For the last few years I have been growing many palm trees from seed, especially cold hardy varieties. It’s a fun hobby, going out and collecting as many palm seeds as possible to build an awesome collection of palms for my yard.
Recently I became curious if you can grow palm trees from cuttings and what would be the best way of going about it. I decided to do a little research and found out some interesting information on this topic.
In most cases the answer is NO, however it really depends on the palm. Palms can’t be grown from a cutting in the traditional sense of cutting the top off of the tree and starting a new one. There are some factors where you can propagate a palm cutting without growing it from seed, but this only includes certain types of palms.
We will take a closer look at why you can’t create cuttings from most palm trees, what types of palm trees you can actually start cuttings from and the best methods for starting your own cuttings.
Why You Can’t Create Cuttings From Most Palm Trees
A common misconception is that palms are actually trees. While commonly labeled as a tree, palms are actually monocots and related to the grass family. In short, palms are basically large weeds, which makes sense considering some weeds kind of look like miniature palms, at least in their form.
Most palms contain a solitary trunk with numerous fronds growing from a single location at the top of the trunk known as the “crown”. The crown of the palm, also known as the “heart”, is where new growth originates from. This is a vital part of the palm. Severing the trunk anywhere below the crown will ultimately result in death since the root system can no longer feed nutrients to the crown once it is removed.
An interesting fun fact I was unaware of is that leftover palm stumps, or the trunk that’s remaining in the ground, can start up new growth within the center. I didn’t even know this was possible, but there are some cases where this can happen!
Types of Palms For Creating Your Own Cuttings
There are some palms out there that make it possible to create your own cuttings.
Clumping palms, also known as “suckering” palms, will create new growth from the root system of the main trunk. This results in several “pups” or baby palm trees that grow around the bottom of the trunk and can be separated for starting a new single specimen without propagating from seed.
Another fact about clumping palms it that you can cut down the trunk of the main palm and still have new suckers form at the base. At this point the main trunk will be dead, however the suckers will still grow and create a whole new grouping of palm trees.
Here is a list of some common suckering palms that can be propagated using this method:
- Needle Palm (Rhapidophyllum Hystrix)
- Mediterranean Fan/ European Fan Palm (Chamaerops Humilis)
- Lady Palm (Rhapis Excelsa)
- Sago Palm (Cycas Revoluta) – this is actually a cycad, not a true palm
- Paurotis Palm/ Everglades Palm (Acoelorrhaphe Wrightii)
How To Separate Palm Suckers
Now that we know which palms we can use this method with, let’s find out how to go about separating the new growth.
While separating palms suckers is a fairly common propagation method, it can be risky and cause shock to the new cutting. This is because it involves separating the sucker roots from the main palm’s root system, which doesn’t always lead to success. However, there are some best practices for carrying out this method that can significantly boost your chances of survival.
Here are the best ways I have found to apply this technique:
- Remove the palm from the pot, or if in the ground, expose the root ball as much as possible.
- Find the lowest point where the sucker’s root system attaches to the main palm’s root system.
- Using a sharp knife or pruning sheers, carefully cut the sucker’s trunk and root free at its lowest point, being careful not to damage the remaining roots as they will be quite fragile.
- Plant the separated sucker into its own pot. Keep it well watered, much like a new seedling and place it in an area with partial shade.
There is a good chance that the new sucker will most likely go through some level of shock. Avoid planting it directly into the ground outdoors until the roots have had time to settle and new growth begins to show.
While I don’t currently own any suckering palms to experiment with, I did find an informational video on how to separate and plant Sago palm pups:
Palms With Multiple Trunks
During this research, I did find some info on certain palms that grow in a multi-trunked form, similar to bamboo. A couple of these palms have become very popular as common houseplants.
The Chamaedorea Elegans (Parlour Palm) and Dypsis Lutescens (Areca Palm) are just a couple of popular examples. These palms grow multiple trunks and can be separated in a similar manner to suckering palms.
One main takeaway with multi-trunking palms is that you will want to separate them into smaller groups at first. Growing a single specimen will create a skimpy looking plant, so separate into groups of about three or four. This can also help with shock as the grouping will have a more solid root system for transplanting.
When dividing the roots, use the same method as suckering palms and cut the root system at the lowest point from the main growth. Also, be sure to take great care at keeping the smaller parts of the root system intact to reduce shock.
Since these palms are popularly used for indoor applications, avoid direct sunlight and keep the soil slightly moist. Be sure not to disturb the root system and avoid fertilizing new growth. This can stress the plant while it’s getting settled.
After the roots have time to settle, you should start to see new growth from these cuttings after a few months.
The Wrap Up
While you can’t just cut off the top of a palm tree and start new growth, there are certain types of palms you can separate without growing them from seed.
Keep in mind, that great care is needed when separating the new growth. However, if done correctly you can save quite a bit of time starting new palms to expand your collection.