Caring For Bismarck Palm

Bismarckia Nobilis [biz-MAR-kee-uh, NO-bil-iss] is a flowering palm tree native to Madagascar. 

It’s the sole species in the Bismarckia genus.

Bismarckia Nobilis is commonly called Bismarck Palm. 

The silver leaf Bismarckia Palm

Named for Otto von Bismarck, the Bismarckia genus belongs to the Aceraceae (palm) family. 

The epithet for the only species in the genus comes from the Latin word for noble.

Bismarck palms are adaptable plants but require the right climates for optimal growth.

Bismarck Palm Care

Size and Growth

In its native habitat in Madagascar, Bismarck palm can grow close to 75′ feet tall. 

Cultivated Bismarck palms rarely exceed 25′ feet. The tree grows from a single trunk, covered in gray or tan bark. 

The trunks may reach 12″ to 18″ inches in diameter, with a slight bulge near the base. 

The trunks don’t have leaf bases.

The leaves are often silver-blue and grow to several feet. 

The rounded leaves feature multiple blades, resembling a frond. 

The leaves form an almost spherical crown, measuring about 20′ feet wide and 18′ feet tall, depending on the size of the trunk.

Flowering and Fragrance

Bismarck palm flowers in the spring or summer, producing pendant inflorescences with small brown flowers.

On female plants, the flowers eventually mature and develop into a brown fruit containing a single seed. 

Light and Temperature

The plant should receive full sun to partial shade. 

Bismarckia Nobilis requires warm temperatures and lots of sunlight. 

It’s winter hardy to USDA hardiness zones 9 or higher, making it difficult to grow outdoors outside of Florida and California.

The standard Bismarck palm with blue-silver foliage cannot tolerate temperatures below 27° degrees Fahrenheit (-3° C). 

It may experience frost damage in cooler climates. 

The green variety is slightly more tolerant of cold temperatures. 

The leaves of the plant may suffer in temperatures below 32° degrees Fahrenheit (0° C).

Watering and Feeding

Bismarck palm trees grow best in climates with frequent rainfall. 

While it tolerates short periods of drought, it thrives with frequent moisture.

Water the soil around the base of the trunk, supplying moisture directly to the root system. Once established the plant rarely needs palm fertilizer.

Soil and Transplanting

Slightly alkaline or acidic soil is fine but needs good drainage to prevent root rot.

Transplanting isn’t recommended due to the potential size of the plant. 

Cultivated Bismarck palm trees may still reach 20′ feet tall with leaves spreading 12′ feet or more.

Bismarck palm trees also have delicate root systems. Attempting to transplant the plant may harm the roots.

Transplanting is only recommended for dealing with disease, such as root rot. Prune the leaves back for several months before transplanting.

Grooming

Prune dead leaves any time of the year to promote new growth. 

Avoid pruning partially dead leaves, as the leaves still contain beneficial potassium. 

Trimming living leaves also release a chemical that attracts palmetto weevils.

The weevils lay eggs in the leaf bases, and the larvae burrow into the trunk. 

Infested plants can’t be saved.

 If possible, collect the seeds from the ripe fruit to propagate the plant.

How To Propagate Bismarckia Nobilis

Propagate Bismarckia Nobilis from seed after the seeds are collected from female plants when the fruit ripens.

  • Soak the seeds in a thermos filled with hot water. Allow the seeds to soak for two days at 86° degrees Fahrenheit (30° C) water. 
  • Prepare small 4″ inch pots with an equal combination of coarse sand and standard potting soil. 
  • Moisten the soil before lightly pressing one seed into each pot. 
  • Press the seeds 1″ inch into the soil.
  • Keep the pots in a shaded, warm spot. 
  • Check the soil daily and add water as needed to keep it moist. 
  • The seeds should germinate within six to eight weeks.
  • The seedlings are ready to plant when they develop a second set of leaves. 
  • Plant the seeds in pots and later outdoors in an area with full sun. 
  • Ensure the plants have enough room to spread as they grow, as the crown can reach 12′ to 20′ feet wide. 

Bismarckia Nobilis Pest or Disease Problems

The plant may suffer from weevil infestations due to poor pruning or environmental stresses, such as transplanting. 

Weevils typically kill the plant, requiring propagation to produce new plants.

It may suffer from root rot when planted in soil with poor drainage. 

Root rot causes the leaves to brown and eventually die. 

Remove all dead leaves and try transplanting to an area with better drainage. 

Bismarckia Nobilis isn’t invasive or toxic, but it’s a good idea to keep children away from female plants when the flowers ripen to become fruit.

The fruit may look appetizing to small kids. 

While it’s not toxic, the fruit contains a hard seed, which may pose a choking hazard. 

Suggested Bismarck Palm Uses

Use Bismarckia Nobilis to add a tropical flair to any landscape. 

The blue-silver leaves stand out and add winter interest in warm climates.

Recommended Reading

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