Acclimating palms is a funny thing! Some palms adjust to full sun exposure very well like: Dypsis decaryi, Bismarkia, Chamaerops, Dypsis decipiens, Brahea, Butia, Jubea, Nannorrhops, Phoenix, Ravenea xerophila, Rhapidophyllum, Sabal, Syagrus, Thrinax, Trithrinax, Trachycarpus and Washingtonia. Other palms are painfully slow to acclimate and may even require that the palm be a certain size to help ensure success. Some of the more difficult “acclimaters” that we carry include: Archontophoenix, Burretiokentia; Chamaedorea, Chambeyronia, Dictyosperma, some Dypsis species, Hedyscepe, Howea, Hyophorbe, Licuala, Marojejya, Ptychosperma, Rhopalostylus, and Veitchia. Some gardeners lose palms in this process due to poor timing or bad judgment but most succeed if they follow a few basic guidelines that are appropriate for the type of palm they are trying to acclimate. Like most nurseries we grow and sell palms from our greenhouse, 50% shaded-house and fully exposed palms.
The species of the palm you desire to acclimate will determine the process you should follow. This article is a general guideline for acclimating palms but you should ask one of our staff for suggestions about how to acclimate your selected palms. In an ideal world, palms would not experience any set back, sun burning or cold burning and would only be acclimated during the spring season. This is rarely the case but much can be done to minimize the affects of the sun, temperatures and humidity. The location where the palms will be planted should also be considered. Palms tend to acclimate more easily in coastal areas than inland areas. Acclimating palms during windy seasons can also make the process much more difficult on your palms. Areas where the temperatures are more extreme also make acclimation more difficult, requiring the palm enthusiast to thoughtfully select the time of year to plant out the palms.
Guidelines for Acclimating Palms
Good news! Sun loving palms are some of the easiest to acclimate. All of the palms in the families listed above in the first paragraph can usually be acclimated using this guideline.
Step one: Keeping the palm in its container, move the palm to a location were it will receive morning sun or filtered sun through out the day. After one week, check to see if any burns or cold damage occurred.
Step two: Wait for a new leaf spear to emerge from your palm and place it on the desired planting location. If the palm remains in good condition after one week, set it in the ground when a new leaf spear emerges. If the palms struggles at any time before planting, change the amount of sun or exposure the palm receives. Watering during this process is critical. The soil should remain moist throughout the acclimation process.
Below is an acclimation guideline for palms that prefer filtered sun or are slow to acclimate to full sun. Remember, you may need to make adjustments to this guide based on the palms species and their environment.
- Step 1: Humidity acclimation. Shade only for 1 week.
- Step 2: Gradually move them into the sun one week at a time, preferably when a new leaf spear is emerging. The new leaf spear can be used as an indicator for how well the palm is acclimating. If it stops pushing up, something may be wrong. . Make sure they are well watered and monitor the leaves for sun burns. If the leaves show signs of fading or brown areas in the sections exposed to the sun, reduce the sun exposure. Once they stabilize, continue to gradually move them into full sun.
Some palms may take as long as one year to acclimate but most are well worth the wait. An acclimated Chambeyronia, Howea, Rhopalostylus, Burretiokentia, or Hyophorbe are always a site to see! Be patient and monitor them with each change. These are rare palms you are working with and some of the process may be experimental. Ask our staff for advice, network with other palm enthusiasts to find out what has worked for them with the same specie palm.
Some gardeners are craftier than others when the acclimate palms to the sun. Some build temporary filtered sun shelters using shade cloth until a new leaf spear hits the top of the shade cloth. Others plant out large palms or trees that create a canopy of filtered sunlight. They either keep these palms or remove them once their other palms have acclimated. Other gardeners use a riskier method of acclimation by completely disregarding the acclimation process and planting the palm in the ground immediately. Later, they find out if it will survive or not. If it does, life is good. If not, they return for another one that is larger or already acclimated!