Palms in Melbourne

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Palms in Melbourne

(Note: this article was initially posted to aus.gardens, in response to a query about Chinese Fan Palms.)

The Livistona chinensis is slow growing in Melbourne although it will respond well to summer heat and humidity. My three have been planted and fed well for 9 years but are still small. Don't anticipate anything otherwise. My growing conditions are better than most: no frost, 300 metres from the sea, minimal salt air, however, ambient humidity from dense plantings of palms and Musa. As a contrast, my other palms are prolific growers: Howea belmoreana, H. forsteriana, Chamaedorea seifrizii, Phoenix, Livistonia, Arecastrums of all sorts, Washingonias, Archontophoenix cunninghamiana, Trachycarpus and Rhapis. Only the L. chinensis is slow!

The best palms for Melbourne are Trachycarpus fortunei (the Chinese Fan Palm, or the Horsehair palm) and the Phoenixes robelenii, P. reclinata, P. canariensis. Howeas also do well. Washingtonias are very fast. The commonly called "Cocos" palm Syagrus romanzoffiana) is okay but tends to look straggly like the Archontophoenix cunninghamia (or piccabeen).

All my palms respond well to mass planting because it replicates their native state in which they have to compete for space, light and nutrient. Mass plantings - even if only a group of three together - make for a better display, too. One will dominate and the others will provide a better understory composition. They tend to be gross feeders in their growing time. They need well drained soil and plenty of water. Nitrogenous feeding works well. Prepare the soil to a depth of 1 metre with sheep manure, cow manure and well rotted compost.

They respond to heat - especially radiant heat rather than full sun, initially - this also, replicates their native growing conditions to some degree.


Contributed by:

Mark Mitchell

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