Dwarf Date Palm Care: Growing Phoenix Roebelenii

Phoenix roebelenii (botanical name) [roh-bel-EN-ee-eye] is also known as the dwarf Pygmy Date palm.

The plant is also often referred to as Robellini [roh-bel-EN-ee].

The small pygmy date palm hails from the understory of the dense forests of southeast Asia and Africa and belongs to the family Arecaceae, which is the palm family.

Multi Pygmy Date palm - Phoenix Roebelenii
Pygmy Date Palm Phoenix Roebelenii growing at EPCOT, Orlando Florida – image PlantCareToday.com

Pygmy Date Palm Care

Size & Growth

Dwarf Pygmy Date Palm has a slow growth rate plant and mature plants will attain a height of no more than 5’ feet when grown indoors.

Outdoors these landscape palms can reach 8′ – 10′ feet tall.

The plant’s foliage consists of graceful, arching fronds about 3’ feet long with slim, delicate leaves.

Another date palm to consider –> Phoenix canariensis – Canary Date Palm

Flowering & Fragrance

When grown outdoors, these dioecious plants produce distinctive male and female flowers on separate trees.

The cream-colored flowers mature into edible dates on female trees.

Light & Temperature

As a forest understory plant, the pygmy date palm robelenii does very well outdoors in a setting with bright, indirect sunlight or partial shade but will tolerate some full sun.

These plants do very well when placed near a south or east-facing window.

Pygmy Date Palm does well with medium filtered light, but you must take care not to water excessively in a lower light setting.

These dwarf date palm plants grow best at temperatures ranging from 50° – 75° degrees Fahrenheit (10° C – 24° C).

Avoid allowing the temperature to drop below 50° degrees Fahrenheit (10° C).

Pygmy Date palms are winter hardy in the United States hardiness zone 9b – 11 (USDA Zone).

Potted Phoenix pygmy roebelenii placed hotel in stairwell Orlando Florida
Potted Phoenix pygmy palm in stairwell Orlando, Florida – image PlantCareToday.com

Watering & Feeding

As tropical understory plants, these small date palms will not thrive without moderate or high humidity levels.

Throughout the growing zone season, spring through autumn, keep your Pygmy Date Palm well watered.

As with most plants, avoid leaving the soil soggy.

The plant should never be left standing in water.

During the winter months, reduce watering. Allow the soil to dry out completely in between waterings.

Early in the springtime, resume regular watering and give your Phoenix pygmy date palm a half-strength dose of time-released palm fertilizer.

It will appreciate another dose in mid-summer.

The best type of fertilizer to use for these small palm trees is palm tree fertilizer that are formulated to contain the right micronutrients for this particular type of palm.

Plant food without enough magnesium or a potassium deficiency will cause the leaves to develop yellowing spots.

It’s best to fertilize twice a year using a time-release plant food.

If you are not able to use a time-released formulation, fertilize once a month with a liquid plant fertilizer at half strength during the plant’s growing season.

Soil & Transplanting

Always use a well-draining potting mix with a bit of coarse sand or perlite added to provide the right nutrients and good drainage.

The best time to repot Phoenix roebelenii is in the springtime just prior to the growing season.

You must repot very carefully because the plants have quite delicate roots and the root ball does not take well to disturbance.

When the plant has fully matured and is not expected to grow any larger, avoid repotting altogether.

Instead, turn and dig away the top several inches of soil and replace it with a fresh, top dressing of nutrient-rich potting soil once a year in the early spring.

When choosing a container for your Dwarf Palm tree, avoid lightweight plastic choices.

Instead, go for a heavier terra-cotta or ceramic container to prevent toppling.

Put a layer of gravel in the bottom for added ballast.

Pygmy Date Palm Grooming & Maintenance

Trim away dead or damaged fronds as needed.

Be careful of coming in contact with the sharp spines found at the base of each leaflet.

It is always wise to wear protective gloves when handling Phoenix roebelenii.

You may also like the Windmill Palm – Trachycarpus fortunei

How To Propagate Pygmy Date Palm Tree

When you repot dwarf date palms, you may find it has been potted with addition plants that look like suckers at the base of the plant.

To propagate new palm trees, start them from seed and plant them in small pots.

ripe black pygmy date seed
Pygmy Date Seeds – image PlantCareToday.com

Phoenix Pygmy Palm Main Pest or Disease Problems

For the most part, these hardy little date palms are resistant to disease. However when kept outdoors and planted directly in the soil, they may fall prey to soil-borne fungal diseases causing root and trunk rot.

With most palm varieties being single trunk its a tough disease to combat.

Excessive watering will cause root rot.

If you overwater your dwarf palm plant, you may also find the leaves begin to turn brown.

This may also be problematic if you live in an area with hard water.

When grown outdoors, the young, tender leaves of the pygmy date tree may attract:

… early in the growing season.

Is The Dwarf Phoenix Date Palm Toxic or Poisonous

Pygmy date palm trees are not poisonous, and, in ideal settings, they produce edible dates.

These dwarf Palms are said to be very good clean air plants and are reported to excel at removing carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, benzene and xylene from the air.

Is The Phoenix Pygmy Date Palm Invasive?

While these tropical plants grow well outdoors in semitropical US settings and self propagate readily, they are not considered invasive.

Suggested Uses For Pygmy Date Palm Trees

In tropical and semi-tropical settings, pygmy date palm may be planted outdoors year-round in small groves.

Multi trunk Pygmy Date growing in front yard
Pygmy date palms grow as multiple trunks or as single trunks for landscaping – image PalntCareToday.com

They are very popular landscape plants throughout the state of Florida, but they should not be planted at the seaside as they do not tolerate salt spray.

In cooler climates, the pygmy date palm makes excellent large indoor houseplants.

Their origins make them ideal candidates for pool landscaping, along with home, office, and commercial settings.

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