Please advise on fertilizer for palms

neonrider(USDA 8A ^ Sunset 31 ^ Mid-SC)August 26, 2010

I was surprised not being able to find any subforum for "Fertilizing" nor any palm tree fertilizer on the web. Can you please advise what is the best qualitywise fertilizer for palm trees that are grown from shoots and from seed and who makes it and where can I buy it?

I never fertilize anything I grow, but now I noticed some of the palms I grow from seed don't grow much or grow slower than others. Perhaps because I used a different soil for them.

Is there a fertilizer than is good for all palms or does every palm kind need a different fertilizer? I grow Washingtonias, Palmettos, Trachycarpus all kinds, Thrithrinax, Jubaea, Phoenix, Butias etc. all that grow in ground year round in zone 8 or 9.

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I like Carl Pools palm fertilizer-or Palm booster

Try e-bay under palm fertilizer

Here is a link that might be useful: Carl pool

    Bookmark   August 26, 2010 at 4:16PM
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neonrider(USDA 8A ^ Sunset 31 ^ Mid-SC)

Thank you. I appreciate your fast response. I'm buying one now to try.

    Bookmark   August 26, 2010 at 5:45PM
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neonrider(USDA 8A ^ Sunset 31 ^ Mid-SC)

By the way, is this a slow release fertilizer? If not, where can I find this in a slow release form? I've read that 12-3-12 or 13-4-13 is best formula for palms. Also, is this food good for palms grown from seed that are very small shoots just days and weeks old? Do you also know where to buy natural (organic) fertilizer and which natural organic fertilizer is good for (small, potted) palms? Thanks very much. Your help is very much appreciated.

    Bookmark   August 26, 2010 at 8:55PM
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neonrider(USDA 8A ^ Sunset 31 ^ Mid-SC)

One source says that:

"Fertilizer bags are labeled with contents such as 8-2-10 or some other set of 3 numbers. The 1st number is nitrogen content, the 2nd is the phosphorus content and the 3rd number is the potassium content."

Another source says that potassium is the middle number.

Whom to believe?

    Bookmark   August 26, 2010 at 9:04PM
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Carl Pool is 12-4-12 just what palms like plus the all important micro-nutrients.

It is slow release in that it is granular and spread on the soil.

The N is slow release,which is what you want,here's what they say-

"Our newest Palm Fertilizer! This is from a Texas Company, Carl Pool! It's scientifically
formulated for Optimum Plant Growth! Used by Professional Growers, Contains Sucrate Micronutrients
with a Controlled Release of Nitrogen! It's great for ALL Palm Varieties,
with Extra Magnesium and Manganese Palms Need! The Controlled Release Nitrogen (Ureaform) will
feed for 3-4 months. Use for in-the-ground and POTTED Palms! Always water thoroughly after application."

    Bookmark   August 26, 2010 at 10:52PM
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neonrider(USDA 8A ^ Sunset 31 ^ Mid-SC)

Hi again, thanks for the info. I'm new to fertilizing, therefore I'd like to know whether granules and pellets are the same?

I have palms that grow unfertilized for years and they are doing fine, I wonder if I'm in for a trouble some day.


    Bookmark   August 26, 2010 at 11:34PM
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butiaman(8a Douglasville,GA.)

I use Miracle-Gro Palm Fertilizer.It's a slow release pelleted shake and feed.I use it at half the rate it says to use.Why is because I spray all my plants with Neptune's Harvest fish and seaweed blend fertilizer.I have never seen all my plants look greener or be more healthy since I started using it.It's guaranteed not to burn plants.Here is some info. on Fertilizer,soil and more for palms and tropicals.Hope this helps.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2010 at 10:51AM
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neonrider(USDA 8A ^ Sunset 31 ^ Mid-SC)

I've read on mgonline that Miracle Grow kills plants a lot. Thank you for the information. Below is a photo of two identical palms that were planted from seed 3 months ago. Washingtonia Fili-Busta hybrid. The larger one was planted May 23, 2010, the significantly smaller one was planted just 3 days later May 26, 2010. I never fertilized any trees or plants in my life, but now I am concerned - what went wrong? Both were not fertilized and used similar soil. Thanks in advance. The photo:

Here is a link that might be useful: Click to see the photo

    Bookmark   August 27, 2010 at 12:34PM
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palms in general are not all that difficult to grow and are not terribly picky about what sort of fertilizer you use, either. Dinky seedlings as in the last photo above are probably happy to use whatever fertilizer or nutrients that are in the potting soil (assuming that is potting soil of some sort in there) for years to come. I seriously doubt the difference in growth has anything to do with fertilizer availability. More likely a watering thing, or an individual variation, or perhaps even a problem with too much moisture (that is not a species that likes humid climates). When I germinate and grow seedling Palms, I don't fertilize them until they are a few years old. Some super-fast growing species will need fertilizer, or new soil, earlier.

A lot of what sort of fertilizer you use depends a lot on your soil, weather, palm species and how often you feel like fertilizing. I live in California where the soils are relatively fertile, so many palms grown here are happy to live their entire lives without a drop of fertilizer. They might do even better with some, but lack of fertilizer rarely is a big issue here. But some soils in Florida and elsewhere can be really sandy and nutrient deficient... then fertilization is more of an issue (with palms in the ground... not really with potted palms). There is really nothing wrong with Miracle Gro, at least when it comes to most palms- really hard to hurt a palm with the liquid form at least, and think that it's probably a pretty good fertilizer for most palms in pots (I am talking about outdoor palms.. not indoor palms, which need extremely low levels of fertilizer) if you don't mind fertilizing more than once a year. If you don't have time for that, there are very slow release granules of all sorts of good fertilizers from Vigro, to Osmocote to Palm Special (most enthusiasts favorite) with all sorts of micronutrients... but just because it is slow release does not mean you cannot kill a palm with it... you still need to be a bit careful about overfertilizing palms in pots (way more common than the other way around). But stake fertilizers work great, too... and you can even get away with dry, crumble quick release feritlizers if you use them very carefully (I am not a careful person, so more often than not I hurt something with that sort of fertilizer).

Some palm species are unique and require different sorts of soils and pHs... and some acid fertilizers will be harsh on these plants (notably Cuban species)... so no Azalea fertilizer for those palms. Some Australian plants (and some palms) like less than Phosphorus than normal, as they live in soils with almost zero phosphorus, so are more sensitive to this nutrient... most Australian palms seem pretty OK, though, with standard fertilizers.. just don't use a super-bloom (high Phos) on them (why would you anyway?... not too many palm flowers are that nice looking).

    Bookmark   August 27, 2010 at 5:48PM
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butiaman(8a Douglasville,GA.)

neonrider,People think if Miracle Gro used at the rate they recommend, than more will work better,wrong.What there talking about with the Miracle Gro fertilizer is the kind you mix with water.It's a synthetic fertilizer,you can burn or kill a plant real quick with it,if used incorrectly.The other problem with any type of synthetic fertilizer is they build up salts from the chemicals in them.If the plant is in a pot you can see the salts on the inside of the pot,around the soil line or just below it.If the salts build up to much it can also kill a plant,you can solve this problem by drenching the plant in the pot at least once a month.The Miracle Gro shake and feed for palms is made from organic sources,it's a slow release fertilizer,it's guaranteed not to burn plants also.If you need a quick boost of fertilizer for your plants synthetic is best,but for long term and a continuous release,organic is the best way to go.Like I said if I use Miracle Gro liquid fertilizer,I don't use it as strong as they tell you to.I've never had no problem using it on potted palms,it made my Mule palms grow like crazy.I never use the liquid Miracle Gro on plants planted in the ground.Any synthetic fertilizer kills beneficial microorganisms and the soil,it does all kind of damage to the soil if used for long periods of time.It's hard to say why one plant is so much smaller than the other,if you used the same soil or similar soil.I planted about 100 Sabal Palm seeds in a community pot,and some are twice if not three times as big as some of the others.From my experience some seed are more healthy than others.There are also all kind of factors that could have caused one to be bigger than the other.Everything from the age of the seeds,how deeply they were planted,if they got the same amount of sunlight,to when and how you watered them and how much water they received.If both plants received exactly everything the same,I would say one seed was a more vigorous grower than the other.This is common in seeds.I wouldn't worry about it,just fertilize with that Neptune's Harvest Fish and Seaweed fertilizer.It has been proven that it can even cure sick plants,it tells you on mgonline website how to use it to cure a sick plant or one that is lagging in growth.Sorry to make this so long,hope this gives you some insight into fertilizers and growing plants from seed.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2010 at 7:03PM
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I agree about MG,better to use less and feed more than using more because it will burn plants.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2010 at 7:09PM
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neonrider(USDA 8A ^ Sunset 31 ^ Mid-SC)

I always thought of this idea - smaller pot - bigger palm, because it tries to compensate for little space to its roots by growing bigger upper body instead, ne.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2010 at 7:23PM
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neonrider(USDA 8A ^ Sunset 31 ^ Mid-SC)

I water all palms sufficiently and they receive more or less same Sun. Perhaps soil mix was made by me a bit different, but similar. Yet this HUGE difference in size between two exactly the same palms grown from seeds received from the same source at the same time is unexplainable so far. I only think of size of the pot perhaps..... And also by the way, the one that grew smaller is kind of hanging on almost like it stopped growing or something and there are several of both - about 5 of smaller ones mostly all in larger pots and a bunch of those that grew large all in small pots. I suspect influence of pot size, ne?

Someone suggested to not use fertilizer on small palms grown from seed at all until they grow bigger.

Also I can't find a source of good palm fertilizer that is SLOW RELEASE PELLET FOOD with many micro elements. If no one makes it, can someone suggest how to make it and i will make lots of it for everyone :-)

    Bookmark   August 27, 2010 at 7:36PM
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butiaman(8a Douglasville,GA.)

neonrider,Here is a website that gives you three different homemade palm tree fertilizer recipes you can try.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2010 at 9:37PM
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you shouldnt need to fertilize any seed grown palm for atleast 3 months or longer. they get their nutrients from the embryo of their seed! i also grow alot a palms from seed and from my experience growth varies. i have 4 bismacrkia seedlings all about the same age and 1 is putting out its 3rd leaf as the others are still working on the 2nd. its the same with all the other stuff i grow, your always gona have that one seedling that grows vigorously while the others grow at the same pace & some slow as snails.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2010 at 11:05PM
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butiaman(8a Douglasville,GA.)

I was thinking about what you said neonrider,about how one plant is in a much bigger pot.I took another look at the picture you posted and pot size might be one reason for the size difference.I had the same thing happen when I potted up 4 mule palms.I had them in 1 gallon pots last year,so this spring I potted them up to 3 gallon pots.I only had three 3 gallon pots so I potted one up to a 5 gallon pot.The ones I potted up to 3 gallon pots are growing at almost twice the rate of the one I potted up to a 5 gallon pot.Pot size does play a role in how good or fast a plant will grow.I had always heard that but I didn't believe it,till I saw it for myself.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2010 at 9:11AM
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neonrider(USDA 8A ^ Sunset 31 ^ Mid-SC)

Well, first of all it may make some sense if a plant in a tiny pot grows faster to compensate for its small roots space, but it does not make any sense if a plant in a large(r) pot does not grow much under perfect conditions in a good soil mix that I made myself from all kinds of good components including cow manure, peat moss, sand, nursery blend, etc.!?

I must remind that all Wash. Filibustas in those small FAMILY DOLLAR pots grew rather "large" and very fast, while same palms (from same seed, and the same source) in larger pots are barely growing (even those in medium size pots) and they rather seem to have stopped growing (not dying though).

Now where I kept them - I kept them all the time in a hot sunroom with temps always around 86-95F with large windows and plenty of Sun with some shade too at certain times of the day.

Perhaps the secret is in the shape of the pots, not only the size.... bizarre....

If yoo don't believe I can take a photo of all the pots to demonstrate the fact that those grown in tiny pots grew like monsters.

Almost forgot to mention this - I also potted 4 of those FILIBUSTAS outside in nursery black pots (no water retention) in a native soil made mostly from sand and they grew rather stocky, short but strong, not as tall as the ones in small pots, but much stronger than anyone else and shorter but much thicker than the ones in the big pots.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2010 at 11:31AM
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I can't make list but some palms actually prefer bigger pots,of the Trachys,I believe Princeps,
Takil,Manipur,Nanus and possibly Oreophilus will grow better in a larger pot because they send down deeper roots.

This would be true of Sabals too,with their very deep tap(like)rots,I don't think Sabals
will do well in pot's(or inside)for very long though.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2010 at 12:14PM
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I have been growing palms a long time and I have seen professional grower's techniques and methods, some who have been doing this for a living for over 30 years. We all find that for almost all palms, the smaller the pot (to some extent) the faster and better the palms will grow. This is mostly likely due to the improved drainage and speed at which the water and nutrients pass by the root hairs (most palm roots dislike sitting in wet, sloggy or inactve soils unless they are ultratropical palms that normally live that way). But there is something more to it than that. It's as if the palms do better as soon as their roots hit a surface, like the sides or bottom of the pot (sides, more likely). Otherwise one could just add more pumice or large materials to the soil to make the soild drain faster in larger pots. I have tried this but it does little to speed things up. Palms definitely like to 'feel' the limitations of their growing situation for some reason- I am sure someone with a better understanding of palm biology and soil science can explain this, but that is why professional palm growers never grow their palms in larger pots (no, it's not to save space or soil). Planting a palm in a larger pot I think would sure cut down on the repotting times and efforts, but the fact is simply palms grow faster the more their roots are confined (there is a point of course at which this confinement is problematic and the growth rate declines... but it is amazing how extremely pot bound a palm has to be for this point to be reached). I know growers who never pot up a palm until it has split the pot. I know other growers who pot up palms unscrupulously too early just so it looks like you're getting a bigger plant because it's in a bigger pot, too, but fortunately I know fewer of those types than the other. I have purchased many a palm from these people and noticed that the newly repotted palm goes through a long period of 'sulking' where it does not grow and its rootball remains in the original size and shape it was in the previous much smaller pot for some time. It does appear this 'shock' of the roots no longer being confined markedly slows the palm's growth down.

Dr. Hodel, a PhD in biology, specializing in palms, has done numerous experiments on planting and growing palms, and has found that this is indeed the case for many species of palm (all common ones of course... hard to do research on rarer species due to the cost restraints... and the rarer species comparatively slower growth rates). His conclusions have included digging narrow holes barely any larger than the size of the pot when planting palms in the ground to decrease this sulking time. He also has found that back filling these holes with the same soil that was dug out of them works as well if not better than putting in 'ideal' or ammended soils in the hole (a somewhat unrelated topic, but interesting to me, as well).

Anyway, though it may seem counterintuitive, it does indeed seem that the smaller the pot, the faster a palm will grow (I think at some point in a palm's maturity, this may no longer be the case as the large palm's nutritional needs exceed this need for root confinement). But it never ceases to amaze me when I go to Home Depot and see these monstrous, healthy Queen palms, some over 20' tall, growing in pots literally the same diameter as their emerging trunks, and the split pots with the roots making their way out the bottom holes and splits.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2010 at 12:27PM
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Great post.

Pot planting has not been shown to be effective for us cold hardy palm people but I know it works great in warmer climates.

Washingtonia has also grown faster for me when potted up,
they grow so fast in the heat of summer that even seedlings can grow out of 3 gallon pots over summer!

I see much less sulking if I re-pot in summers warmth.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2010 at 11:40PM
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neonrider(USDA 8A ^ Sunset 31 ^ Mid-SC)

lzrddr - thanks for the very nice post. You must have revealed the garden industry's long kept secret ;-) Hope to hear from other gardening professionals as well on this topic.

I must note that same exactly palms from seed from the same source grew yet differently when planted in larger pots without water retention plate in a more rough (local) soil grown outside on the west side, exposed to the sun on the west of the house under a carport roof. Pots are placed ona brick wall, not on the ground. There they grew more tougher, wider and thicker leaves, yet shorter than the ones in the sun-room in the small pots.

I also noticed when I put some natural large-haired (?) moss around the palms grown outside in the nursery black pots I think (not sure though) the growth either slowed or stopped. Perhaps because the soil is not allowed to completely dry out. Should I remove the moss from around the palm shoots?

My question would be - we are talking about growing palms in pots, bigger, smaller pots, but how about planting palms from seed in a local soil in ground? Has anyone tried; and what would be the speed of growth for palms planted in ground vs. palms grown in small pots indoors?

    Bookmark   August 31, 2010 at 11:37AM
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growing palms from seed in the ground works great if you live in Hawaii... or you are growing a palm that normally grows like a weed in your climate (like Washingtonias here in So Cal)... but if you are a zone pusher, and your palm is not 'perfect' for your climate, invariably those seed planted palms do much worse than pot-planted palms... soil is much colder in the ground than in pots so most heat-loving palms do not grow nearly as fast in the ground at that size. Also, the root/compression factor is huge when a seedling (less so in much older palms where roots can use each other to grow against) and potted seedlings outstrip ground planted seedlings 10-1 sometimes (again, I am talking about zone-pushed palms... Jubaeas planted in my own soil tend to grow nearly as fast in the ground, once they have 3-5 leaves on them, but they take YEARS longer to germinate. I had some pop up last year that I tossed on the ground 4 years earlier... 4 years!! I never thought a Jubaea seed would stay viable that long. But Jubaeas normally live in a climate like ours, so they are not being zone-pushed in the least here).

    Bookmark   August 31, 2010 at 8:15PM
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neonrider(USDA 8A ^ Sunset 31 ^ Mid-SC)

One Jubaea chilensis germinated in the pot just a month or two after being planted. The others did not yet. Other two Jubaeas that i bought as small 1 year old plants, after planted in a pot both never grew, but started drying out very slowly and 3 months later are still green but they never grew. Tall 8 foot Washingtonia robusta got in trouble with snow last winter and did not grow much this spring. This is mid South Carolina, the climate is not always humid, but not always dry either. No palms grow here as weed, except the coast. There are many small shots popping up under Sabal palms and some others, but they usually do not live through the winter.

    Bookmark   August 31, 2010 at 9:06PM
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As far as zone pushing goes,I have to disagree with you.

Any seed/palm planted in it's permant spot will be better off than one pot planted or planted later.

This allows them to put down their roots very deep in the soil which is very important for Trachys and Sabals-
what else can you try this far north?

Add Needles in there too!

The issue is protecting such a small seedling from the harsh winters!

Seedlings are much less hardy than mature palms,obviously.

I have a Princeps seedling I planted last August in the ground
(I got tired of waiting 8 months for it to sprout,which actually isn't long for a Princeps)
it came up in late June.

Somehow this seed survived our horribly cold winter and came up!

It is doing well except for GD WSMites that I can't seem to keep off my Trachys!


Anyway,my point is that this how they are intended to grow from the man upstairs and they do just great,if there needs are meant!

    Bookmark   September 2, 2010 at 7:51PM
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neonrider(USDA 8A ^ Sunset 31 ^ Mid-SC)

Wow! Iowa, zone 5B and survived. I've been to Sioux City in 1989... right before the plane crash. Nice state and very friendly people. I may consider moving there. Do you get tornadoes too often? Well, I better try plant Trachy seed in the field and see if they will survive our Zone 8A winters! ;-)

    Bookmark   September 2, 2010 at 9:07PM
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Never seen a Tornado but that's not from a lack of looking
for them!

    Bookmark   September 3, 2010 at 10:55AM
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neonrider(USDA 8A ^ Sunset 31 ^ Mid-SC)

That's good. What part of Iowa do you live?

    Bookmark   September 3, 2010 at 11:08AM
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