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].
These small palm trees hail from the understory of the dense forests of southeast Asia and Africa and belong to the family Arecaceae, which is the palm family.
Pygmy Date Palm Care
Size & Growth
Dwarf Date Palm is a slow growth rate plant and mature plants will attain a height of no more than 5’ feet when grown indoors.
Outdoors plants can reach 8′ – 10′ feet tall.
The plant’s foliage consists of graceful, arching fronds about 3’ feet long with slim, delicate leaves.
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, Phoenix roebelenii does very well in a setting with bright, indirect sunlight or partial shade but will tolerate some full sun.
Pygmy Date Palm does well with medium filtered light, but you must take care not to water excessively in a lower light setting.
These plants grow best at temperatures ranging from 50° – 75° degrees F, 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).
Watering & Feeding
As tropical understory plants, these small palm trees 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 roebelenii 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 rose fertilizer.
Fertilizers formulated for rose bushes contain the right micronutrients for this particular type of palm.
It’s best to fertilize only twice a year using a time-release plant food, but if you are not able to use a time-released formulation, you should fertilize once a month during the plant’s growing season.
In either case, use a half-strength solution.
Soil & Transplanting
Always use a well-draining commercial 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 do 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.
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.
How To Propagate Pygmy Date Palm Tree
When you repot your Miniature Palm tree, you may find it has produced suckers at the base of the plant.
To propagate new palm trees, remove the suckers and plant them in their small pots.
Phoenix Pygmy Palm Main Pest or Disease Problems
For the most part, these hardy little plants 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 miniature 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 plant may attract caterpillars, weevils, scales, mealybugs, and mites early in the growing season.
Is The Plant Toxic or Poisonous
Pygmy 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 Plant Invasive?
While these tropical plants grow well outdoors in semitropical US settings and self propagate readily, they are not considered invasive.
Suggested Uses For Phoenix Roebelenii Palms
In tropical and semi-tropical settings, Phoenix roebelenii may be planted outdoors year-round in small groves.
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, they make excellent large indoor houseplants.
Their origins make them ideal candidates for pool landscaping, along with home, office, and commercial settings.