Ahh, the palm. Is there any other plant that inspires such a feeling of relaxation? One glimpse and your mind is half a world away, lazing in a hammock and sipping on a cocktail. And bringing that relaxed holiday feel to your suburban Sydney home needn’t be difficult. No matter the size of your yard or the state of your growing conditions, there’s a palm that’ll work for you.
The iconic palm image is the classic beach scene – and many varieties will give you the same feel in suburbia. These ones prefer to live outdoors, stretching toward the sun and creating a beautiful canopy in your garden.
Bangalow Palm (archontophoenix cunninghamiana)
While frequently seen in Sydney gardens, the Bangalow Palm is actually native to the rainforests of Australia’s central eastern coast. It’s a cold-hardy, fast-growing and relatively low-maintenance plant. It does, however, require a nice, moist soil in order to thrive – so water frequently, especially through summer. Despite its slim trunk, this variety can grow up to 25m in height and several metres wide through its canopy. Mature trees need full sun, but in its early stages this palm will do well in partial sun also.
Alexandra Palm (archontophoenix alexandrae)
Like its cousin the Bangalow Palm, this variety is also an Australian native – however this one calls the Queensland coast up to Cape York home. There’s a strong family resemblance between the Alexandra and Bangalow palms, however the Alexandra bears a slimmer trunk with a flared base and a silvery underside to its large green fronds. As the Alexandra grows it prefers shade, but mature trees like full sun. Growing up to 30m in height, this is truly an impact tree – plant it in your garden or pot it up as an outdoor ornamental for a great garden feature. You may also see this one referred to as the Alexander Palm.
Clustering Fishtail Palm (caryota mitis)
Native to south-east Asia and up to 10m tall, the Clustering Fishtail Palm makes a stunning addition to any garden. Taking its name from the tail fin of a fish, which its leaves resemble, this palm is a great option for a range of growing conditions from full to partial sunlight. In particular, it's a great option to grow next to taller trees. We recommend that you keep your Fishtail outside, with indirect morning sunlight, water frequently and mist its leaves regularly to simulate humidity. These conditions will see it thrive to its full potential!
Majestic Palm (ravenea rivularis)
For that genuine tropical paradise look, most landscapers can’t go past the Madagascan-native Majestic Palm – and for good reason! It reaches heights of up to 12m and its bulbous trunk and bright green foliage are true standouts. Another rather tolerant variety, the Majestic works well in shaded areas with taller trees and handles cold quite nicely, but not frost. Water every second day in summer and check your soil to ensure it’s always moist – but if yellow fronds appear, this can be a sign of overwatering. As this is a humidity-loving palm, a daily misting of water over the leaves will help simulate its best possible growing conditions.
Foxtail Palm (wodyetia bifurcata)
The beautiful Foxtail Palm is an easy-to-grow Northern Australian native that tolerates a wide range of soil and weather conditions, but thrives most in warm, dry climates. A fast grower, the Foxtail reaches up to 10m in height and displays bushy grey-green foliage atop a solid grey trunk. Don’t over-water or over-feed your Foxtail, either. While they appreciate a well-maintained soil, they only need a slow water twice a month in summer (less frequently in winter) to keep their roots hydrated. Grow in your garden or in a pot on your patio for a lush resort feel.
Living in an apartment or another small space? Perhaps you’re trying to create an indoor oasis? While we may think of the palm as an outdoor tree, and some do need to be outside in order to thrive, others are more easygoing and will live happily indoors too. These are also excellent options for renters to create a potted backyard oasis that can travel with them. Additionally, by planting in an appropriately-sized pot, you can control how high and wide it grows.
Bamboo Palm (chamaedorea seifrizii)
This gorgeous, low-maintenance palm makes for an excellent indoor specimen. The Bamboo Palm takes its name from its multi-stemmed growth habit, which resembles a bamboo plant. It typically grows up to 3m – making it great for living spaces and verandas, as long as it’s kept out of direct sunlight. Bamboo Palms are quite easy to grow and don’t require a lot of care. Pot it up with a well-draining soil as it won’t appreciate standing in water, and apply a small amount of slow-release fertiliser every 3 months.
Parlour Palm (chamaedorea elegans)
This native of the rainforests of Mexico and Guatemala reaches no more than 2m in height in its natural habitat. When potted, it's a fabulous, pint-sized indoor option – however it will work outdoors too, whether in a container or your garden bed. The Parlour Palm requires very little maintenance in order to thrive, so it's great for the less committed gardener! A little early morning or late afternoon sun is plenty, whether indoors or out, and a thorough watering will be appreciated when the surface of your plant’s soil has completely dried out.
Chinese Fan Palm (livistona chinensis)
This gorgeous south-east Asian native takes its name from its fan-shaped foliage, which droops in an elegant, weeping fashion. Capable of growth of up to 15m in height, the Chinese Fan Palm prefers to live in the shade rather than full sun. This makes it a great option for sheltered garden corners outdoors. Equally, it's a beautiful option to pot up inside and makes quite the ornamental feature in a living area.
Rhapis Palm (rhapis excelsa)
Also widely known as the Lady Palm, this long-lived and slow-growing variety of palm is perfect for indoor living. Reaching a maximum height of around 4m, this south Asian native prefers partial shade. Keep outdoor plants well-sheltered as their foliage can burn and yellow in the heat. Pot it up with well-draining soil and this palm will pretty much take care of itself – it hates being waterlogged but doesn’t mind short periods of dry soil and can handle cooler weather, making it a great option for western Sydney.
Cascade Palm (chamaedorea atrovirens)
Hailing from Mexico and growing comfortably along streams in its native habitat, the dark, feathery Cascade Palm will happily thrive in a shady corner. Though it tolerates full sun with lots of water, outdoor growth is not recommended in the western Sydney climate. If you’re in a tropical or coastal area, however, outdoor growth is fine. This beautiful variety reaches up to 2m in height, so it's a great option for a smaller living space. Keep its soil moist for a happy plant.
Golden Cane Palm (dypsis lutescens)
This very popular tree hails from Madagascar and takes its name from its bright golden and green stems. A fast grower, the Golden Cane Palm is capable of reaching heights of 10-12m. In Sydney’s climate, it will need to be sheltered from cold by a patio or similar if left outdoors, but as an indoor potted variety it’s a successful grower anywhere – even in low light. Plus, it’s a proven air purifier. What’s not to love?
Kentia Palm (howea forsteriana)
If you’re looking for a low-maintenance and super-adaptable palm, this Lord Howe Island native is the pick of the bunch. The Kentia Palm is slow-growing but in time can reach heights of up to 18m, displaying feathery, arched fronds. This palm is a great candidate for potting, whether indoor or out, but choose your pot wisely – it doesn't like being repotted. Our top tips to help your Kentia thrive are to keep it out of direct sunlight to avoid sunburn, water only when the top inch or two of soil is dry, and mist the leaves regularly with water to simulate tropical humidity. Indoor plants appreciate good indirect sunlight, but outdoor this palm can survive well in the shade.
Want some general tips on caring for your indoor palms? Click here.