How does Your Garden Grow?

Pinal County Master Gardner

Louise Grabell

I’ve been looking at all the palms around our area and thought you might like to learn more about them. I did some research for a past lecture, so I think I can give you some education about palms and maybe help those of you who are thinking about using them in your landscape.

First and most important is your reason for selecting palm trees to plant around your house. Palms are used primarily for a Mediterranean landscape design. There are a few homes that actually have this type of plan. The Mediterranean look is reminiscent of coastal Spain, Italy or France. Plan to incorporate a fountain and lots of terra cotta [not talavera] pots, and maybe some tasteful, HOA-approved statuary in the front yard. And did you know that herb gardens are another hallmark of the Mediterranean landscape?

Well, here we are in the middle of the desert and your desire for a Mediterranean plan is overwhelming. Good news! It can be done if you follow some basic rules. First of all, don’t mix cactus with palms. Drive around and you will see a glorious saguaro planted near a palm tree in the same landscape. What were they thinking? Some correct additions to palms for a Mediterranean landscape include: olive trees, rosemary, lavender, various succulents and the careful incorporation of hardscape into circular patios with raised beds and that fountain I mentioned earlier in the center. Use your modern technology to surf the web for a plethora of pictures to guide you before you take the plunge into the Mediterranean!

Getting back to palms, there are some really heat/drought/cold-tolerant palms. The Mexican fan palm is one, but you might want to add a taller palm to your landscape. Make sure you know the adult size of the palm before you buy it. Palms are best planted in late spring. This will give the roots time to grow and the fronds time to acclimate before the summer heat. Plant in well-drained soil and irrigate two-three times a week for a month. Yes, your palm will need to be on your irrigation system and watered more during summer [June] than winter. Do not fertilize a newly-planted palm for at least one year. Regarding trimming palms, do not cut off dying fronds until they are brown and totally dried out. The tree uses the nutrients in the old frond to grow new ones. Removal of old fronds before this time will unnecessarily stress the tree.

A very popular palm tree is the queen palm. Although quite attractive, it is not cold/frost-hardy so be aware. The Bismarck, Pindo, Caranday and Mazari palms are best-suited for Arizona. Do your research and check your HOA requirements. Sego “palms” are not palms but can be incorporated into a Mediterranean landscape.

Your Master Gardeners invite you to visit their website: for all up-to-date information and events for your community. Garden questions? You can reach our very own Garden Helpline by calling Pat at 407-6459.

Remember, nothing brings more tranquility to the heart than a beautiful garden.