Bottle Palm Tree Care: Growing Hyophorbe Lagenicaulis Palms

The Bottle Palm tree aka Hyophorbe lagenicaulis (hy-oh-FOR-beh lahg-en-ih-KAW-lis) is worth adding to your garden for more than just its looks. 

Originally hailing from the Mauritius (Mascarene Islands) and native to Round Island (both found east of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean), only ten bottles palms still exist on the latter island and the species is classified as critically endangered. 

Bottle Palm aka Hyophorbe lagenicaulis growing in the landscape
Bottle Palm trees are standout silhouette plants

Thankfully, its popularity is helping to ensure bottle palms a return from the brink of extinction.

Hyophorbe lagenicaulis earned the common name of bottle palm tree due to the unique, enlarged base characteristic of older specimens. It is also commonly known as:

  • Bottle coco
  • Champagne palm
  • Pig nut palm
  • Short bottle palm
  • Natively as Palmier bonbonne 

Various countries around the world also have their own names for the bottle palm Hyophorbe lagenicaulis tree, often being a direct translation of the English names.

Visually, this perennial dwarf palm is quite distinct, with a swollen base that tapers upwards in a single trunk sporting ring scars. This is topped with a narrow off-purple or green crown shaft and small crown.

It’s difficult to talk about bottle palm tree without mentioning another member of the Arecaceae family, spindle palm. Similar in appearance, the spindle palm has a better tolerance to frost and is often chosen as a substitute. 

However, the bottle palm is a carrier of Lethal Yellow Palm Disease and is thus illegal in California and some other locations. 

Bottle Palm Tree Info and Care

Size & Growth Rate

This slow growing dwarf palm tree is like a fine wine, becoming more pleasant with age. Initially, the tan or grey trunk appears to bulge slightly. The swollen trunk slowly elongates and flattens into its trademark shape, usually 24” to 30” inches in diameter.

It will take several years for a bottle palm to achieve its full height, which is usually 10’ to 12′ feet. Older specimens of a century or more may reach 15′ feet in height, although this is uncommon.

The crown itself is small with half a dozen pinnate leaves that may grow to a length of 10′ feet. 140 leaflets up to 2′ feet long are arranged vertically in two rows.

Flowering and Fragrance

One of the more unexpected attractions of the dwarf bottle palm is its inflorescence. The small, monoecious cream to white flowers grow upwards on 30” inch stalks from where the trunk and crown shaft meet.

As the female flowers die, they leave behind round green fruit measuring 1” to 1.5″ inches long. As they mature, the fruit turns a silvery blue, then black. Inside each fruit is a single, slightly smaller seed.

Light & Temperature

Bottle palm requires full sun once matured, even in intense light conditions, as long as it’s kept watered. When younger, it will do well in filtered light.

This plant doesn’t fare well in extreme cold, and is best suited for USDA plant hardiness zones 10a to 11 (South Florida). Frost may arrest the growth of seedlings, and freezing weather will kill the plant outright. 

Watering and Feeding

The bottle palm needs average, regular watering. In general, keep the root ball and soil moist, but be careful not to overwater, especially potted. Occasional, short periods of dryness will not harm the plant, but should be avoided.

When in a rich soil, a quality palm fertilizer may be applied twice per year during the growing season. In poorer conditions, a fertilizer with extra micronutrients and trace elements should be applied three times per year.

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Soil & Transplanting

Bottle Palm thrives in a wide range of well-drained tropical soil types. This includes volcanic, clay, and sandy soils. However, it fares best in a deep organic soil. A neutral pH is preferred, and while the plant is salt-tolerant, it will grow better inland than along the coast.

Grooming And Maintenance

This is a very low-maintenance plant outside of its water needs, making it ideal for those on the go.

How To Propagate Pig Nut Palm

The seeds of this palm tend to have a poor shelf life. Fresh seeds may be propagated and tend to germinate in 4 to 6 weeks. It may be best to start the seedlings in pots, as even a light frost will almost always kill young bottle palms.

Hyophorbe Lagenicaulis Pests or Diseases

There are very few threats to bottle palm. Cold is perhaps the deadliest foe for this tropical palm. Additionally, overwatering may lead to a Phytophthora fungal infection.

When young in hot dry locations spider mites can be an issue. Control with Neem Oil sprays.

Areas such as Southern California, Hawaii, or Florida are usually good locations for growing bottle palm, as it is able to withstand hurricane-force winds.

Suggested Bottle Palm Uses 

The shape of this palm is its greatest appeal, so it’s best to plant in an open area where it’ll be the star attraction. You may also wish to avoid clumping them, as it will make the key features less noticeable. Some great planting locations are driveways and patios.

As a container plant, bottle palm works well in both indoor and outdoor settings, as long as there’s plenty of light exposure.

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