The Pindo palm – Butia capitata [BEW-tee-uh, kap-ih-TAY-tuh] is a low, thick trunk, stocky perennial palm tree with tremendous tolerance for cold temperatures. It is known as one of the top cold hardy palms.
This member of the Arecaceae family is native to Uruguay, Argentina, and Brazil. You may hear it referred to as Pindo Palm or as Jelly Palm.
This second common name refers to the fact the plant produces copious amounts of edible dates (fruit) often used to make jelly.
Pindo Palm Care
Size and Growth
Pindo Palm is a slow-growing palm taking years to reach a mature height of 10′ or 20′ feet.
For this reason, when you purchase your palm trees, look for three-year-old stock in the nursery. In this way, you will start with a little bit of size. The foliage of the Pindo Palm is very attractive.
The blue-gray, feathery fronds grow in gentle curves and may be 6′ feet long.
The fragrant flowers appear in the springtime and may be white, yellow, or red. They grow in groups of three, consisting of one female flower and two male flowers.
As summer progresses, the flowers transition into tasty yellow, orange, or reddish-brown fruits, which are attractive to wildlife and useful to people.
Unfortunately, they are also quite messy as they litter the ground around the tree with gooey, sticky blobs.
For this reason, you should plant your Jelly Palm well away from decks, walkways, streets, and other places where fallen fruit is sure to cause problems.
Light and Temperature
These compact palm trees do very well in partial shade to full sun settings.
They can tolerate temperatures as low as 5° degrees Fahrenheit (-15° C), so you will find them growing all along the East Coast of the United States up to North Carolina.
These hardy palm trees are also very popular along the West Coast of the US in Washington state, western Oregon, and northern California.
They are winter hardy in USDA hardiness zones 8 through 11.
Watering and Feeding
Like most palms, the Pindo Palm does not like to stand in water but needs regular watering, especially during hot summers.
Wait until the top 3″ inches of the soil surrounding the tree is dry, and then water slowly and deeply to saturate the soil to a minimum depth of 2′ feet.
It’s best to place a soaker hose in a circle around the tree to thoroughly soak the soil without getting the trunk of the tree wet.
Too much moisture in the soil or on the trunk can cause trunk and root rot. Alternately (or additionally), dig a little moat (berm) around the tree to use as an irrigation ditch.
Fertilize your Pindo Palm four times annually. Use a specialized palm fertilizer rich in micronutrients and lists an NPK ratio of 8–4–12. Use granular fertilizer and sprinkle it evenly over the soil beneath the tree’s canopy.
Read the instructions on the fertilizer packaging very carefully and follow them closely. Immediately water the tree deeply to prevent the fertilizer from scorching the roots.
Soil and Transplanting
Jelly Palm is tolerant of all types of soil as long as it is well-draining. These trees prefer a neutral pH level.
As mentioned, place your palm tree in a location a minimum of 10′ feet away from anything you do not want to be littered with sticky fruit.
It’s best to transplant Pindo Palm seedlings in the springtime or early summer.
Dig a hole double the root ball’s size. It should be just the right depth to match the depth at which the plant was grown.
Place the seedling in the center of the hole and backfill the hole with the surrounding soil. Measure the diameter of the tree’s trunk, and work a couple of ounces of palm tree fertilizer into the soil for each inch.
Water daily for the next couple of weeks. Gradually reduce watering over several months, but never let the soil dry out entirely. Your new tree should be fairly drought-tolerant after a couple of years.
Grooming and Maintenance
Pindo Palm trees need to be pruned regularly to stay neat looking because they do not shed their dead leaves. The dead fronds need to be pruned off.
Avoid pruning healthy green fronds because this will cause stress to the tree.
It is especially stressful to remove green fronds which are pointing upward or growing horizontally.
Give your palm tree a good rinsing during the hot, dry summer months. This will help to remove grit, sand, and dust tending to accumulate on the stems and leaves.
Keeping the leaves clean supports efficient photosynthesis. Occasional rinsing also helps to knock pesky insects, such as mites, off the foliage.
How To Propagate Butia Capitata
Grow your own Pindo Palm by doing the following:
- Gather up the ripe fruit when it falls to the ground, remove the pits, and crack them open to expose the seed.
- Next, you’ll need to plant them (right away) in 4″ inch pots of fast-draining, sterile soil.
- Prepare the pots in advance by filling them to a half-inch from the top of the pot with a 50-50 mix of perlite and coco coir.
- Remove the pits from the orange fruit and lay them on concrete or brick or some other very hard surface.
- Use a mallet to tap the pits and crack open the tough outer hull.
- Use pliers to pull the hull open. You’ll see the small, round, brown seeds inside.
- Remove them and begin planting
- Place one seed into each of your prepared pots.
- Press the seeds into the surface of the planting mixture, leaving just a little bit of the top of the seed visible.
- Cover the seeds lightly with fine sand.
- Put the pots in a place where they will get 6 to 8 hours of bright, indirect sunlight daily.
A sheltered porch, a cold frame, or an indoor location near a large, bright window are all good choices.
Throughout the germination process, keep the potting mixture moist by spraying as needed with filtered water or rainwater.
The planting medium should always feel just slightly moist.
- Use a germination mat to keep the soil at a consistent temperature of 100° degrees Fahrenheit (38° C).
- Place plastic wrap loosely over the pots to retain moisture and hold in the warmth.
- Within two weeks, your seeds should germinate.
- When the seedlings have produced two leaves, remove the plastic and the germination mat and transplant them into a different medium consisting of a 50-50 mix of coarse sand and potting soil.
- Stay with 4″ inch pots at this juncture.
- Continue to treat your baby Pindo Palms as houseplants or greenhouse plants until late in the springtime or early in the summer.
- At this point, place the seedlings in their permanent locations.
- For best success, remember these plants need fast-draining soil and plenty of sun.
- Water them to a depth of 1″ inch a week throughout their first summer.
Butia Capitata Pest Or Diseases
Pests and diseases are not usually problems for Jelly Palms.
Excessive watering can cause root and trunk rot.
Compromised trees may be subject to predation by mites, scale, and possibly skeletonizer insects, but a properly cared-for tree will not experience these pests.
Do be very attentive to your palm tree’s nutritional requirements.
Micronutrient deficiencies can cause Pindo Palms problems.
Remember to fertilize regularly, and avoid keeping the tree in soil having a high pH level.
This tends to exacerbate the problem.
Is The Pindo Plant Toxic or Poisonous?
There is nothing toxic about these palm trees.
The fruits are edible and tasty and are very attractive to squirrels and other tree-dwelling mammals.
Is The Butia Invasive?
This slow-growing palm tree requires quite a bit of care to propagate and cannot be considered invasive.
Suggested Pindo Palm Uses
These slow-growing, elegant evergreen palms do well individually as specimen plants.
Their medium size makes them a good choice for smaller yards and courtyards.
Because they are resistant to high winds, air pollution, and a number of other negative impacts, they are often chosen for planting along highway medians.
Pindo Palm is a novel addition to a wildlife garden.
Its sweet, abundant fruit is attractive to a wide variety of native fauna.
The light yellow, orange, or reddish-brown fruit is quite useful on its own.
The flesh is made into jelly, and the seeds are roasted and used as a coffee substitute.