Can a Lipstick Palm survive in Brisbane?

RedlandsGilly(Zone 11 Subtropical)April 13, 2014

Disclaimer: I still have my gardening 'L' plates on so please keep frustrated yelling to a minimum.

I live in the subtropics - zone 11, coastal - and today I was in a hardware getting a new mattock and in their garden section I spied a beautiful palm the likes of which i hadn't seen before. I asked the assistant what it was and he wasn't sure so scanned the bar code and said it was a Foxtail. I was pretty sure it wasn't but as my palm knowledge isn't great, I deferred to him & bought it.

I googled foxtails when I arrived home and sure enough it is not one. I checked the docket - it said Foxtail Palm. I checked for any kind of label on the pot and in tiny writing above the barcode it says 'Lipstick'.

So I now understand a Lipstick palm will die if i plant it outside and only has a slim chance if I bring it in over winter. It is lovely, though, but I'm pretty sure it's going to have to be returned.

Is it worth giving it a go in a pot? What do people more knowledgeable than me think?

This post was edited by RedlandsGilly on Sun, Apr 13, 14 at 11:09

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Try it, but I doubt it. Lipsticks need consistently warm, warm and humid weather. They are gorgeous palms and maybe you'll get lucky.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2014 at 11:25AM
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I see (according to one source), that Brisbane has an average low of 10c (50F) in July. Based on that, I am going to say definitely not. The midwinter averages there are about the same as Orlando (Brisbane's extreme record lows are MUCH higher though) and I keep my 10 ft Cyrtostachys renda in the greenhouse from roughly Thanksgiving to mid-March.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2014 at 1:27PM
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They will definitely need protection to survive your winters. They might make decent potted palm for a while if you drag it indoors whenever nights go below 55F (12.8C). In your climate the big problem is going to be the lack of humidity and the cool winter nights. The east coast of Australia has a similar climate to the west coast of the US and over there you can grow a ton of great plants but nothing ultra-tropical ever stands a chance with the cool nights and the lack of humidity. In the US lipstick palms only survive long term in the Florida Keys and Hawaii. The ones in Florida were damaged when they got down to 50F (10C) which is a pretty regular night temperature in Brisbane during the winter.
Good luck with it! They are really beautiful palms and definitely worth giving a shot.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2014 at 1:44PM
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I'm not sure that high humidity is really needed. I've seen them -large- in Atriums in San Francisco skyscrapers. Only the constant warm lows were what they got. I doubt they ever were allowed to see more then 75f degrees in the day. Out of the tropics you learn its the lack of warm nights that limits more then high heat or humidity.

Being that Brisbane is so mild,you might try a heat mat under it in winter or heating cables in the pot. Its been done in San Diego in covered patios. For you,it would be a solution.

This post was edited by stanofh on Sun, Apr 13, 14 at 15:59

    Bookmark   April 13, 2014 at 3:44PM
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RedlandsGilly(Zone 11 Subtropical)

Thanks, all. I've decided to give it a go. It really is a fantastic specimen, about 3ft high, two large fronds and tons of single bladed leaves varying from 2.5ft to 0.5ft high. It seems very overcrowded as there are about 25 or 30 stems and suckers growing out of the 250mm pot (sorry not sure American equivalent). Should I trim these out?

My backyard is on a small hill about a mile from the coast and as such we do get quite strong breezes - there is a cool one blowing this morning - so I have brought it inside. I think it will do okay in a west facing bay window on the cooler, windier days in winter and outside when it's still, warm and sunny. Can these palms tolerate any wind at all?

The potting mix seems to be very light bark and decomposed plant matter. It takes very little effort to push my finger down into it. I'm concerned the potting mix I normally use will be too heavy for it. Can someone please tell me what I should be using?

This morning I am heading off to the nursery to get a 400mm black plastic pot and ordering a beer heating pad for it. We've decided if we're going to keep it, we're going to do everything we can to ensure its survival. Fingers crossed. .

Any other advice gratefully accepted (seriously).

    Bookmark   April 13, 2014 at 5:47PM
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RedlandsGilly(Zone 11 Subtropical)

I'll bring in inside over winter and only use the heating pad indoors.

Here is a photo showing the number of canes coming out of the pot. I think I may have got a good deal seeing I paid $49 for it (in terms of the emotional roller coaster/stress ride I'm now on because of it, maybe not!).

This post was edited by RedlandsGilly on Sun, Apr 13, 14 at 18:19

    Bookmark   April 13, 2014 at 6:16PM
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Well,you might get a heating pad from a hydroponics store..or home improvement yard area. They can take getting wet by rain or watering better. Still,electric outdoors is tricky. Make sure you have a power cord that will trip before anything goes wrong.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2014 at 6:16PM
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Lipsticks can be quite expensive, and are certainly not for outdoors Brisbane. Good only if you're somewhere up Townsville or further north. If you take it indoors on cold nights you should be okay. They like full sun but plenty of water all the time. In habitat they're a swanp plant. Some people (including me) grow them standing in water. Once dried out they're gone. I've had one sitting in a container of water three quarters the depth of the pot for 4 - 5 years. The others are in the ground, one of those in a seasonally inundated swamp. Their only complaint is not enough fertiliser, I sometimes get a bit slack that way.

By the way, the Australian east coast climate is totally unlike the US west coast climate, virtually the opposite.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2014 at 9:43PM
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I wish you had bought two,too. One on a heating mat and the other without. I think you would see the difference quickly.
Oh,I know the west isn't tropical or humid at all. The one in San Francisco was in a warm and cozy atrium and lobby,what the temps were outside had no effect.
The San Diego plant I think was in somebody's poolhouse. Almost a greenhouse. And he still had to use heating cables in winter.
In all honesty those palms are worth the extra effort..I've met people who don't know much about plants..but THOSE they get big eyed about when they talk about visiting the tropics.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2014 at 11:40PM
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@ tropicbreezent, when I made the comment about the west coast of Australia being similar to the West Coast of the US, I was thinking the southern parts of the coast like Sydney and Melbourne.
I can only speak from numbers though so I am sure you know MUCH more than I do having actual experience living in Australia.
As far as numbers go though, Sydney and Los Angeles have almost identical temperatures (Los Angeles a little bit warmer), but Sydney has a lot more consistent rainfall than LA which was basically a desert before humans settled there.
Once you get north to Brisbane, it is definitely a bit warmer (and also rainer) than most of the western US (probably more comparable to parts of Central Florida over there with warm and rainy summers and mild, drier winters, although still quite different from central Florida with much milder record low temperatures in Brisbane).
The northern parts of coastal Australia on either coasts are definitely tropical by any definition, and there isn't really a comparable climate to that in the continental US.
I'm only comparing Australia's climate to the US since I have never been to Australia (although I'm hoping to one day!), but I know what grows where around the climates in the US.

I agree with that they do not necessarily need humidity, but since they are swamp plants as mentioned, you don't want them to dry out much. (They probably would not like to be as wet in cool weather though). I saw some on the dry side of Maui growing perfectly fine in low humidity. It was growing on the edge of a water feature so it had plenty of water available.

As far as wind goes, they should have no problem with warm winds. Cold winds might make it unhappy but they should be okay with anything else.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   April 14, 2014 at 12:54AM
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garyfla_gw(10 Florida)

I killed both my seeds and my plant over time in spite of being kept in a GH lol .Oddly they died during summer.
Anyway that is certainly a healthy looking specimen!!
Couldn't you squeeze out some info from the supplier?? Where were they produced?? They have some gorgeous ones at Fairchild in Miami Florida. and they are outside.
Good luck with them they are fantastic!! gary

    Bookmark   April 14, 2014 at 1:34AM
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RedlandsGilly(Zone 11 Subtropical)

Thanks again, all.

I spoke with the local nursery owner today and he said they can be planted in my area, no problem, they just won't colour up and are basically an expensive Golden Cane. I begged to differ but he was having none of it. I went home and called a palm expert in Brisbane who does the landscapes for Botanic Garden's palm garden and he said they'd grow indoors without any problems in winter but not to plant them in the ground and that the nursery owner was talking out of his butt, basically.

He advised not to repot until Spring and that the best place for it was the bathroom but if that wasn't feasible near a window that gets some sun but not to let it get burned and to put it in a little tray of water. The temperatures will get too cold for it in about a month and to keep it inside until the weather warms up again in September/October.

So it's now happily installed on a reflective blanket in a draft-free spot in the lounge room in front of a big north east facing window that has net curtains for the morning sun that streams in, in a tray of water about an inch deep - over its roots that have started to protrude from the pot. I have another big bowl of water with rocks and pebbles to one side for humidity and there's a big bay window facing west that gets afternoon sun all afternoon to it's left and another facing east that gets morning sun 'til about 10am to its right. I have watered it today about six times and misted it about 10, lol.

When it gets colder I think i'll wrap the pot in a doona with a heating pad and maybe a teddy bear for the night. :)

So we're set for the winter. Here goes nothing.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2014 at 5:40AM
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Not to scare you..but I think I did read there is a palm sold as Lipstick that never gets red. You might want to look into that. I was wondering why yours were that golden.

You might look at pictures of Cytostachys lakka aka "Orange Lipstick palm.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2014 at 10:48PM
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A thing to remember about full sun plants, if they're kept in shade the leaves develop and adjust to shade conditions. They can't be suddenly moved back into the sun. So if you keep it inside for winter, come spring it has to be slowly adjusted back to full sun conditions.

Some Lipsticks are normally a bright red, but others can be a much duller colour. And there are some that are plain green. Generally the less colourful are the cheaper.

Be sure to keep the roots wet, it will cope with a drier atmosphere though. Good luck with it, but I think you should be okay with it anyway.

Re the climate, the east coast of Australia has rainforest all along it. In Cape York it's ultra tropical, and further down just tropical. In the south east of Queensland (Brisbane area) and northern New South Wales to near Sydney it's sub-tropical rainforest, transitioning into temperate rainforest in southern New South Wales and far eastern Victoria. There's year round rainfall but predominant during summer. Spring is generally a bit drier.

Melbourne across to Adelaide and Perth is a mediterranean climate similar to southern California, lower rainfall than the east coast and predominant in winter. Melbourne has a slight maritime influence, as has the area further to the south of Perth.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2014 at 4:19AM
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Thanks for the info on the climates there tropicbreezent. I realized that you got more precip on the east coast of Australia than the US west coast but I didn't realize things were so much more forested, although it's not hard to believe since Southern California is basically a desert. Temperatures are only one factor so while those are probably similar between the 2, Australia's west coast would probably have much more luck with tropical palms than California would with it's drier climate which is definitely great since Cali can't get away with too many tropical palms.


    Bookmark   April 15, 2014 at 9:15AM
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Redland's Gilly, there is a Cyrtostachys hybrid that has been circulating for the last few years and it looks a lot like yours, based on the crownshaft color. It is a hybrid between Cyrtostachys renda and Cyrtostachys elegans. Maybe that is what you have?

    Bookmark   April 17, 2014 at 12:01AM
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