Phoenix Canariensis

Key Information

Origin:Canary Islands
Ultimate height:20m (66ft) +
Ultimate spread:8m (25ft)
Leaf type:Pinnate (feather)
Growing Temp:10C-30C (50F-86F)
Hardy in UK:*Mild parts South & SW
Hardy to:*-8C (18F)
Prolonged freeze:No
Wind tolerant:Yes
Full Sun:Yes
Light Shade:Yes
Deep shade:No
Drought:No (needs ground water)
Drainage:Well drained to normal
Humidity:Medium to high
* :Healthy, established

With it’s mature lollipop ‘palm tree’ shape, and adaptability to different growing conditions, it is not surprising that it is planted throughout the world. Anyone who has been to a Warm Temperate, or Mediterranean climate, will have seen these majestic trees lining roadsides. It is probably one of the world’s best known palms.

A Mature palm may have a crown containing as many as 120, 4 -6m (13 -19ft) long, deep green, pinnate (feather) leaves, on top of a stout trunk, made up from old leaf bases, up to 20m (66ft) tall, Trimmed well, the trunk takes on the appearance of a pineapple, and is also known as the Pineapple Palm in some places

Natural Adaptability Growing conditions in the Canary Islands.

It’s adaptability comes from evolving on the mountainous Canary Islands at 28 degrees North in the North Atlantic Ocean, just off the coast of Africa. Conditions here can be very changeable with big swings in temperature and humidity, depending on location and wind direction. The north of the islands are cool and misty with NE winds off the sea much of the time, and temperatures ranging from 10C to 25C (50 – 77F), As a result these palms can start to grow at just 10C (50F) and prefer wind in the crown. The south of the islands are hotter, dry and barren, so most of the palms there require additional irrigation to survive, but naturally occur at the bottom of deep barrancos (steep sided valleys). When the winds go around to the east, blowing from the Sahara, the palms can be subjected to desert dry heat regardless of location, as much as 40C on occasion.

They do not like drought, but have extremely deep roots searching out any ground water, so established palms can go without rain for long periods, They can also tolerate swampy ground, as do many Phoenix palms, if not in cold conditions.

Light levels need to be high, with direct sun if possible. This is one of the few palms that can be subjected to full overhead sun as a seedling, without scorching.

It can survive -8C when large, and in good health, but does not like prolonged low temperatures, or several day freezes, but it may be more tolerant in subtropical zones, Florida for instance. It grows in well drained soil but likes plenty of water, and can tolerate swampy ground being stood in a tray of water in the growing season.

The leaves can be gathered up as protection in winter, but beware of excluding air from the crown by covering. This can result in the central spears rotting and pulling out. Remove lower leaves as they become tatty, or if they interfere with paths etc, as the lower leaflets are spiny and can cause injury. They are best removed by using a fine bladed hacksaw. Cut as close to the main trunk as possible for a smooth appearance.