Author(s): Robert Lee Riffle
Native to every continent except Antarctica, palms are most closely identified with tropical regions and one species in particular, Cocos nucifera, the coconut palm, is the universally recognized symbol of all things tropical. Yet, many palms can withstand freezing and thus can be grown in mild temperate climates where the average low temperature does not drop below 5-F ( 15-C). In addition, palms thrive in a wide range of habitats from swamps to deserts, rain forests to plains and grasslands. Some prefer full sun, others deep shade. Some are stemless shrubs, others are solitary or clustering trees, and still others are vinelike, but all are evergreen. Given such diversity and versatility, it is surprising that palms are underutilized in landscapes and gardens, even in tropical climes. Several reasons account for this, including misconceptions about the plants' growing requirements and unfamiliarity with their ornamental qualities. This pocket guide remedies both problems. It unlocks the keys to successfully growing 200 of the most common and easily obtainable palm species and hybrids, and it highlights botanical characteristics that are of interest to gardeners and landscapers.