Known by its species name, Butia Capitata, the pindo palm is said to be the second most cold hardy of the pinnate palm species next to the Jubaea Chilensis (Chilean Wine Palm).
Pindo palm trees are originally native to many parts of South America, including Uruguay, Brazil and Argentina and have thrived very well in the coastal and upper elevations in these regions.
They are also very popular for their edible fruit from which you can create wine or jelly, hence the reason why they are also called wine or jelly palms.
Another great thing about these palms is that they are relatively easy to maintain. They can vary in size or stature depending on light and soil conditions. Dryer climates with full sun tend to result in a more compact palm.
There’s a lot of information to cover about pindo palms, so let’s find out if this palm is a good fit for your landscape.
What Is It?
Known by its genus name Butia, there are actually several species in the family.
Aside of the Capitata, some other popular species are the Ordata, Yatay and Paraguayensis. The differences in the species vary slightly with the Yatay being the tallest out of the bunch.
Pindo palms have a very stout trunk with long feather leaves which curve back inward toward the trunk. They are a slow grower eventually reaching a height of 15-20 feet when mature. The fronds have a grayish blue tinge to them and can extend anywhere from 5-10 feet in length from the crown.
One of the best features of this palm is that it is very cold hardy and can survive temperatures down to 10F with little or no winter protection! There have also been cases of them surviving into the single digits with some leaf damage, but tend to bounce back when the weather warms back up in the spring.
They are widely used in colder areas of the southern U.S. as well as most areas of the west coast. I remember having one of these palms in our backyard when I was a kid in southern California and was thrilled to find out that it can survive freezing temperatures!
Pindo Palm Fruit
Aside from being known as one of the most cold hardy palms in the world, pindo palms are probably best known for their edible fruit.
When ripe, pindo palm fruit will turn a bold orange/yellow color. It is very fibrous which makes the fruit ideal for making it into jelly. It has a very tropical flavor that’s tart yet sweet. The flavor is a combination of pineapple, apricot, apple and even banana in some cases.
Some folks find the fruit to be a little too fibrous to eat straight from the tree, while others seem to enjoy eating the fruit as is.
These trees produce a LOT of fruit and can be quite messy when left on the ground unattended, so it is advisable to plant these trees away from heavy foot traffic areas such as sidewalks and driveways. Planting the palm approximately 10 feet from walking paths is a good rule of thumb.
Where Will It Grow?
Pindo palms are great for zone 8 and above as they can withstand brief cold spells well into the teens. They are quite drought tolerant and can also handle full or partial sun.
They are often grown along the U.S. west coast from Southern California all the way up to British Columbia. On the U.S. east coast, they have been known to grow as far north as New Jersey, although winter protection would probably be needed in these areas during severe cold snaps.
Even though they are palms and look tropical, pindo palms in particular do not thrive well in tropical regions and actually prefer the mild Mediterranean climates to look their best.
Who Are They For?
Pindo palms are an excellent choice for anyone living in colder climates to enjoy a tropical look in their yard or for palm lovers that want to add to their collection of cold hardy palms.
The edible fruit that these trees produce is also perfect for folks that like to grow and make their own food.
The great thing about these palms is that there are very few things you need to be aware of. Nutrient deficiencies can sometimes be a problem in soils with a low pH level, but will still grow in a variety of soils. Fertilize once or twice a year during the spring and summer months to ensure that your palm is getting the proper nutrients.
Pindo palms can also be subject to root rot. Keep them in well-draining soil and don’t allow the palm to be subject to long periods of moisture. Full sun and extended periods of warm temperatures are the most optimal conditions for these palms.
One last thing to take into account is the sheer volume of fruit that grows on these trees. Be sure to cut off the fruit stalks before too much of the fruit drops on the ground, as this can make for a messy cleanup later!
The Wrap Up
If you are an avid palm lover, but don’t live in the typical climate for these trees, the pindo palm is an excellent choice to give that tropical look to your landscape.
These palms have been successfully grown in the pacific northwest of the U.S., coastal and inland regions of California, as well as areas of the southeast and as far north as Virginia on the east coast without winter protection. They can also be found growing in the cooler Mediterranean climates of Europe and western areas of Canada near the Pacific Ocean.
They are adaptable, easy to care for and provide a unique tropical look for your colder climate that your neighbors are sure to admire!