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What a dynamic tree, but look at those gorgeous dark green fronds. Imagine having one of these growing fishtail palm trees in your home or outside. You must agree it will make for an exceptional tropical feel in any home or garden. The good news is that you can own one and care for it with the tips available here.
What are Fishtail Palms?
The giant fishtail palm does not get the name fishtail for no reason as it has attractive leaves resembling tails of dead fish. In addition, the tropical plant has a clumping form as single healthy trunks grow into small clumps.
The best place to grow as a houseplant is in a foyer in a large pot. But be warned, they are not easy to grow inside and benefit from warm yet wet air. It is also a slow-growing palm. But a healthy fishtail palm can outgrow a space with a height of 20 feet when treated as an outdoor plant just like in their natural habitat.
Another benefit of fishtail palms is that the leaves can provide dappled shade on a patio. Another interesting fact about the fishtail palm tree is that it has male and female flowers on the same plant.
Hence, fruit production is possible on one specimen. It grows red fruits with a single seed that you can eat when cleaned by removing the outer flesh. But when retrieving the seed ensure that you have gloves on as it contains oxalic acid crystals that can cause skin irritation.
Another notable thing is that the trunk dies when the fruit is produced. So, if your tree only has one trunk, your whole tree will die, which is sad. But if you have a species with multiple trunks as it has stem suckers emerging at the base, it will continue to flower.
The fronds of the tree have a dark green color with ragged edges. The Caryota mitis grow on upright stems, and you find them in their natural habitat in Southeast Asia. As it can grow tall, pinching new fronds will stop the growth.
Fishtail Palm Tree Care
Growing fishtail palm trees outside is a breeze compared to taking care of them as an indoor plant. Most fishtail palms require warm temperatures, a crowded pot, with moist soil. It fits into a home or office but will need an upgraded pot when the roots poke out of the drainage holes.
But there is more required to care for these tropical plants.
The Right Potting Mix
Fishtail palm thrives comfortably in horticultural sand. Or you can use peat-based or coir-based potting soil. The critical thing for container growing is to have enough drainage material present. You can add pine bark or perlite to the mix to allow the water to drain freely, preventing root rot.
Sunlight Needs of Fishtail Palm
Your palm trees thrive with some partial shade and bright light for the most vigorous growth and lifespan. During winter, it helps to provide your fishtail palm tree with some direct sun, while in summer, bright indirect light is better to prevent the leaves from scorching.
Watering Needs to Grow Fishtail Palm Trees
When you add porous drainage material, it will help prevent root rot from developing with watering your plant. So, the rule of thumb for the palm tree is to let the medium dry a bit between waterings.
These species are tropical plants. They love relative humidity but prefer a dry potting medium and not wet feet. During winter, you can limit your watering to prevent sogginess in the soil. You will also note that there is less growth in winter than in the growing season.
Another note of warning is to be careful using tap water as it has chlorine and fluoride present that can be harmful to your tree. We recommend using distilled water for indoor plants, or you can always let them stand in the rain for a bit.
Temperature and Humidity
Okay, while direct sunlight for prolonged times can damage the leaves, and it prefers dry soil, it thrives in humidity. So if your living space does not provide the proper moisture needed, it helps to use a humidity tray with your plant.
Hence, the minimum moisture it needs is 50%, and a cool-mist humidifier can also help maintain the correct levels. Your tree needs average room temperatures that range between 65°F and 85°F.
We recommend keeping your fishtail palms away from cold drafts as they do not tolerate cold well.
Fertilizing New Plants
The best feed for your Caryota mitis is a water-soluble fertilizer given during the growing season. We recommend watering your plant well until it runs through the drainage holes. That is why good drainage is essential. In the winter months, you can hold back on feeding.
How to Propagate Fishtail Palms
You can propagate fishtail palms through offshoots, splits, or seeds. Yet, seed germination can take longer, up to six months. You can sow the seeds in moist soil and keep them in a warm shaded spot. Once germination takes place you can move your plants to a bright indirect light spot.
When using the offshoots from your mother plant, ensure that it has enough roots when separating them from the plant. You can pot the offshoots in a container and leave them in a shaded spot while maintaining the moisture.
Lastly, you can use division when repotting your fishtail palm to large pots. You can divide the roots into sections to place in separate planters. Keep the plant moist until you notice new growth. Or, you can also use cuttings similar to other trees.
The best time to plant the seeds is in spring and summer. If you want the germination process to speed up, you can use a seedling heat mat to keep the temperature steady.
Fishtail Palm Varieties
Here are some exceptional fishtail palm tree varieties you can grow in your yard.
Toddy Fishtail Palm
The Caryota urens is an interesting palm tree people use to make an alcoholic drink known as the toddy. They take the sap from the flowers to make this beverage. The tree can reach up to 50 feet tall and has a gray trunk.
Giant Fishtail Palm
The Caryota gigas is one of the biggest fishtail palms found growing up to 70 feet tall. It is a hardy tree that can tolerate different temperatures. The tree can live up to 30 years.
Fishtail Palm Diseases & Pests
When it comes to a properly cared fishtail palm tree, regular irrigation is key, especially in times of drought. If they do not get high humidity, they can slip back into dormancy. This results in stunted growth.
Another concern is spider mites that suck out the nutrients of the plant. You can find them hiding underneath the leaves with small webs and yellow bumps. You can use insecticidal soap to remove them or neem oil.
If the humidity is too low the leaf tips turn brown with yellow halos. To rectify the problem you can increase the moisture as it loves humidity. Occasionally you can wipe the leaves with a damp cloth.
While yellowing leaves can result from different things. If the lower level of the leaves is yellow it can be overwatering. If you are uncertain if it is root rot you can remove your plant from the pot to check it.
Another cause can be too much light or underwatering as well. Lastly, a mold in the potting medium can also develop, resulting from overwatering or too little light.
Frequently Asked Questions
You can grow the fishtail palm as an outdoor plant or inside the home. The only thing is that it is difficult to keep your palm tree happy indoors. You need to create the right temperature and humidity for it to flourish.
The fishtail palm tree is a slow-growing plant but can grow to extensive heights. If you do want to control the growth it helps to pinch the newest frond.
Yes, the whole plant is poisonous from the foliage to the fruit and needs handling with care. The calcium oxalate crystals found on the foliage can cause skin irritation.
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