How to Grow Christmas Palm Trees

Christmas palm tree with red drupe fruit

The Spruce / Gyscha Rendy

In This Article

Despite its merry name, the Christmas Palm (Adonidia merrillii) is a tropical favorite all year round. This palm species moniker can be attributed to the fruit it produces that turn a bright, cheery red in the winter. The attractive fruit, called a drupe, is not the only reason to consider this happy little species for your landscape. 

The palm, a native of the Philippines, does well in the American yard, where space can be limited. It grows quickly to six feet then levels off growing slowly to its final mature height of 25 feet. When a statement is needed, two or three Christmas palms are often combined for effective mass planting. A grouping of palms creates an impressive visual statement as long as the spacing between the planting is considered.

Winter is not the only time the Christmas Palm is attractive. The palm flowers in the summer too. The blooms are a soft creamy color attached by stalks to the trunk. The berries are produced from the flowers, first green, then ripening into their final shiny bright red color.

While the Christmas palm is extremely cold sensitive, it can be grown in a large container and brought indoors during the winter. 

One other reason this species is so sought after is its ease of maintenance. If there is a landscape suited to palms or needing a tropical feel, the Christmas palm is a terrific choice that will not be overwhelming in size or workload. You'll just need to be sure you live in a region that has the right temperatures for this species.

Botanical Name  Adonidia merrillii
Common Name  Christmas Palm, Manila Palm
Plant Type   Broad Leaf Evergreen Palm
Mature Size  15-25 feet tall 6-8 feet tall
Sun Exposure  Full Sun
Soil Type  Clay, Sand, Loam, Well-Draining
Soil pH  Neutral to Alkaline
Bloom Time  Summer
Flower Color  Cream
Hardiness Zones  10-11
Native Area   Philippines
Toxicity  Non-toxic

Christmas Palm Tree Care

Growing the Christmas palm is an easy task if the plant is in the right setting or can be moved indoors and outdoors seasonally to appropriate temperatures.

Christmas palm tree with red drupe fruit closeup

The Spruce / Gyscha Rendy

Christmas palm tree with red and green drupe fruit

The Spruce / Gyscha Rendy

Christmas palm tree with drupe fruit and leaves

The Spruce / Gyscha Rendy

Light

The Christmas palm will do well in full sun or partial shade. Full sun is preferred for best fruit production, which is six to eight hours of sun a day. 

Soil

Clay, loam or sand all are perfectly suitable soils for the Christmas palm. This tree needs good drainage to thrive and it will not tolerate standing water. Soil pH is also a matter of some concern and should be tested before planting. The Christmas palm prefers neutral to alkaline soil.

Water

Watering the palm is essential if you live in dry areas. While it is drought-tolerant for short periods, you will notice a deficiency in growth and flowering if left without enough moisture. One inch of supplemental watering in an area with moderate rain should be okay. In dry areas, this should be increased to two inches. At a depth of three inches, mulching at the palm’s base will help retain moisture.

Temperature and Humidity

The Christmas palm is extremely cold sensitive and will not survive under 30o Fahrenheit for long. To ensure the plant’s health, make sure it is planted in the correct Zone, USDA Zone 10-11, or used as a container plant that can be brought indoors when the temperatures drop.

Fertilizer

The Christmas palm tends to suffer from boron deficiency. It does well in soil with low nutritional values, but boron is always an issue. To compensate, be sure to use a fertilizer specially formulated for palms.

Pruning

Christmas palms are self-cleaning, meaning that the frond falls off once it dies without the need to be pruned. The one bit of maintenance that needs to be performed is cleaning up or cutting dead, rotting, or fallen fruits. Neglecting this can lead to unpleasant aromas, insects, and pathogens.

Is the Christmas Palm Toxic?

According to the ASPCA, the Christmas palm is non-toxic to dogs, cats, and horses.

Common Pests/Diseases

If located in Southern Florida, the palm is susceptible to a disease known as Lethal Yellowing. 

This disease can result in the palm’s fruit falling from the tree prematurely. The tips of the flowers will also yellow and new fruit will not be produced. Plus, the fronds will yellow at the bottom and this will progress towards the top of the crown.

There is no cure for the disease, and treatment is costly. The best course of action is removing and planting a resistant species unless the infected specimen plant is extremely rare or valuable. Otherwise, the required yearly treatments are cost-prohibitive.

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