How To Care For Canary Island Date Palm

Hailing from the Canary Islands, Phoenix canariensis (FEE-niks kuh-nair-ee-EN-sis) is a relative of the true date palm (Phoenix dactylifera) and produces edible fruiting, if unpalatable, dates.

It is the equivalent of a state plant for residents of the island chain.

Phoenix canariensis growing in the landscape - Palm Coast Florida
Phoenix canariensis planted in the landscape – Palm Coast Florida
Image: PlantCareToday.com

To the Spanish community, the Canary Island Date Palm is member of the family: Arecaceae has the common name palmera canaria. 

English speakers refer to it as the Canary Island date palm. 

A third popular moniker is pineapple palm, based on the fibrous grey-brown trunk’s shape beneath its crown.

As with other members of the Phoenix genera, like Phoenix Roebelenii (pygmy date palm) this palm has modified leaflets at the leaf bases, resembling sharp spines. 

The crown of the Canary Date Palm is rounded with dark green pinnate, feathery leaves approximately 18’ feet long with 80 to 100 individual pinnae extending 8′ to 15 ¾’ feet from each side of the rachis.

Due to its hardiness in a wide range of environments, this evergreen is one of the widest distributed palms in the world, with successful plantings from Ireland to New Zealand. 

The Canary Island date palm has also earned the Royal Horticultural Society’s prestigious Award of Garden Merit.

Phoenix Canariensis Care

Size & Growth

Canary Island Date is a relatively slow grower, adding around 1′ to 2’ feet to its height each year in prime conditions. 

This growth can become slow or stunted in areas where temperatures are low enough to freeze the crown. 

The size is also stunted when grown as a container plant.

Pinnate leaves form around a year after sprouting, achieving their full width in approximately 5 years and begin to form a trunk. 

Adult trees are known to be 66′ to 120’ feet with trunks 2′ to 3’ feet thick, growing thicker towards the base, with an arching canopy spreading up to 40’ feet across. 

Diamond-shaped leaf scars remain on the trunk as old-growth rots away or are pruned.

Canary Island palms live 50 to 150 years, making them an excellent long-term investment.

Canary Island Date Palm Flowering

Canary Island date palm flowers intermittently during the spring in the isles, although the timing may vary depending upon the region. 

It’s a dioecious plant, having either male or female flowers ranging in color from creamy white to yellow in dense, pendant panicles up to 4’ feet long.

On female plants, the flowers develop oval drupes in autumn, ranging from orange to yellow and measuring approximately ¾” by ⅜” inches. 

They’re edible, although the large seed usually results in very little fruit pulp content.

Light & Temperature

Highly versatile, Canary date palm prefers full sun but is also capable of growing in deep shade or indoors.

This palm prefers subtropical and Mediterranean climates. 

It grows best in USDA hardiness zones 9a to 11. 

However, it has a higher resistance to cold than other palms and may be overwintered indoors. 

Outdoors, the tree can withstand temperatures down to 14° degrees Fahrenheit (-10° C).

Watering and Feeding

Container grown Canary Island Date palms will let you know if you are giving the appropriate amount of water. 

Fronds will begin to sag when there isn’t enough water. 

Meanwhile, yellowish-black leaf tips signal too much water. 

As a general rule, you should aim for a moderate watering schedule, reducing the frequency in winter months.

Despite the date palms ability to thrive in most conditions, these date palms are prone to a deficiency in magnesium, potassium, and vitamin K. 

Symptoms of all three involve yellowing of the leaves in rings or at the tips, with the latter resulting in the tips becoming brittle. 

Feed the plant a palm fertilizer containing micronutrients such as iron and manganese as a water-soluble sulfate, and a controlled-release vitamin  K, magnesium, and nitrogen content three times per year to prevent deficiencies.

Soil & Transplanting

Date palm Phoenix canariensis may be grown in a wide soil range, from loamy soil to sandy and even heavy clay soils, but choosing a well-drained soil type will protect it from rot. 

  • It thrives in a pH ranging from slightly acidic to highly alkaline and has a moderate tolerance to salt. 
  • Containers should employ a soil-based potting mix.
  • Transplanting this palm is similar to other members of its genus. 
  • Begin by removing between ½ and ⅔ of the lower leaves during digging. 
  • Tie the rest of the leaves into a tight bundle and use a splint on the trunk to protect the crown from snapping during transport. 
  • Be very careful when handling the bud, and keep the crown supported when moving the plant over longer distances.

Grooming And Maintenance

It’s a popular practice to prune the lower leaves of the Canary Island Date palm to reveal the pineapple shape of the trunk beneath. 

Dead foliage should also be removed, as they aren’t shed naturally and may attract pests. 

Dropped fruit may also result in the surface beneath the tree becoming slippery, so these should be removed as they fall.

How To Propagate Canary Island Date Palm

Propagation is carried out exclusively through its seeds, which germinate in the same manner as regular dates and related fruits.

Pineapple Palm Pest or Disease Problems

Canary Island date palm has the unusual gift of being both flood and drought tolerant. 

However, this has resulted in it becoming a mildly invasive plant in the United States, especially Florida and Southern California. 

Some plant-related allergies may be affected by this plant.

Fusarium wilt is a risk for this plant. It spreads through contaminated soil and seeds. 

Disinfecting any pruning tools before use will help reduce this risk. 

While resistant to Texas root rot, this date palm may fall victim to a wide range of other rotting diseases.

Younger plants may become infested with mealybugs, plant scale, or thrips, while container-kept palms sometimes suffer from spider mites. 

Lethal yellowing and palmetto weevils are major concerns regardless of age.

Suggested Phoenix Canariensis Uses

The most common use of P. Canariensis is as an ornamental plant. 

Canary Island dates are frequently used to line streets or as a focal point for gardens. 

The visually attractive fruit and its appeal to birds make this tree particularly desirable.

However, there’s more to this palm than just looks, as its leaflets are used in weaving and religious celebrations, such as Palm Sunday. 

The inflorescent buds produce a tasty sap used natively as syrup. 

Fishermen in Malta have also traditionally used the leaves to aid in catching pilot and dolphin fish.

When kept in containers, the palm makes for an attractive accent to entryways or patios.

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