Mr. D's Plant of the Week Series: Needle Palm

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When you are looking for a healthy native plant, that can withstand extreme cold or scorching heat, look no further than the Needle Palm. This slow-growing, tough-as-nails, shrubby porcupine palm will grow upwards from eight to twelve feet tall and about the same width once mature. The Needle palm is an adaptable plant that will grow in the shade or the sun. However, it flourishes more when given some shade and best of all, it will tolerate a range of soils from wet to dry.

The Rhapidophyllum hystrix, (its scientific name; pronounced: rah-pid-o-fill-lum hiss-triks), from the family of Arecaceae is a native perennial plant of the United States Southeast. You’ll see it in many home and business landscapes throughout Tallahassee and Leon County. Its glossy, evergreen leaves make it a fabulous accent plant and its fiber husk protect the Needle Palm from cold, harsh winters while presenting a lush green appearance beneath established trees or new saplings.

How to plant and grow the Needle Palm

In the Autumn, select a large area where the palm will grow once planted. The Needle palm sprawls outward by suckering from the central crown and can also spread by self-seeding. It is an almost maintenance-free plant once planted. It's spiny; solid base makes it impenetrable and difficult to divide or transplant fully. Therefore, plant this resilient palm in a spot where it can thrive and be left alone for many years.

Due to the height and width, it will eventually reach, keep it away from walkways and where children might play. Also remember, this is a type of fan palm with long, thin pointed leaflets. These leaflets are sharp needles that stick out from a central crown and could injure a person should they get too close and try to touch it.

WARNING: Needle Palm Illegal Harvesting

Unfortunately, like many native plants in Florida, the Needle Palm has been commercially exploited and illegally harvested from the wild in recent years. According to the University of Florida, as recently as 2018, the plant is now officially endangered in the wild due to this illegal harvesting and activity.

When the time comes, and you want to purchase a Needle palm Dickerson Landscape, and Lawn Care highly recommends that you only buy from reputable dealers who raise the plants in their nursery settings.

Mr. D’s Needle Palm Transplant Tip

If you are thinking about transplanting the palm, Mr. D recommends doing it during the spring or summer, when soil temperatures stay consistently warmer. Also, do not plant the Needle Palm deeper than it was initially growing. Doing so will cause the plant to produce new growth very slowly, which could be harmful to the palm.

The Needle palm will benefit from regular waterings, at first. However, it is very drought tolerant once planted and well established. After the porcupine palm gets planted, look for, and use a palm-specific fertilizer. It should contain additional magnesium and a micronutrient amendment. Go ahead and apply it twice a year for faster growth.

If you found the Needle Palm interesting, then check out the Blue Agapanthus material and let us know your thoughts!