Spindle Palm Care: Hyophorbe Verschaffeltii Growing Tips

Hyophorbe verschaffeltii (hy-OH-for-bee ver-shaf-FELT-ee-eye) is a mid-sized palm hailing from the Mascarene Islands. These islands in the Indian Ocean and lie off the eastern end of Madagascar. 

This palm grows well in tropical and semi-tropical settings, like Hawaii, California, and Florida. 

Fronds of the Spindle palm tree - Hyophorbe verschaffeltii
Spindle palm tree growing in the Landscape

This perennial tree is a member of the palm or Arecaceae family of plants. The plants’ genus name, Hyophorbe, is derived from the Greek words “hyo” (hog or pig) and “phorb” (feed or fodder). 

In ancient times, the fruits of the tree were probably used as pig feed. 

The specific epithet, verschaffeltii, honors 19th-century nurseryman and botanical artist, Ambroise Verschaffelt. 

The common name, Spindle Palm, is a reference to the spindle shaped stem or trunk. It has a wide section mid-point and tapers off at the top and the base.

Spindle Palm – Hyophorbe Verschaffeltii Care

Size & Growth

When grown outdoors in optimal conditions, the Spindle Palm can grow to be 25’ feet tall. When kept as a houseplant, its height tends to be more modest. Expect a maximum height of 6’ feet. 

Spindle Palm has pinnately compound fronds that can grow to be ten feet long in ideal conditions. The individual leaflets are dark green, lance-shaped, and may be over 2’ feet long. 

The tree trunk is ringed and light gray. It is swollen in the middle, bright orange at the base, and has a bright green crown shaft on top.

Flowering & Fragrance

It’s unlikely for Spindle Palms to flower indoors. When grown outdoors, the plants’ flower stalks can grow to be 2.5’ feet long. They are quite heavily branched and grow in a circle beneath the crown shaft. 

Both male and female flowers appear upon the same inflorescence. 

Flowers are white or creamy colored transitioning into bright orange or red fruits almost an inch in diameter.

Light & Temperature

Outdoors, these palm trees like a full sun setting. If kept as a houseplant, they like very bright, indirect sunlight. Indoors, it’s best to avoid keeping the plant in full, direct sunlight. South-facing or east-facing windows are ideal. 

Spindle palms are not as cold-sensitive as many other palm trees but does not tolerate freezing temperatures. The plant is winter hardy in USDA hardiness zones 10 through 12. It does well in temperatures ranging from 35-80° degrees Fahrenheit.

Watering & Feeding

These palms like moist, well-drained soil. Do not let the soil dry out completely between waterings.

Outdoors, provide regular irrigation, especially during times of drought. 

Indoors, water whenever the top couple of inches of soil dry out. Allow the water to run through the soil and out the pot’s drainage holes. Don’t let the tree stand in water. 

Like many palm trees, Spindle Palm may have a particular need for magnesium and potassium. Choose a fertilizer formulated especially for palm trees

Follow packaging directions. Excessive fertilizing can be damaging to your palm tree. 

A slow-release fertilizer product can help prevent excessive feeding. It’s also a convenient choice, especially for palms kept as houseplants.

Soil & Transplanting

In its natural setting, this palm grows in a sandy, well-drained soil. It’s a good idea to try to replicate this whether planting indoors or outdoors. 

If you are keeping Spindle Palm as a houseplant, invest in a high quality commercial potting mix. You may wish to lighten it and improve drainage with a bit of coarse builder’s sand. 

Container choice is also important. You’ll need a sturdy, weighty pot that has ample drainage holes. Choose a pot that’s big enough to allow for moderate growth. Repot the spindle palm every couple of years. 

Grooming & Maintenance

As with most palm trees, there’s not a lot of grooming and maintenance to worry about. Just trim away any dead or damaged leaves or fronds and prune as you wish to promote the size and shape you desire. 

How To Propagate Spindle Palm – Hyophorbe verschaffeltii

It is possible to grow this palm tree from seed, but it takes a good deal of patience. Seeds may take as long as six months to germinate. Generally speaking, you are better off buying a seedling at a local nursery, through a catalog or online. 

Spindle Palm – Hyophorbe verschaffeltii Main Pest or Disease Problems

Correct watering (not too much, and not too little) is absolutely essential to keep this plant healthy. If you attend to that, you should have few or no problems.

The only serious disease this palm tree is subject to is lethal yellowing disease. [source] Check to see if this disease is present in your area before planting the Spindle palm tree. 

Are Spindle Palms Considered Toxic or Poisonous?

Palm trees are generally non-toxic, but it’s still a good idea to keep your palm tree safe from curious kids, pets, and livestock.

Is The Hyophorbe Considered invasive?

Spindle Palm requires very specific conditions in order to thrive, so it is not considered invasive. In fact, even though it is a popular garden addition in tropical settings around the world, it is sadly endangered in its home setting. In the Mascarene Islands, it is near extinction. [source]

Suggested Spindle Palm – Hyophorbe verschaffeltii Uses

This interesting spindle shaped palm tree makes a lovely specimen plant on its own in full sun. It is equally as attractive included in a collection of various palm trees or paired with other types of tropical landscape plants. 

The Spindle Palm is a pretty addition to a large, bright indoor setting. Think about adding one to your living room, sunroom, bedroom, or office. The plant grows slowly and makes an attractive conversation piece. 

Kept as a container plant, it can be moved outdoors to the patio or poolside during the summer.

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