Germinating Palm Seeds – Part 2

On May 10, 2015, I threw several thousand Washingtonia filibusta seeds and a few hundred Sabal palmetto seeds into one of my larger beds to see what would happen. Almost two months later, here are the results. We’ve had some really good heat, and a good amount of rain along with my routine watering when necessary.

It is now July 4, 2015. Usually by now in Memphis, the rains have ended and the open heat is brutal. But the last few days have been very wet with temperatures in the 70s and 80s. The plants in my yard have really soaked it all up.

It took about three weeks to see the first Washingtonia straplings come up. Then two to weeks after that, the Sabal palmettos started peeking. Washingtonias seem to respond much more quickly to heat and water, probably having to do with their native desert environment and the need to sprout quickly when water is available. Sabals are rather spoiled in their native Southeastern climate where water comes cheap and easy. So they can take their time. Just my own thoughts on why they take longer to germinate.

Here is the main bed today where I threw 90% of the seeds.

Down closer at ground level, you can see the excellent success rate of these seeds, which sat in my garage in a bag for 12 years.

Putting a garden trowel into the soil pulls out scoopfuls of sprouting seeds. I have been able to transfer several of them to plastic cups and pots.

Some of these palm seedlings are already working on their second “straps” or pseudo fronds. A year from now, the Washingtonia filibusta seedlings will already start working on true fans. The Sabal palmetto seedlings will be in a strap phase for a couple of years. They are much slower growers.

I will allow several of the Washingtonia and Sabal palms to grow in the ground, but I will also keep quite a few in pots for the next few years to get some size. They’ll be perfect for siting at new locations around Memphis! The vast majority of the Sabals should do just fine in the Memphis area, being native to the Southeast. The Washingtonia filibusta palms however will be a challenge. The genetic variability of this hybrid will mean that some won’t make it long. The individuals that have the best tolerance for a wet and humid climate along with the best cold hardiness will survive. I estimate I’ll be lucky to keep just a handful of them alive over the next few years.

More updates on these palms to come.

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