Native to regions of Baja, California, and northern Mexico, the Mexican Blue palm is a unique and somewhat rare species of cold hardy palm.
While not as common as other cold hardy varieties out there, this palm is one to consider in your search as long as you live in the right climate conditions.
Known by their species name Brahea Armata, these palms have a unique silver color to their fronds similar to the popular, but not quite as cold hardy Bismarckia Nobilis or Bismarck palm.
This is especially prominent when young.
Then let’s read on and find out if this is a palm you should consider adding to your landscape.
- Overview of Mexican Blue Palm (Brahea Armata):
- Native to Baja, California, and northern Mexico.
- Unique silver-colored fronds, similar to Bismarck palm but more cold hardy.
- Slow-growing, reaching 30-50 feet in height and 15-20 feet wide at maturity.
- Drought-tolerant, prefers well-draining alkaline soil.
- Ideal Growing Conditions:
- Suitable for zones 8 and above.
- Tolerates temperatures down to approximately 10°F.
- Prefers drier, hotter climates; grows well in mild Mediterranean climates.
- Common in the southwest U.S. like Phoenix, Arizona, and Southern California.
- Physical Characteristics:
- Striking bluish-silver to bluish-green fronds, up to 10 feet wide.
- Cream-colored flowers bloom in early spring with long, hanging stalks.
- Edible but awful-tasting fruit; seeds can be roasted.
- Ideal for Specific Landscapes:
- Great for larger landscapes, street planting, and as an ornamental palm.
- Suitable for areas with space to spread out.
- Nice visual contrast in landscapes with its bluish-silver color.
- Maintenance and Care:
- Relatively maintenance-free, requires fertilizing and occasional pruning.
- Monoecious, producing viable seeds from both male and female flowers on the same tree.
- Very slow growth rate, about 6 inches per year.
- Can be hard to find and expensive due to slow growth and rarity.
- Susceptible to root rot in poorly draining soil.
- Not ideal for extreme subtropical or tropical climates.
- An excellent choice for cold hardy palms in suitable zones.
- Offers unique aesthetic appeal with its color and form.
- Requires patience due to slow growth but is relatively low maintenance.
What Is the Mexican Blue Palm?
Mexican Blue palms, also commonly called Blue Hesper palms, are quite the slow grower making them quite valuable and sought after.
The fronds are a striking bluish silver to bluish green color and costapalmate in form.
While it can take many years, these palms can get to approximately 30-50′ in height and 15-20′ wide at maturity.
Individual fronds can get up to 10′ in width attached to slightly armed petioles.
If not kept regularly trimmed, the fronds will create a “skirt” at the base of the crown similar to the Washingtonia Filifera.
Imagine a silver-colored California Fan palm and you kind of get the idea of what they look like at maturity.
The cream-colored flowers bloom in early spring with the flower stalks extending out from the crown and hanging downward.
This is a unique feature of this palm, looking similar to a willow-style firework falling in the sky.
These stalks are long and can get up to 15′ or more in length.
Seeds will ripen during the summer months with fruit starting out yellow and turning dark brown.
While the fruit is edible, it tastes horrible, however, the seeds can be roasted and consumed if desired.
These palms are monoecious, so they contain both male and female flowers creating viable seeds on a single palm.
This is perfect for people like me who like to grow palms from seed and sell/give away later.
Mexican Blue palms are drought tolerant at maturity, although when young, they will need regular watering in a well-draining alkaline soil mix.
Where Will the Mexican Blue Palm Grow?
These palms are an ideal choice for zones 8 and above.
They will tolerate temperatures down to approximately 10F in optimal conditions.
These trees can receive some frond damage at these temps and may require some cold protection during severe cold snaps.
The Mexican Blue palm prefers drier, hotter climates similar to their native habitat.
These palms can also grow quite well in mild Mediterranean climates adding some versatility, although growth will be slower.
They are found along the west coast of the U.S. as far north as Seattle, Washington, and western British Columbia.
Long-term survival in these areas will require planting it in a warm, sunny spot.
You will find these palms more commonly grown in the southwest U.S. such as Phoenix, Arizona, southern Nevada, and throughout California.
Mexican Blue palms will not do well in extreme subtropical or tropical conditions where humidity levels are severe, especially during the summer months.
Who Are Mexican Blue Palms For?
These palms are a great pick if you are looking for a larger silver-form fan palm to add to your landscape.
Mexican Blue palms don’t get quite as large as the previously mentioned Bismarck palm, so that can also be a plus if you don’t have a ton of space.
Their bluish-silver color will act as a visual contrast in the landscape with common green form plantings making it stand out!
They are an ideal choice for street planting as well as an ornamental palm for areas of your yard where they will have room to spread out.
The Mexican Blue palm is also relatively maintenance-free other than fertilizing a couple of times a year.
Additionally, the occasional pruning of old fronds will keep this palm looking its best.
Any Drawbacks of the Mexican Blue Palm?
As I mentioned before, they are VERY slow growing, especially when young achieving about 6 inches of growth per year.
This can be off-putting for folks wanting something that’s faster growing and don’t want to wait years or even decades for something full-size.
If you are interested in getting one of these palms, then it is advisable to get one that is at least a few years old.
Due to their slow growth, Mexican Blue palms can be harder to find for purchase than other cold hardy varieties.
This makes them quite valuable, but also expensive.
Purchasing these palms in areas where they are more commonly found can help with affordability.
There are several nurseries and big box stores throughout the southwest U.S. that sell these palms and can be a great starting place.
I have had luck finding people selling them at reasonable prices through online forums as well.
PalmTalk is a great one to check out if you’re not sure where to start.
The Mexican Blue palm is relatively free from pests and diseases.
They are susceptible to root rot however if not given properly draining soil in long periods of wet conditions.
The Wrap Up
As with many cold hardy palms, there are some things you will need to take into consideration if you want to grow one of these palms.
While these palms are an excellent choice for many areas of zone 8 and above, they may not be the best for everyone in these zones.
Regardless, if you are on the search for cold hardy palms to add to your landscape, this is an interesting one to check out!
Here are some pros and cons of this palm:
- Prefers arid to semi-arid conditions, but also grows well in mild Mediterranean climates.
- Will tolerate temps down to approximately 10F once established.
- Makes a great ornamental palm for your yard.
- The unique bluish-silver color adds an attractive contrast with other green-form plantings.
- Similar in appearance to the Bismarck palm, but much more cold tolerant.
- Relatively maintenance-free other than occasional fertilizing and pruning.
- Free from many pests and diseases.
- Very slow growing and can take many years or decades to achieve full size.
- Fairly uncommon in many locations and hard to find for purchase.
- Relatively expensive due to slow growth and lack of availability in certain areas.
- Intolerant of extreme subtropical and tropical climates.