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Re: Proper hardy tropicals!.

Posted: Fri Apr 05, 2013 9:53 pm
by RogerBacardy
Sunflowers are annuals, so only a few weeks difference, not the years difference we're talking about with palms.

Sorry for pulling you up on this, but it is a major statement. If it's true than there's no point in places like Akamba, Paramount Plants, Athelas, Palm Centre etc, stocking large palms and us gardeners should be warned not to buy them, but to go for smaller, cheaper palms instead.

You didn't pay any money for that Trachycarpus, but add up the man-hours (say, £10 an hour per person), petrol and hassle you spent on excavating it, transporting it and storing it and it seem like such a waste if you could have bought a £20 one which will eventually overtake the taller transplanted one, which at a guess cost you at least £50 in man-hours (probably a lot more).

I'd agree with Dave, (sleep, creep, & leap) a palm will take a few years to settle, send out productive new roots and eventually grow. Unless it's severely pot-bound and badly planted (no phosporous-heavy fertiliser or friendly fungi in the planting hole), I fail to see how a taller one would be overtaken by a smaller one in any reasonable time frame if it's had enough of a head start to already have an additional 120cm of trunk (the extra 4ft you specified).

I planted 5 trachies of varying sizes and 4 years on, the biggest ones at planting are still the biggest ones now, and they seem to show no sign of being overtaken by their younger counterparts.

However, I would agree with you if you were talking about cordylines. There's no point buying one over 4 ft tall as they grow very quickly and need to send out deep tap roots so are totally constricted by being in pots, however large the pots may be they'll still stunt the growth. Buy a small one, plant it well and it can gain about 50cm of trunk per year :)

I'm off to have a nosey round the EPS to see if I can find the examples you mention. icon_salut I donated some money to the EPS a few months back, but haven't been there since!

Re: Proper hardy tropicals!.

Posted: Fri Apr 05, 2013 11:05 pm
by Kristen
The reason to buy a decent sized plant, same with a semi-mature tree, is that it is "Instant" and without the 5 year, or more, wait.

I don't know if saplings will overtake Semi mature (native trees) but certainly the semi mature tree will grow very little indeed over the following 5 years, and there may not be that much in it at 10 - 15 years hence; that's true of a lot of things ... but buying big gives instant gratification, so nothing wrong with plants being sold for that reason. The Olympic site would have looked pretty bleak of all the trees planted had been saplings or whips - but it would have saved a fortune!

Re: Proper hardy tropicals!.

Posted: Fri Apr 05, 2013 11:37 pm
by Andy P
Surely the reason to buy the bigger Palm rather than a baby is that the older they get, with the thicker trunk etc, makes them hardier to our horrible Winters and thus more likely to survive? I`ve heard Billdango say on here before - ` Buy the biggest you can afford` for that very reason.

Re: Proper hardy tropicals!.

Posted: Sat Apr 06, 2013 12:10 am
by RogerBacardy
Thanks for replies icon_thumleft

I get the instant impact thing, and I can appreciate that native deciduous trees have extensive, vast root systems and a large one for sale in a pot will have very compromised roots and grow slowly once planted. That's the reason you don't buy tall eucalyptus trees, they would blow over due to inadequate root spread from being pot bound.

But what I do find surprising is that everything else being equal (relative planting hole size, soil structure, fertiliser, watering, etc), a 5ft Trachycarpus will be overtaken by a 1ft Trachycarpus in 10 years.

I generally don't buy big plants. I prefer to nurture them along for years and watch them grow :) But I did splash out on a reasonably sized butia, which arrived in a very generously sized pot. Although, I agree with Andy P, smaller ones are less hardy (I've lost one before), so might not even survive next winter, let alone overtake a bigger one in 10 years! :)

Re: Proper hardy tropicals!.

Posted: Sat Apr 06, 2013 6:54 am
by Deedee
I thought mature palms were dug up from warmer climates so not as hardy as smaller palms acclimatised to our winters, I have a lovely 8 year old Trachycarpus which i planted at about 2ft, the first time i didnt protect it (fleece) was the winter of 2010! I just knocked the snow off it 2 or 3 times over that historic winter. If i had of bought a mature Trachycarpus that year and paid 100s of pounds for it, i dont believe it would have survived...

Re: Proper hardy tropicals!.

Posted: Sat Apr 06, 2013 8:07 am
by Dave Brown
There are two types of palm that are sold. Container Grown, and Field Grown. Also with palms there are different growth speeds at varying stages of their livecycle. The discussion here is about non clumping, single trunked.

Small, infant palms grow slowly building up root and caudex bulk, and only have the energy to grow one leaf at a time. Juvenile palms are large enough to have energy to grow multiple spear/leaves at the same time so growth is greatly accelerated. Young adult palms have reached full diameter, and start to grow upwards much faster. Adult palms continue this speed of growth (in the case of Trachycarpus fortunei up to 1ft (30cm) of trunk a year). Mature Trachycarpus palms, above around 15ft, slow down again producing 3 to 6 in of trunk a year.

If you buy a field grown palm with say a 3ft trunk and a 1ft trunk container grown palm, the container one will establish more quickly and will very likely end up taller than the field grown, as the field grown one has been severely stressed by having much of it's roots removed to get it into a pot/tub, and it will be less tolerant to drought, or cold.

Different species behave differently, for instance Sabal palms completely lose any root that is cut, so a field grown Sabal will almost certainly die, as most, if not all, the roots are cut.

Any palm 'dug out' is Field Grown :wink:

Palmbooster can speed up root production on some species, and Butia seems to respond particularly well to this.

Container grown palms go through the Sleep, creep, leap cycle
Field Grown (Dug Out) go through the Weep, sleep, creep, until fully recovered, and if severely hacked about at dig out time, may never get to leap stage.

Re: Proper hardy tropicals!.

Posted: Sat Apr 06, 2013 6:13 pm
by Yorkshire Kris
Very well put Dave.

Re: Proper hardy tropicals!.

Posted: Sat Apr 06, 2013 6:27 pm
by Deedee
Thanks Dave, im a lot wiser now icon_thumleft

Re: Proper hardy tropicals!.

Posted: Sat Apr 06, 2013 6:36 pm
by RogerBacardy
Thank you for taking the time to write the brilliant and lengthy explanation, Dave icon_salut

I completely agree with your reported growth rates of Trachycarpus at various stages of its life. It's what I've observed too. :D

I guess it will vary from case to case as to the extent of the root damage and speed of recovery when field-grown palms are placed in pots. What would be interesting is knowing for definite when a plant for sale is container grown and when it's field-grown.

I planted some trachies a few years ago, the smallest being £10 1 footers, and the largest being £40 3 footers. Approaching 4 years on, the largest ones have started to race away and are now around the 6 foot mark, whilst the smaller ones are between 2-3 foot tall.

So the biggest ones have grown the most (3 foot of growth) whilst the smallest ones have grown just 1 to 2 foot over the same period. I attribute that to the larger ones being at the faster part of the growth cycle, like you described above.

But I must say, apart from the fairly static first year, I've not noticed too much dormancy in the larger trachies & it doesn't seem like they will be caught up any time soon. Perhaps that is due to my usage of friendly fungi and seaweed to help the roots re-establish quickly. icon_thumleft

Re: Proper hardy tropicals!.

Posted: Sat Apr 06, 2013 7:05 pm
by Troppoz
My experience is that even here in the tropics palms dont transplant well and usually remain small and weakly or die altogether, often because they are unable to adequately replace the roots that have been severed and died. Even pot grown palms seem to take a year or so to quietly establish before rocketing away in their second or third year.

I do find its true though with non-palm plants that the younger they are planted the faster their overall growth rates will be even with healthy plants that arent pot-bound. When I have a pot-bound plant I dig a very deep hole and plant it half way up the stem, they grow new vigourous roots from the stem and eventually abandon the old pot-bound root system and grow into healthy tress. This method wouldnt work for palms though...

Re: Proper hardy tropicals!.

Posted: Sat Apr 06, 2013 8:53 pm
by RogerBacardy
Cheers for info, Troppoz. icon_salut I understand about palm transplants faring badly. Had a few failures myself over the years!

I was questioning the specific claim that after 10 years, a 1ft Trachycarpus will overtake a 5ft one. Not self-transplanted ones, but nursery-bought ones. If the claim were by someone less reputable I would have dismissed it, but as it's from Yorkshire Kris it got my attention!

By my calculations and experience with how fast they grow (confirmed by DB above), the 5ft one would need about 6 years of dormancy for the 1ft to catch up, let alone overtake in a 10 year period! icon_study

5ft v 1ft.jpg

Re: Proper hardy tropicals!.

Posted: Sat Apr 06, 2013 9:07 pm
by Yorkshire Kris
Roger I can't find the thread on EPS but it showed photos of two trachys of different sizes then a photo a few years later where there was hardly any difference in size because the bigger planted one took longer to establish and never got the same vigour back as the smaller planted one. I guess the main point that was trying to make was that in Karls case where lots of mature specimens have been planted in a run of poor growing years, things are taking a while to settle in and really get going. Smaller plants will adapt better to local conditions and may in the long run out perform larger plants that sulk.

Re: Proper hardy tropicals!.

Posted: Sat Apr 06, 2013 9:31 pm
by karl66
Kris, large trachycarpus will only really sulk if transplanted badly & put into a poor drainage hole in my experience. i have probably 15 large trachys that have all transplanted well after being pot grown, also i have monster size english grown waggy's that i believe were field dug but have taken really well as the rootball was lifted correctly. karl.

Re: Proper hardy tropicals!.

Posted: Sat Apr 06, 2013 9:55 pm
by RogerBacardy
Great thread, thanks to all tho posted in it, especially to the big man Yorkshire Kris! icon_thumleft . I think I learnt something new from every post! 8)

Re: Proper hardy tropicals!.

Posted: Sat Apr 06, 2013 10:23 pm
by cordyman
Fantastic thread this, loads of first hand knowledge from palm enthuiasts on every level and great debate icon_thumleft icon_thumleft icon_thumleft

Here is my take on it, with my limited experience, hope it adds something to the discussion...

I transplanted this palm and dug it out last April, took a large rootball with it, within the first month it opened up two new spears, after that the remaining 4 spears have only budged a few inches. I think its having a good sulk :x


Spear factory appears to have ground to a halt :x


I bought this palm from Villagio Verde, it came in a pot, which was packed full of roots, and didnt have any evidence of field grown rootball...


Its put out more spears and gained such an impressive amount of height (you can see the lighter colour trunk which is all new height) than I thought possible in a year and a half.


Jerrys final thought

I'm 100% confident my transplanted palm won't get anywhere close to this vigour of growth that my pot bought palm put out in a year and a half. I think its going to take 3-4 years for the spear factory to regain full production again.

Considering my transplanted palm was a bigger, chunkier specimen, the smaller pot bought one isnt far off ovetaking it already icon_study