S & J Nursery’s Guide to Growing
Lady Palm / Rhapis excelsa
in the Northeast Florida Jacksonville | St. Augustine area Landscape
Lady Palm Origins:
– Rhapis excelsa is native to China and makes an excellent
containered planting or shade landscape specimen palm for the North Florida | Jacksonville | St. Augustine area landscape.
– Perhaps the mostly underutilized palm for the North Florida landscape,
mostly due to the high cost of the palms. Their slow growth makes their cultivation slow and costly to growers, but when planted out in the landscape or used as container plants for the porch or patio Lady Palms are worth their extra expense and the time it will take to grow.
– Plant can be cold sensitive if not planted into a frost free area of the
landscape, or when planted in the Northern most end of our Jacksonville | St. Augustine and surrounding areas of the North Florida landscape. Remove any damaged foliage each year in the spring along with older fronds.
Lady Palm Preferred Exposure:
– Lady Palm can be planted in a partial sun and partial shade location
providing it is morning and not afternoon sun that hits the leaves, but will thrive in a full shade location in the Jacksonville | St. Augustine and surrounding areas of the North Florida landscape.
Lady Palm Fronds | Trunk:
– Foliage of the Lady Palm remains evergreen in the winter and is a beautifully deep green and glossy.
– Thin bamboo – like stalks and deeply divided fan shaped leaves give
this palm a graceful appearance.
Lady Palm Preference / Salt tolerance:
– Rhapis excelsa palms planted in the North Florida | Jacksonville | St.
Augustine landscape will tolerate virtually any soil condition, but will prefer a well drained site and fertile soils.
– Salt tolerance is poor, avoid ocean side plantings.
Lady Palm Size Variance:
– Lady Palms can reach sizes of 6-12 feet H | and spreading 6-12 feet in width but are extremely slow growing.
Lady Palm Growth Habit:
– Lady Palm has a clumping habit and will form multiple trunks with heads at different heights as it grows in a somewhat irregularly rounded cluster. If left to grow without pruning any trunks and shoots plants will form an upright but mounded cluster of dark glossy green leaves.
– Can be dug and divided to make more plants every three to five years, or dig up offshoots and plant for a new palm.
Lady Palm Growth Rate:
– Lady Palm trees are extremely slow growers only adding a 4-6 inches in height each year in the North Florid area.
Lady Palm Bloom:
– Yellow spring flowers give off a subtle fragrance.
Lady Palm Water Requirements:
– Lady Palm are moderately drought tolerant but will benefit from supplemental irrigation particularly is sandy soils.
Best Uses For Lady Palm / Rhapis Excelsa in the North Florida |Jacksonville | St. Augustine landscape:
– Lady Palm is an excellent choice for an evergreen shade palm in smaller landscapes or porches and patio areas where excessive growth on larger species would be problematic.
– Lady Palm shade tolerance makes them the perfect understory planting under large oaks or established trees for an instant tropical effect in any garden setting.
– Great container plant is slow growing and wont need repotted frequently,
tolerant of low light and moderate drought tolerance make the Lady Palm an ideal indoor container specimen palm and are often seen in offices and hotel lobbies etc.
Care of Lady Palm / Rhapis excelsa:
– Lady Palm will need good water during the establishment period and will
benefit from supplemental irrigation once established into the landscape during times of drought or prolonged periods of low rainfall.
– Trim back damaged or older browned out fronds each year in early spring at the
base of the stem to keep the plant at its best.
MINIMUM PALM FERTILIZER REGIMEN – what you should be doing to keep your palm healthy
– Fertilize each spring with a specially blended fertilizer for Palms, follow
manufacturers directions and apply 1/2 lb o 1lb of fertilizer per inch of diameter of trunk on your palm, measured from a hands width above the ground level. That means for a 12 inch wide trunk from left to right you
would need 6-12 lbs of fertilizer for just that one palm!
– Fertilize every fall with magnesium sulfate ( Epsom Salt) to keep your palm green and healthy through the winter months!
MAXIMUM PALM FERTILIZER REGIMEN – what you can do to get your palm up and growing Fast!
– Fertilize every three months with your choice of Palm fertilizer and
Magnesium Sulfate. Water 3-4 times per week and make sure to water thoroughly after each fertilizer application.
– Wait till fronds have turned completely brown before removing from the palm as the palm will take back in the nutrients from those older leaves ad use it when forming new ones.
*CAUTION – DO NOT FERTILIZE NEWLY PLANTED /
FIELD GROWN PALM TREES WITH PALM
Note : When planting smaller
palms being grown in a container, this rule does not apply, rather, use half the recommended application rate
for your trunks diameter, as containered palms roots have not been damaged or cut during planting but are still
only a portion as large as they would be if the palm had been growing in the ground and excess fertilizer on a
confined root system is still not preferable for maximum health.
Palm fertilizers are water soluble and will burn the new roots your palm tree is trying to put out as it establishes itself into the landscape. It is best to use only poly coated plant food that is heat release like Osmocote general purpose fertilizer or non burning Milorganite in the first year in the landscape, and then the following year, start your palm food regimen that will provide all of the minor nutrients that your palms will need to keep them healthy and problem free in Florida soils.