Dwarf Date Palm (Phoenix roebelenii)

Dwarf Date Palm, Miniature Date Palm, Pygmy Date Palm, Robellini Palm, Roebelin Palm

A glamourous, unforgettable South East Asian palm that boasts a slim trunk and arching crown of lush feathery fronds.

Phoenix roebelenii makes for a striking statement indoor plant that exudes warm and exotic character within a home environment.

I. Appearance and Characteristics 

Phoenix roebelenii, with common names of dwarf date palm, pygmy date palm, miniature date palm or robellini palm, is a species of date palm native to southeastern Asia, from southwestern China (Yunnan Province), northern Laos and northern Vietnam (in Dien Bien Province, Ha Giang Province, Cao Bang Province, Lang Son Province).

The Latin specific epithet roebelenii honours the orchid collector Carl Roebelen (1855–1927).

The Phoenix roebelenii tree can reach heights of 2–7 meters (6.6–23.0 feet) in its lifetime. It is a small to medium-sized, slow-growing, thin tree. 

The leaves range in length from 24 to 47 inches, are pinnate, and have around 100 leaflets that are organized on a single plane. Each leaflet has a length of 15–25 centimeters (about 6–10 inches), a width of 1 centimeter, a gray-green hue, and a scurfy pubescence on the underside.

The blooms have a yellowish hue and are produced on an inflorescence that is 45 centimeters (18 inches) long. 

The fruit is a drupe about one centimeter in length and resembles a little date with a thin layer of flesh. 

Although the pygmy date palm is closely related to the bigger edible date palm, this species is not truly farmed for its fruit; rather than being something that might be picked and consumed, the fruit of the pygmy date palm is more like a pit that is surrounded by a thin edible skin. As a result of their relatively sluggish development rate, it is possible that the palms will not blossom or produce fruit until at least five years after they have been planted.

This palm will develop thorns around a length of 2-4 inches that are sharp and spiky. The size of the thorns is proportional to the amount of time the tree has been around. These thorns are situated on the palm leaf stem near the truck, and their length can range anywhere from 6 to 12 inches “from the main body. Thorns are very pointed, allowing them to readily puncture the flesh. 

They are toxic and have the potential to cause inflammation, skin infection, bruising, and even more serious effects.

II. How to Grow and Care

Sunlight

The amount of light robellini palms require differs if you are growing it indoors or outdoors.

  • Indoors, robellini palms require as much light as possible, ideally at least six hours of direct sunlight each day.
  • Outdoors, the ideal amount of light depends on geographic location. For example, in climates that experience extreme heat and intense ultraviolet rays, such as Florida, robellini palms benefit from protection from the hot afternoon sun. In milder climates, these palms should be planted in a location that receives full sun, at least six hours of direct sunlight each day.

Temperature and Humidity

Like most palm trees, the robellini palm requires warm, humid conditions. This dwarf palm is not frost-tolerant and is hardy in USDA zones 9 to 11. If you live in an area that experiences cold winters, grow your robellini palm in a container so that it can be moved indoors during the winter months. If you are growing your robellini palm indoors, be sure to keep it away from drafty vents or air conditioners.

Watering

While robellini palms can tolerate short periods of drought, these palms should be watered regularly so that the soil never dries out completely. Water deeply once the soil has partially dried. Newly-planted robellini palms should be watered daily for the first two weeks to help establish their root systems, after which watering can be reduced to two to three times a week, depending on temperatures. As a general tip, the best time to water robellini palms is during the morning or evening, and you should not water during the hottest times of day.

Soil

Robellini palms prefer moist, but well-drained soils. This means the soil should have an adequate amount of organic matter which helps to retain moisture but also include plenty of inorganic matter (such as perlite) which helps with drainage. Avoid soil that is either extremely acidic or extremely alkaline. Robellini palms require soil that is acidic to slightly alkaline. A pH meter can be used to measure the soil pH level. If the pH is too high or too low, amend the soil with lime or sulfate to correct the pH.

Fertilizing

Robellini palm trees benefit from regular fertilization. Mature trees should be fertilized three times a year with a balanced fertilizer designed for palms. Younger trees and seedlings should be fertilized once a month to help encourage strong growth.

Pruning

Robellini palms can benefit from occasional pruning, however, it is important that the pruning is done correctly so as to not damage the health of the plant. For most gardeners, it is best to contact a landscaper that specializes in palm tree pruning and have the tree professionally pruned. 

Propagation 

Propagating robellini palms is easy if the mother plant is producing suckers, or offshoots. Separate the suckers from the base of the mother plant, being sure to keep as many of the roots intact as possible. Place the new plant in a small pot with a moist but well-draining potting mix and place it in a location that receives bright but indirect sunlight. After a couple of months, the new plant can be moved to a location that receives brighter sunlight.

Pests and Diseases

Robellini palms are susceptible to a few common pests including scale and spider mites. Spider mite infestations can be identified by yellow discoloration and de-pigmentation on the leaves of the plant, as well as webbing between the leaves. Treat spider mite infestations with insecticidal soap until the pests are gone. 

Scale infestations can be identified by the sticky sap substance that they leave behind on the stems and backs of the leaves. Treat scale infestations with rubbing alcohol and a Q-tip to remove scale insects from the plant.

Maintenance

  • Although pygmy date palms require relatively little attention after they have become established in the garden, special attention should be paid to them for the first year or two that they are there.
  • It is highly recommended that you water your plants once per day for the first two weeks after planting, particularly if the temperature is high.
  • Pour water into the berm that surrounds the palm, then wait for it to seep in.
  • After the first two weeks, water the soil to a depth of two feet once a week during the summer months or anytime the soil feels dry below the surface. This should be done regardless of whether it is raining or not.
  • A layer of mulch that is two to three inches deep can assist the soil in retaining moisture while also protecting the young roots that are growing.
  • After planting, one of the most essential things you can do for your pygmy date palm plants is to provide them with fertilizer.
  • Use a slow-release fertilizer that is high in nitrogen for the first six to twelve months after planting. Spread the fertilizer within the planting mound at the rate that is advised by the manufacturer.
  • After applying fertilizer, water the soil to a depth of two feet so that the nutrients may be driven deeper into the ground.
  • When you are fertilizing the tree, be sure that the fertilizer does not come into touch with the trunk.

III. How to grow date palms in India

Pygmy dates palms can be grown by the below mentioned procedure.

  • Warm soil is essential for the survival of pygmy date palms during the planting procedure, as is the case with all other kinds of pygmy palm trees.
  • When planting pygmy date palms, the soil should not be altered in any way, nor should it be broken up. 
  • It is important that dwarf date palm trees not be planted any deeper or shallower than they were in the container in which they were grown. A planting hole should be dug that is exactly the same depth as the tree’s container but should be two to three times as broad.
  • Take the palm out of its container, and then place it in the exact middle of the planting hole. 
  • Pygmy date palms grow best when their roots are contained inside a small space, so when you plant the tree, take care not to break up or otherwise disrupt the roots in any way. 
  • While you are filling up the space surrounding the tree’s roots with dirt, have a helper keep the tree upright. 
  • After planting, make sure to thoroughly water the ground to help it settle, and if it does not settle enough, add extra dirt around the plant’s roots. 
  • When the roots are first becoming established, the University of Florida IFAS Extension suggests constructing a shallow berm in the shape of a circle that is two feet around the root ball. This will assist in directing the water into the roots.

IV. Uses and Benefits 

When you think of palm trees, you probably think about the warm sun, sandy beaches, time spent on vacation, and a more relaxed way of life. You are guaranteed to find yourself encircled by stunning palm palms no matter where you look. The majority of the time, they are planted in verdant settings, such as new housing developments, indoor/outdoor malls, surrounding swimming facilities, and all along roadways, shorelines, and hotel grounds.

  • It requires very little trimming in order to develop into a sturdy structure, it is resistant to pests, it is tolerant to variations in soil, and it can tolerate modest amounts of dryness. The optimal planting location for the plant is determined by the local climate and can range from partial shade to full sun. 
  • The Royal Horticultural Society has bestowed its Award of Garden Merit upon this particular plant. 
  • The NASA Clean Air Study came to the conclusion that this particular plant was successful in removing typical air pollutants such as formaldehyde and benzene from the environment.

Dwarf Date Palm (Phoenix roebelenii) Details

Common name Dwarf Date Palm, Miniature Date Palm, Pygmy Date Palm, Robellini Palm, Roebelin Palm
Botanical name Phoenix roebelenii
Plant type Houseplant
Hardiness zone 10a, 10b, 11a, 11b
Growth rate Slow
Harvest time Spring
Height 6 ft. 0 in. - 6 ft. 5 in.
Width 6 ft. 0 in. - 6 ft. 5 in.
Sunlight Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
Soil condition Clay
Flower color Cream/Tan
Leaf color Gray/Silver