The Queen Palm Tree, scientific name Syagrus romanzoffiana, is one of the most common palms in tropical and subtropical climates because of its beautiful appearance and low maintenance. In addition, it is very inexpensive and widely available for purchase.
You can find hundreds of thousands of them planted throughout communities in California and Gulf States. It’s popularity has also to do with tall size and fast growth rate.
Queen palm is native to southern Brazil, northern Argentina, Uraguay and Paraguay, where it tends to grow on small mountain ranges and in lowland areas.
If you are looking for a fast growing palm, that will grow tall, is durable, inexpensive, and easy to find, queen palm is a great choice.
|Scientific name:||Syagrus romanzoffiana|
|Common names:||Queen Palm, Cocos Plumosa, Jeriva Syagrus romanzoffiana.|
|Origin:||Native to the South American woodlands of Brazil and Argentina.|
|Growth Rate:||Fast. Up to 30 – 40 ft and 5 -10 ft wide.|
|Cold Tolerance:||USDA Zones 9b (25 to 30 F) to 11 (above 40 F).|
|Light Req:||Partial shade to Full sun.|
|Soil Req:||Slightly acid best, but fairly adaptable.|
|Fruit:||Yes. Yellow to orange|
|Propagation:||By seeds, germinating in 3-6 months.|
Queen Palm Appearance
Syagrus romanzoffiana has smooth single trunk ringed with leaf scars and topped with dark green feathery fronds. Pinnate, feather-like, leaves grow upward more so than outward.
With regular fertilization this plant can grow to a maximum height of about 30 – 40 ft and 5 -10 ft wide. I have even seen a specimen that reached 60 feet. It grows around 6 feet per year after establishing.
The stem of the leaf is about 5 – 15ft long and has double rows of leaflets. Each leaflet blade approximately 18 to 36 inches long. The trunk can reach almost 2 feet in diameter.
Because this palm is not self-cleaning, old brown fronds need to be manually removed otherwise they will just hang down making the tree look unattractive.
Queen Palm Flowers and Fruits
During summer months Queen Palm will surprise you with beautiful clusters of creamy flowers on a green stalk that grows underneath its leaves. In the early winter a green fruit will appear that will turn orange as it matures.
This fruits, also called “dates”, have round shape and are about 1 inch long with one single seed inside. While the fruit might smell nice, is not edible. But, it is not toxic to humans and pets. You can often see squirrels eating these fruits.
When dates fall to the ground they create sticky piles of rotting fruit that attract insects. While there is no chemical to stop the tree from forming seeds, you can remove flowers when they first appear. That is the easiest way to prevent dropping of the fruits.
How To Care For Queen Palm
This palm is very fast growing even from the seedling stage. It can get 6 feet tall in just two to three years if grown in right environment. This is why it’s widely available and very affordable.
It prefers acidic to neutral soil that drains well. I could suffer manganese deficiency in alkaline soils. Although it has slight tolerance for drought, it likes regular water. It also has moderate salt tolerance.
While it can look very attractive even when neglected, it will look strikingly beautiful if provided with enough fertilizer and water. If likes full sun but can also grow in light shade.
It’s also worth mentioning, that queen palm has a shallow root-base and is known for falling during high winds and hurricanes.
Spot with full sun is the best for queen palm, unless you are planting it in extremely hot inland or desert areas.
In that case, filtered light or partial shade will be needed to prevent leaf burn. High light requirement is one of the reasons why queen palm is not a good indoor plant.
In California, you can find many queen palms growing in dense clay soil. Even though it can adapt to different soil types, it grows best in slightly acidic soil with some organic material.
Alkaline soils might cause a manganese deficiency resulting in so called “frizzletop” appearance. Like most palms, it needs good drainage and doesn’t like soggy soil.
To improve drainage, add some sand to the soil mix when planting this palm. I like soil mixes that are based on Canadian peat moss.
This palm is weak-rooted and can be easily transplanted into the new location when young. Mature plants are rarely replanted due to the high cost of digging and labor. It’s less expensive just to by a new large plant than relocating an old one.
Watering Queen Palm
Along with proper feeding, correct watering is critical for healthy queen palm growth. Newly planted plant should be watered every day for the first week, every other day for the second week and about 3 times a week afterwards.
Usually, watering established queen palm 2-3 times a week is enough. Adjust your watering depending on the season.
Because it grows more during warm months, it needs more water in the summer and less water in the winter when the growth rate slows down. During colder months, watering once a week should be enough.
In terms of amount of water needed, it usually depends on the soil type and the drainage. But, here is a rule you can use when watering palms.
The amount of water should be 10-20% of the container size for that palm. So, if you have a 10 gallon size palm, use 1 gallon of water. If it’s 20 gallon palm, then use 2 gallons of water.
Even if your palm is planted in the ground, you can figure out what size of the container would be needed for that palm.
Always check the soil to make sure it’s moist and adjust your water amount if needed. Again, summer months use a little bit more than that, winter month a little bit less.
To check the soil moister, I use soil probe or a moister meter. You can use a screwdriver instead. Take a soil probe and push into the ground as far as it can go, twist it and pull it out. If the soil is too dry, the probe will stop. Feel the soil.
If it’s moist, you don’t need to water more. Check to see how far the root extends. You don’t need to water deeper than that because roots can’t get to the water below the root depth.
Fertilizing Queen Palm
Queen palms should be fertilized with a fertilizer that contains the most important minerals including magnesium, iron, copper, manganese and nitrogen.
To prevent nutritional deficiency, apply good quality palm fertilizer that has continuous release formula twice a year during growing season.
It requires a lot of manganese for a healthy grow, not to be confused with magnesium. So, even after applying the usual fertilizer that contains manganese, it’s a good idea to add more manganese to the soil.
Manganese deficiency is responsible for the “frizzy top” that you can witness on many Florida queen palms. That’s because most of the homeowners don’t know how to fertilize it properly.
If you don’t treat the “frizzy top” condition, your palm tree will get weaker and eventually die. Once you noticed that some of the frizzy symptoms are developing, add more manganese to the soil.
I recommend using 10-5-10 slow release formula. Slow release fertilizer will feed your palm for few months and won’t burn the roots of your palm. A lot of palm trees die from the fertilizer root burn.
Find 10-5-10 fertilizer that contains other micro nutrients. At least 6, but the more different micro elements, the better. Here is the list of additional micro elements: Magnesium, Manganese, Sulphur, Boron, Copper, Iron, and Zinc.
Don’t buy cheap fertilizer trying to save money, because it means less quality plant food for you palm. And don’t buy it because of the brand name. This is one of the most valuable advice you can get – always read the label! Remember, BEST fertilizer is not cheap.
Note: Apply fertilizer at LEAST 2 foot away from the queen palm trunk to avoid burning the trunk. The fertilizer needs to be applied BEFORE watering. Not after.
Generally, Syagrus romanzoffiana can tolerate cold down to 25F when mature enough, however some palm enthusiasts have found it could survive cold down to 18F without permanent damage. Expect some leaf damage at the temperatures below 25F and full defoliation at about 20F.
It is great for growing in USDA Zones 9b (25 to 30 F) to 11 (above 40 F). Growing it outside zone 9b could be challenging and will require some cold protection. If you don’t mind full defoliation in the winter months, this might be a good option.
If you enjoy the look of queen palm, but want more cold tolerable species, take a look at some of the queen palm hybrids.
Pruning Queen Palm
This palm is not ‘self-cleaning’ and needs some pruning of old leaves. While you don’t have to trim the leaves, it might take a while before they will drop off by themselves. The tree will look much better if you do it manually. In addition, dropping leaves might hit a person or a car.
The best time to prune is from September to beginning of November. You can remove old fronds that got damaged during the summer with a saw. Get rid of only minimum amount of fronds that are yellow or brown.
Excessive pruning can weaken the palm and slow its growth. If you have a tall queen palm, you might need a ladder to reach dry fronds. If you live in Florida, it’s easy to find a company that can do it for you.
Queen Palm Insects and Diseases
The only pests that cause problems for queen palms are palm leaf skeletonizer and scale.
Queen Palm has problem with Ganoderma butt rot that can kill the palm. There is no cure for it. The only thing you can do, is to use prevention treatments.
Queen Palm Propagation
Propagated by seeds. Seeds of Queen Palm germinate better if collected from the green fruit that didn’t ripe yet. Try to plant as soon as possible, as dried seed is much more difficult to propagate.
If you can’t plant the seed right away, you can store them. Before storing clean the seeds from the dust, air dry them and seal them in a plastic bag. The best storage temperature is around 65F-75F. It’s not recommended to store Queen Palm seeds for more than 4 months.
When you are ready to plant your seeds, soak them first in water for 1-7 days. Change water daily. Plant a seed into a small container filled with soil (you can get it from you local supermarket).
Soil should cover your seed not more than 2 cm. Put the container outside if you live in a warm climate. The temperature should be around 85F-90F. Water them 1-2 times a week. It should take around 2-3 months to sprout.
Wait until at least one leaf has appeared before transplanting. I got few pictures of the process for you:
Queen Palm seeds
Queen Palm seeds 30 days of germination
Queen Palm seeds 150 days of germination
Queen Palm 23 months after germination
Landscaping With Queen Palm
The larger the queen palm gets, the more impressive it looks in the landscape. Since they are fast and easy to grow, it’s common to see them in commercial or residential plantings.
This palm is great on its own or in grouping. It can be used for lining a street, property line, driveway, or fence. It also works well as a backdrop for a grouping of smaller plants, or to anchor a garden bed. I would avoid planting it next to the pool because of the messy fruits that might fall in the water.
Young specimens often have widely-spaced fronds almost to the base of the stem. If you are planting it next to your house, leave about 10 feet for the leaves to spread out. For planting in the row, leave about 5 feet or more between plants.
Occasionally, you can see queen palms growing from the same spot in a groups of three together. When grown this way, they might differ in size and have bending out trunks. To create such appearance, your will need to grow them from a seedling stage close together.
Surprisingly, it’s popularity sometimes works against it. Many landscape companies and home owners tent not to use them because they are just everywhere. It’s not uncommon for new gardeners to overplant their property with queen palms to only remove them later.
Growing Queen Palm Indoors
This palm is not a great houseplant. Because of the fast growth rate, you will constantly need to repot it. For example, a 10 gallon plant will need to be moved into a 15 gallon pot in just two years.
If not re-potted on time, the roots will occupy the entire container and the tree will start to look stressed and unhealthy.
Also, this palm gets very tall very fast. While it grows slower in the container than in the ground, it will quickly reach the ceiling.
Growing this tall plant in the container outdoors is also not a very good idea because the wind can easily blow it over. It will be hard to find a container large enough to accommodate soil volume to support queen palm.
Another reason that this is a bad indoor plant, is that it likes a lot of sun, air circulation, and higher humidity levels than you can provide indoors.
Other Syagrus Varieties
Queen palm is part of Syagrus genus that has over 40 species. All of them are native to South America and the Caribbean.
- Syagrus amara (Overtop palm) – This is a salt tolerant species with a broad canopy of coconut-like leaves and a tall slender trunk. It is native to Lesser Antilles in Montserrat, Martinique, Guadeloupe, Dominica, and St. Lucia, making it the only Syagrus species not native to South America.
- Syagrus coronata (Ouricury palm, or licuri palm) – This is a smaller species with a thick trunk covered with visible leaf bases arranged in vertical or spiral rows.