How to Grow Date Palm Trees

Crown of a date palm (Phoenix dactylifera) tree

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The date palm has a commanding presence. It has regal fronds, a thick trunk, and large bunches of sweet fruit, making it a stately addition to your garden. The date palm can grow up to 80 feet high and 40 feet wide, bearing large, sprawling, green fronds at its peak.

When flowering, this tree produces bunches of pale yellow flowers that turn into its famous clusters of dates. Though slow-growing, these palms give large rewards to those who are patient and diligent in caring for them.

Botanical Name Phoenix dactylifera
Common Name Date palm
Plant Type Tree
Mature Size 50 to 80 feet tall
Sun Exposure Full sun
Soil Type Sandy, well-draining
Soil pH Neutral 
Bloom Time Late winter to early spring
Flower Color Yellow
Hardiness Zones 8 to 11
Native Area North Africa, Middle East
Clusters of fruit on date palm tree
Clusters of fruit on date palm tree

Date Palm Tree Care

If you live in a hot, sunny, dry climate, you may have the right conditions to grow this large, elegant palm tree variety. When planting date palms, you will need both male and female trees if your aim is to produce fruit. Otherwise, you can plant a single date palm to enjoy the tall, stately tree and its thick foliage–without reaping any harvest.

It's generally considered best to plant your palms in the spring or fall. Choosing an appropriate spot for date palm trees is important since they need very well-draining soil and full sun exposure.

Date palm trees are considered a slow-growing species, so patience is needed to see it reach maturity. You'll need even more patience if you're hoping to harvest fruit since it can take anywhere from three to eight years before they produce any.

Light

In harmony with its preferred dry, hot climate, the date palm loves plenty of sunshine. It can tolerate light shade but does better in a full sun position.

Soil

Well-draining soil is the biggest factor to consider when choosing where to plant your date palm. This palm variety is tolerant of salty soil and does well in sandy conditions.

Water

The date palm is drought-tolerant, especially once well-established. However, during its flowering and fruiting season, it needs plenty of water to produce a healthy crop.

New trees will need more water than well-established trees. Since it prefers well-draining soil, it does not like too much moisture around its roots.

Temperature and Humidity

These trees prefer hot, dry, and sunny conditions. In fact, temperatures need to be around 95 degrees Fahrenheit to bring about pollination. Temperatures that are too cold can cause severe damage to the fronds or even kill the tree. It isn't a palm tree variety that can tolerate freezing temperatures.

As for the fruit of the date palm, it also does best in dry heat. Too much humidity and moisture can lead to rotting.

Fertilizer

To fertilize your date palm, manure makes an excellent option. If you’d rather use packaged fertilizer, speciality palm tree fertilizer is recommended. Give fertilizer during the late winter to prep the tree for its fruit production in the coming months.

Propagating Date Palms

Palm trees, date palms included, propagate by creating new tree growth at the base of the parent tree. These new trees are called suckers or offshoots. These offshoots are a clone of the parent tree.

Propagating by seed is also possible, but may produce a hybrid tree from cross-pollination. If you spot an offshoot on your date palm, you can easily separate it and start growing another palm.

  1. Identify where you would like to plant your new date palm.
  2. With a suitable place picked out, begin separating the offshoot from the parent tree. You may need to use a saw to separate the roots. When doing this, be sure the offshoot has roots attached once removed.
  3. Dig a hole for your new date palm, digging it twice as large as needed to loosen the soil around the tree.
  4. Fill with loosened soil and just cover the roots of the tree.
  5. Give it a good watering. You may need to add supports to help the tree grow straight.

Growing Date Palms From Seeds

Starting your date palm from seed is another easy way to start growing more palms. Here’s how:

  1. Remove the seeds from ripe dates.
  2. Soak the seeds for at least 24 hours, discarding any that float to the top.
  3. Place each remaining seed in its own container of well-draining soil, such as a sandy mix. Press the seeds into the soil so they are about half covered.
  4. Keep moist and warm. Placing them in a spot with indirect sunlight is best. You may want to place a plastic bag on top of the container to keep in more moisture.
  5. Once the seed has sprouted a couple of inches, remove the bag (if used) and move to a larger container.
  6. Keep the palm in indirect sunlight until the end of its first summer, then slowly get it accustomed to more sunlight. By its second year, you should be able to plant it in the ground.

Harvesting Date Palms

If you have the opportunity to grow your own dates, there are a few important factors to keep in mind. When the fruit is coming in, remove about two-thirds of it while it is still green. This may sound counterintuitive, but it will allow the remaining fruit to grow larger and have a better airflow, ensuring a healthy crop. This also prevents the tree from producing a very heavy crop one year, then a very light crop the next year.

Once your fruit is ripe, simply cut off the fruit bunch and bag the fruit to protect them from moisture and other elements. You may need to expose them to heat to allow them to further ripen. However, avoid direct sun as this can burn the fruit.