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Picking the Perfect Palm Tree for California

August 10, 1996|KAREN DARDICK

Palm trees that members of the International Palm Society recommend for Southern California:

* Fishtail palm (Caryota mitis): Multi- or single-trunked, fairly slow-growing and can be used indoors or outside. Frost hardy to 27 degrees. Trees die at maturity, about 30 years.

* Kentia palm (Howea forsteriana): A slow-growing, versatile feather palm that can be grown indoors. In an outside landscape, does best along the coast. Frost damage occurs below 28 degrees. Effective as a group planting.

* King palm (Archontophoenix cunninghamiana): An elegant feather palm that grows to 50 feet. Frost damage below 25 degrees. Needs protection from inland sun when young.

* Majesty palm (Ravenea rivularis): Recently discovered feather palm from Madagascar. Now readily available. Grows best in full sun but will tolerate some shade and can be used indoors. Frost damage below 26 degrees. Slow-growing, reaches heights to 40 feet.

* Mediterranean fan palm (Chamaerops humilis): A very slow-growing fan palm with spines on its leaf stalks. Prefers sunny locations. One of the hardiest of all palms and has survived temperatures as low as 6 degrees. Grows to 20 feet.

* Mexican fan palm (Washingtonia robusta): Most common palm in Southern California. Fast grower can reach 100 feet in 50 years. Needs full sun. Tolerates temperatures to 15 degrees.

* Parlor palm (Neanthe bella or Chamaedorea elegans): One of the world's most popular. Tolerant of relatively low light and dry air, which makes very suitable for growing indoors. A slow-growing, single trunk, feather leaf palm to 6 feet. Frost hardy to 28 degrees if grown outdoors in shade.

* Pigmy date palm (Phoenix roebelenii): One of a group of Phoenix palms but a small slow-grower, only to 10 feet. Useful for swimming pool area and small garden use. Can also be grown indoors. Frost sensitive below 25 degrees.

* Queen palm (Syagrus romanzoffiana): One of the most planted palms in Southern California. Graceful, hardy, fast-growing feather leaf, to 25 feet. Frost sensitive at 20 degrees.

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