How To Grow The Edible Date Palm

Phoenix dactylifera, also known as the True Date Palm, is a member of the Arecaceae family of plants. 

These attractive perennial trees originated in the Middle East, Western Asia, and Africa. They produce panicles of light yellow blooms in the springtime, which transition into edible dates.


There are several cultivars of Phoenix dactylifera. Among them are:

  • The Fard is the most familiar date palm that produces green fruits that transition to dark brown.
  • The Barhi date palm produces savory dates that can be eaten like fruit from the tree.
  • The Dayri produces fruits that start out red and then transition to brown and black.
  • The Deglet Noor produces golden fruit that tastes like honey.

You may hear this tree referred to as a date palm. Many date palms are identified as palm trees; however, not all types of palm trees produce dates.

Some of the Edible date palm’s close relatives include Phoenix roebelenii, also known as Pygmy date palms or Dwarf date palms, and Phoenix canariensis (Canary Date Palm). However, it must not be confused with these varieties of dates.

Examples of edible palm varieties include the Zahidi and Medjool date palms.

Young date-bearing trees may produce only about 20 pounds of fruit in their first few seasons. Mature, well-established trees may produce hundreds of pounds of dates.

Edible Date Palm Care

Size and Growth

Palm trees are slow-growing and may live for as long as 150 years. With steady growth, a palm may attain a height of 100’ feet with a canopy spread as great as 40’ feet.

Flowering and Fragrance

These trees produce panicles of very small, very fragrant yellow or creamy white blooms. A single inflorescence may hold as many as ten-thousand flowers.

These blooms must be pollinated to transition into palm fruits. It is necessary for true date palms to have both a male and female tree for this to happen.

Pollen is wind-borne from the male tree to the female trees. The only one that bears the fruits is the female plant.

Generally, wild date palms pollinate with the help of insects and wind. However, it can also be pollinated using the simplest and oldest pollination technique: placing the entire male flower spathe in the female date palm’s crown and leaving it to wind, bees, and other insects.

On average, female date palms take around eight years to produce edible fruits grown from palm seed.


The fronds of the Phoenix dactylifera arch gracefully to a length as great as ten feet. The leaves are waxy and bluish or grayish-green. A mature tree’s canopy usually consists of 20 or 30 fronds.

Light and Temperature

All palm trees are native to tropical and subtropical settings, so they need consistent warmth and full sun (6 hours daily minimum) to do well. These trees are winter hardy in USDA hardiness zones 8-11.

For pollination to be successful, temperatures must be at or above 95 degrees Fahrenheit. Dry, hot conditions are necessary for the palm fruit to ripen properly.

Open air, breezy, low humidity conditions are best. Too much humidity can cause rot.

In areas where temperatures drop below 20° degrees Fahrenheit, it is wise to grow date palms in containers and bring them indoors for the winter. 

Those planted in the landscape can be protected against short, sudden cold snaps by wrapping or covering them with fabric.

Watering and Feeding

These drought-tolerant trees do need consistent moisture during the flowering and fruiting seasons. This is especially true of young trees.

Keep the soil consistently and evenly moist. Don’t allow the soil to dry out, and don’t allow it to become soggy. Soggy soil leads to root rot.

Fertilize late in the winter or early springtime with a top dressing of manure or a commercial palm tree fertilizer. Follow packaging directions closely when using a commercial product.

Soil and Transplanting

Date Palms prefer well-draining soil that is generously amended with loam or sand. They can tolerate any pH level but prefer slightly acidic soil.

The best planting time is early in the spring, but fall planting also has a high likelihood of success. Do your planting on a mild, warm day to avoid wind damage to your freshly planted tree.

When choosing the location, keep your tree’s growth potential in mind. Be sure it has plenty of room to spread its fronds to a maximum of forty feet and grow freely to 100′ feet.

Be sure your young tree will get plenty of sun in its new location.

Your planting hole should be twice the width and depth of the plant’s root ball. If high winds are expected, you may wish to stake the tree and provide some wind block until the young tree is well-established.

Grooming and Maintenance

You can improve your Date Palm’s production rate by promptly removing dead or damaged leaves and fronds.

In the springtime, you may see suckers starting to grow at the tree’s base. Trim these away, so they do not steal fruit-producing energy from the tree.

When the flowers transition into fruit, you may wish to thin some of the bunches judiciously if they seem to burden the tree. Fruits that are crowded together may rot before they have a chance to ripen.

When a tree produces too many fruits, those fruits will tend to be small. Very heavy fruit production one year will lead to very low edible fruit production the next year.

As bunches of palm fruit develop, pull them down and secure them to the tree’s lower leaves. This helps to protect them against wind damage.

You will also want to protect them from rain damage by covering the bunches of fruit with nylon sleeves or waxed paper.

Harvest the fresh dates late in the summer and early in the autumn. They will not all ripen at once. Watch for the fruits to become brown and soft, then separate them from the tree using a sharp, sterile knife.

You can store dates at room temperature in an airtight container for a month or so. If you want to store them for longer, you can refrigerate them for as long as six months or freeze them for as long as a year.

How To Propagate Edible Date Palm

When you remove date palm suckers, you can use them to propagate new trees. A sucker is an offshoot or exact clone of its parent.

To grow a new palm tree from a sucker, gently separate the offshoot from the parent, keeping the roots intact. It’s best to do this carefully, by hand, rather than using a cutting implement.

Once it is separated, you can plant the offshoot right into the landscape or into a container of good, well-draining potting or container mix. 

Be sure the roots are just covered, and firm the soil around the offshoot to make good soil-to-root contact.

Also, make sure to keep the soil around the offshoot evenly moist (never soggy) as the young plant sets down more roots and becomes established.

Your young tree will need plenty of warmth and bright, indirect sunlight. Protect it against harsh weather conditions until it is well-established.

You may wish to stake the young tree to be sure it grows straight and true.

It is also possible to grow date palms from seed, but it takes quite a while. To do this, you would save the seeds from ripe dates.

Soak them in warm water for a full 24 hours. Those that sink to the bottom are viable. Those that float to the surface are not. Discard the floaters.

Plant the seeds in individual containers of moist seed starting mix. Press them into the surface of this mix so that the seeds are half covered.

Put the containers in a setting that provides consistent warmth and bright, indirect sunlight.

Cover the containers lightly with plastic to help retain humidity.

Keep the soil evenly moist. You should see germination in a month or so.

Edible Date Palm Main Pest Or Diseases

Well-cared-for date palms that receive ample amounts of sun, warmth, and tropical breezes are fairly trouble-free. Those that are not may be susceptible to the following:

  • Fungal diseases, such as Bayoud disease, which is caused by the Fusarium oxysporum. This soil-borne disease is currently only active in Algeria and Morocco. Correct watering will help prevent this sort of problem from taking hold.
  • Black scorch disease is another fungal disease which causes brownish-black lesions on the plant’s foliage. A fungus may also cause suckers to die either while they are attached to the parent plant or soon after planting. Correct pruning with a very sharp, sterilized implement will help prevent the spread of this disease. It can be treated with a Bordeaux mixture or a copper-based fungicide.
  • High levels of humidity may cause Graphiola leaf spot, which is another fungal disease. This can be identified by masses of yellow spores on the plants’ leaves followed by deep black lesions. Prune out infected foliage and treat with a broad-spectrum fungicide, such as a Bordeaux mixture.
  • Excessive heat and humidity can also cause Khamedj disease Mauginiella scattae. This fungal infection attacks unopened spathes of leaves and panicles of flowers. The infection is marked by rusty brown damage. 

Prevent the development of this fungal infection by keeping foliage, excessive blooms, and fruits well-thinned to allow plenty of airflows. Remove all debris promptly. Treat the disease with a copper-based fungicide or a Bordeaux mixture.

  • Lethal Yellowing is caused by a phytoplasma, which is carried from plant to plant by plant hoppers. This bacterial disease causes trees’ foliage to turn grayish brown and rot, causing the crown to collapse away from the trunk. This destruction is accompanied by a foul smell. If caught early, an injection of antibiotics into the tree’s trunk may stop the disease.
  • Some types of beetles may also be problematic in some settings. Reduce the possibility of beetle infestation by clearing away debris (especially rotting logs) promptly to prevent the insects from having a breeding ground.

Is the plant considered toxic or poisonous to people, kids, and pets?

Date palms of all sorts can pose significant safety and health risks for people, pets, livestock, and even wild animals that come in contact with them. 

They have hard, sharp, toxic thorns at the base of the fronds that can do great damage. If the thorn penetrates skin, it will often snap off, and it can be very difficult to remove.

Is the plant considered invasive?

In ideal tropical conditions, in which the trees receive ample sun and moisture, and pollen-carrying breezes, they can naturalize and become invasive. 

It is also worth noting that birds and animals may carry the fruit of these trees long distances and deposit the seeds in areas that are conducive to unchecked growth.

Suggested Edible Date Palm Uses

A date palm can make a nice, large indoor plant in a bright and sunny window or sunroom. In these conditions, the plant is unlikely to produce edible fruit.

In hot, breezy spring and summer areas, a container of date palm can be kept outside during the growing season and brought in for the winter. In this case, you may get a bit of fruit.

In the landscape, in a tropical setting, date palms make a lovely, welcoming statement alongside a long driveway. 

A male and female pair might mark the back corners of a large property. Of course, growing them in a traditional grove in a tropical setting is always possible.

Three main varieties of female date palms used in landscaping are the following:

  • The Medjool date palms
  • The Zahidi date palm
  • The Deglet Nour date palm

Moreover,  mature date palms have 2′ to 3′ feet of the woody tree trunk and are ready to produce 70 to 140 kilograms of soft dates per harvest season.

There are many commercial uses for the palm tree’s fruit and the heart of palm and palm oil. Dates are good for snacking, baking, juicing, making wine, adding to smoothies, and much more.

In addition, dried leaf petioles are often a source of cellulose pulp used for brooms, walking sticks, fishing floats, and fuel. Date palm leaves are also commonly used for making huts.

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