The Pindo Palm Tree, scientific name Butia capitata or Butia odorata, is one of the most popular palms in the world because of its stunning appearance, cold hardiness and bright yellow fruit, that can be made into a jelly.
Its graceful crown with blue-green fronds make it great for pool-side plantings, and also for container use. This low maintenance palm is very popular among house owners because it can be used in a variety of settings.
|Scientific name:||Butia capitata or Butia odorata|
|Common names:||Pindo Palm, Jelly Palm, Wine Palm.|
|Origin:||Native to Brazil, Uruguay, and Argentina.|
|Growth Rate:||Slow. Up to 15 ft and 10 ft wide.|
|Cold Tolerance:||USDA Zones 8a (10 – 15 F) to 10b (35 – 40 F)|
|Light Req:||Partial shade to Full sun.|
|Soil Req:||Widely adaptable.|
|Fruit:||Yes. Yellow to orange. Edible.|
|Propagation:||By seed, germinating in 6 months.|
Pindo Palm Appearance
Butia capitata can slowly grow up to 10-20 ft tall and 10-15ft wide, but usually is not taller than 15ft with the spread of 10 ft.
A heavy gray trunk is covered with old leaf bases. Trunk is around 15 ft tall and 1-1.5 ft in diameter. Occasionally, you can find specimens with a clean trunk.
Without crownshaft, beautiful arching leaves emerge right from the trunk. Leaves are pinnate, or feather-like, ranging in color from green to bluish gray, about 5-10 ft long, with 80-150 leaflets that are about 20-26 inches long.
They are supported by 3-4 ft long petioles that have spines along both edges.
Pindo Palm Flowers and Fruits
At the end of the spring the Pindo Palm produces small yellow to orange-red flowers, that grow in clusters on large 3-4ft long inflorescence.
The flowers are monoecious, individual flowers are either male or female, but both sexes can be found on the same plant. They get pollinated is by insects and wind.
Flowers are followed by bright orange fruits, also known as “pindo dates”, that hang in large clusters from the tree. Dates are round to oval-shaped, juicy, edible, about 1 inch in diameter. Fruits reach their maturity in the summer.
The fruits can be eaten fresh and pureed, or used to make excellent jams as well as wine. You can also use it to make jelly, hence the name Jelly Palm. They can be stored for about one week in the refrigerator. It can get very messy when ripe fruits fall to the ground.
How to Care for Pindo Palm
Pindo Palm can tolerate salt water, droughts and is tough enough to deal with weather stresses once mature enough. This low maintenance palm is not very picky about the soil as long as it drains well.
It does best in full sun or partial shade. It does not have any special nutrient needs and requires minimum pruning.
This plant prefers a full sun, though it will tolerate partial shade. If you plant it in heavily shaded spot, the growth rate will slow down. I think it does best when planted as a stand-alone specimen with plenty of room around.
If you are planning on growing it indoors, make sure to find a bright spot with a lot of sunlight. You can take it outside during warm months so it can be exposed to more light.
This plant is not fussy about the soil and can grow in clay or sandy soil as long as it drains well. While no soil amendment is needed when planting this palm, I always like to add good quality top soil to the planting hole.
Because root rot might be a problem if the soil is not draining well, check the drainage and see if it needs improvement before planting the palm.
It needs plenty of water until established in the first 2 years, but after that only little to moderate watering is needed. Since pindo palm is drought tolerant, allow for the soil to dry between the watering, as soggy soil might cause the trunk and roots to rot.
Check the soil moister by using a soil probe, moister meter or just your fingers. Water your palm when the top 3 inches of soil are feeling dry. Deep watering, slowly dripping the water, is the best method in getting soil deeply saturated.
The water should saturate soil about 2 ft deep and about 4ft around the base of the trunk.
While fertilization frequency depends on your soil type, to prevent nutritional deficiency, I recommend applying a good quality palm fertilizer that has continuous release formula twice a year during growing season.
If found that fertilizers with a ratio of 15-5-15 or 10-5-10 where there is the same amount of Nitrogen and Potassium work the best.
It can tolerate cold down to 5F when mature enough with leaf damage at around 15F. At around 10F or lower the leaves will be completely lost.
It’s also known to survive cold winter with low temperatures dropping down to 0F, though it was heavily mulched and provided minimal cold protection. Still, it’s amazing a palm tree can survive and quickly recover after such stress.
Of course it’s not going to look as stunning if it has to lose all of its foliage every year. But that’s the price many palm enthusiasts have to pay for growing it in cooler climate.
Pindo palm needs very little pruning to maintain a neat look. Just remove dead, loosened or broken fronds. Don’t trim green, healthy fronds since they are used by palm for nutrients.
If you feel you need to remove healthy fronds to achieve a certain look, only remove fronds that grow below the horizontal plane of the crown.
Avoid so called “hurricane cut” that many homeowners do to prepare for hurricane. This type of cut only harms the palm and robs it of its food.
The Pindo Palm usually is not going to cause you any troubles. Palm leaf skeletonizer, scale, and micronutrient deficiencies are occasional problems for Pindo Palm.
There are no major diseases that you need to be afraid of. It can get a root rot if the soil is kept too moist and not well drained.
Pindo palm is propagated by seeds but the process is extremely slow. It takes many months for germination to take place and many more for the plant to mature. So, it is probably wiser to get at least a three year old plant from a nursery.
Landscaping With Pindo Palm
This palm is a star of a show whether you plant just one or several. It looks equally good standing by itself or as the focal point in a planter.
If you are planning on placing it near the fence or a house, leave about 7ft for some growing room. For planting in the row, leave about 10ft between the palms so each plant has space to shine.
In my opinion, they don’t look as good when planted in clusters. This wonderful palm is perfect for planting as: focal point for a circular driveway or a yard, lining along the walkway, anchor for a large tropical bed, accent for the corner of the building, at both sides of an entrance to a stately driveway.
Keep in mind, falling fruit can make a mess, so plant it at leas 10 feet away from the pool, patio, or decks.
Growing Pindo Palm Indoors
Are you wondering if pindo palm can grow in a container indoors? Yes it can. In fact, pindo palm makes a great houseplant because it’s slow growing, can adapt to wide range of soils, and is drought tolerant.
To grow Pindo palm successfully indoors, you will need to provide it with enough light, water, good drainage, and occasional fertilization.
It could be challenging for sun-loving palms to get needed amount of sunlight indoors. So, place it in a bright area near the window with plenty of sunlight.
Avoid putting the pot directly under any vents to protect them from dry air. I recommend watering it with filtered or distilled water to avoid chemical and salt buildup. You should re-pot it every 3 years to freshen up the soil even if you are using the same pot.
Other Butia Varieties
Butia capitata is native to Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay where it freely hybridizes with other members of the genus as well as palms from other genera. For example, Butia yatay is very similar in cold hardiness and appearance but has more widely spreading leaves.
Another very cold-hardy species is Butia eriospatha that has shorter, bright green leaves and leaf bases covered with brown hair.
Frequently Asked Questions
In this section I want to answer some of the most popular questions I get about this plant.
How Fast Do Pindo Palms Grow?
Depending on the growing conditions Pindo palms grow only about 12 – 24 inches per year. This is a very slow growth rate compared to the average height of 15ft and 10ft wide spread that they eventually reach.
If grown in the container, they will grow even slower, about 10 – 15 inches per year to about 5 – 7 ft tall. This plant can live up to 80 years.
Are Pindo Palm Fruits Poisonous to Dogs?
They are not. Pindo palms bear edible fruits that can be consumed by people or dogs in a raw form. They are NOT poisonous to dogs. Dogs and some people might get an upset stomach but they are not toxic. It is safe for dogs to eat jelly palm fruits from the ground.