until at least 6 months after the last time you watered it. This will ensure that the soil is properly aerated for the roots to breath.
Pruning A Date Palm Tree
Date palm pruning is very easy because all you have to do is remove dead, dying, or diseased fronds. Also make sure to remove any that are growing inward or are somehow blocking the center of the crown. This will allow air to flow through and around the crown which is essential for photosynthesis. After removing any damaged fronds, just prune them back to the trunk of the tree.
Date palms do not require annual pruning, however you can do a little light trimming if you desire. This is especially useful when the tree is young to encourage the growth of multiple stems. However, once again, this is optional and only for the first few years. Any pruning should only be done right after the tree has fruited so that the fruit has a chance to ripen before the rains come.
Remember, remove any dead, dying, or diseased material first and then cut back the remaining stems to between four to five feet in height. This will ensure that there is adequate sunlight and airflow throughout the crown and also prevent any possible damage to the trunk from excess weight.
Propagating A Date Palm Tree
The best way to propagate a date palm tree is to do so through root suckers.
What is a root sucker?
It’s a stem that forms at the base of the trunk. These naturally form on mature date palms and will eventually grow up into a new tree. However, if you want to speed up the process, you can easily propagate a new tree this way by gently removing the root sucker and potting it up.
Do this in the early spring and plant it in a free draining cactus/citrus potting soil mix. Aim to keep the root ball slightly dry. You don’t need to water it a lot, just keep it moistened enough so that the top 3 inches of soil are not dry.
If you want to grow your new tree outside then plant it after a couple of years when it has developed a strong root system. If you’d like to keep it as a houseplant, then plant it in a large container and keep it inside for a year or two.
Is A Date Palm Suitable For My Home?
The Phoenix dactylifera is a very attractive plant and quite suitable for indoor or outdoor use (when fully established). While it does prefer hot dry conditions, it will still grow in normal room temperatures so it can be grown indoors in pots. It also grows relatively slowly so you don’t have to repot it every other year like you do with some other plants.
It can reach up to 10 feet in height when fully mature and will produce a bright yellow inflorescence (or flower) in the spring. This is followed by the ripening of brown dates that are edible and have a sweet flavor. The fruit will grow directly from the trunk or branches of the tree. It also has a very interesting shape with twisted flexing branches and a feathery appearance.
This plant can grow quite large if you want it to or you can keep the height under control by pruning it back. Either way, it’s a very low maintenance tree that will definitely add to the decor of any room in the house!
Is The Fruit Edible?
The fruit of the Phoenix dactylifera is edible and has a sweet flavor. While it isn’t very large (1 inch in diameter), you don’t really need to eat a lot since it’s fairly rich.
If you want to harvest the fruit then wait until the autumn when the tree begins to ripen. This will differ depending on where you live but generally from September to November. Once it’s ripe the fruit will come off the stem quite easily.
If you want to leave the fruit on the tree until it has fully ripened then this will occur in the spring which is from February to May. As the fruit ripens it also gets darker in color. You can still see the green skin underneath the dark brown/black outer layer, just like with a banana!
While it is possible for the average person to eat a few of the dates, make sure you wash them thoroughly first since the fruit can sometimes have a little sap on it. This isn’t harmful but it can taste bitter so it’s best to rinse the fruit before eating it.
You can use the fruit as you would dates when cooking or eat them on their own.
If you’re worried about your tree producing too much fruit then there are a few things you can do to stop this from happening. The most common way to control the crop is to cut the stems off as soon as they begin to fatten up. You can do this individually or you can prune the stem back to the trunk. This will stop any more flowers from blooming and any fruit that has already started to form will fall off.
Another way to control the crop is by removing all the male flowers once they have bloomed. This seems a bit tedious but it’s not as bad as it sounds. The male flowers are very easy to spot since they are shorter and skinnier than the female ones (which will become the fruit). Simply pluck them off as soon as they appear and this will stop any more pollen being released to fertilize the female flowers.
A third way to stop the tree from fruiting is to place a thin piece of wood, plastic or metal around the trunk so that no male flowers can reach the female ones. You could also go the other way and force it to flower and fruit continually by removing all the female flowers once they appear.
How Big Will It Get?
The ideal conditions for a Phoenix dactylifera will allow it to grow into a tree between 10 and 15 feet in height and 6 and 8 feet wide. This doesn’t mean that this is the maximum size since the tree can be pruned or restrained to keep it smaller.
Given the right conditions and enough time, it’s quite possible for the tree to reach 30 feet in height or more!
What Is The Lifespan Of This Plant?
The lifespan of a Phoenix dactylifera tree in ideal conditions is around 150 years although it can live up to 300 years.
This tree has been known to live much longer than this (around 500 years) under certain circumstances which I will explain more in a moment.
There are some things that will stunt the growth of the tree such as: lack of water, too much sun and overfeeding (especially with artificial fertilizer).
There are also some things that will encourage growth such as: adequate water, full sunlight and organic fertilizer.
If you would like your tree to live longer then make sure you look after it correctly. This means allowing plenty of space for the roots to grow and making sure the soil doesn’t become compact.
If you live in an area where it gets very cold in the winter then you will need to protect your tree from freezing temperatures. The ideal temperature for this plant is between 60 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
It’s also crucial to water the tree as soon as the soil begins to dry out. The soil should be moist but not waterlogged since the tree can’t survive if the roots are soggy. Don’t over water it either or the roots could begin to rot.
My Grandfather Had One Of These Trees In His Backyard And It Was At Least 500 Years Old.
How Is That Possible?
It is true that this tree can live for a very long time under the right circumstances. There was one particular very old Phoenix tree in Iran that was estimated to be at least 2000 years old!
In fact, it’s possible that some trees of this species could live even longer.
Sources & references used in this article:
Date Palm Phoenix dactylifera L. by JM Al-Khayri – Protocol for somatic embryogenesis in woody plants, 2005 – Springer
Leaf isozymes as genetic markers in date palms by AM Torres, B Tisserat – American Journal of Botany, 1980 – Wiley Online Library
Date palm micropropagation via organogenesis by L Abahmane – Date palm biotechnology, 2011 – Springer