Needle Palm Cold-Hardy Tropicals
Other Names: porcupine palm, Blue Palmetto, Rhapidophyllum hystrix
Related To: n/a
Main Uses: Ornamental.
Growth Rate: Slow to moderate. Slowest in northern climates.
Mature Height/Spread: Slow-growing clumping palm. Typically 4-5 feet tall. Can form a small trunk over many years. Individual leaves can reach 3-4 feet wide.
Flowering/Pollination: Typically, separate male and female plants. Though rare, both sexes may also occur on the same plant. Flowers very short among crown and leaves.
Tolerance: Tolerant of drought, but prefers damp soils during the growing season. Somewhat tolerant of salt and bad soil conditons.
Soil/Nutrition: Prefers fertile acidic soils, although the palm is very adaptable. Needs good drainage and dry winter soils for best cold-hardiness.
Light: Dappled shade suits it best, though it can be adapted to full sun.
Wind: Like all cold-hardy palms, it is very susceptible to cold, drying winter winds. Planting this palm in a wind-protected location (or constructing winter shelter) will help to prevent it from losing green leaf tissue to freezing dehydration.
Temperature: Seedlings 1-4 years old are hardy to idle air temperatures in the teens F. As palms become larger and their root systems more established, these palms can eventually take temperatures below zero degrees.
Dangers: Long, sharp spines! Hence the name “needle palm.” Handle this palm very cautiously!
Diseases Prone: None reported.
Bearing Age: n/a
History/Origin: The needle palm is an understory species, native to subtropical forests from FL north to GA to the feet of the Appalachian mountains.
Species Observations: This species can be abundant in inland Florida ecosystems, often found in moist acidic soils in older forests. It grows most happily in dappled shade or morning/evening sun. Though it will grow in open sun in northern cold climates, it will lose its leaves to dehydration unless it is afforded protection from sun and winds. This species loves to take its time growing and establishing itself. The most cold protection should be given during its first year when it is weakest.
Propogation: By seeds, which take long to germinate (6 months to 1 year), more commonly by dividing the many offshoots into individual plants. The practice of collecting and dividing wild plants has threatened the plant in its native range.
Container Culture: Can be grown in a container for its entire life. It is a very slow growing species which loves shade.
Medicinal Uses: n/a
Nutritional Information: n/a
Preparation / Food: n/a