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Dwarf Palm Info – How To Grow Dwarf Palmetto Plants

Dwarf Palm Info – How To Grow Dwarf Palmetto Plants


By: Mary Ellen Ellis

Dwarf palmetto plants are small palms that are native to the southern U.S. and that thrive in warm climates. These diminutive palms have the advantage of being attractive and easy to care for.

Dwarf Palm Info

Sabal minor, or the dwarf palmetto, is the smaller relative of the Sabal palmetto, popular in the South. For a warm weather plant, the dwarf palm is pretty hardy. It can be grown in zones 7 through 11, and it will survive the occasional winter cold snap or snow with minimal or no damage as long as it has had time to get established.

Smaller than the Sabal palmetto, when growing a dwarf palm, expect it to reach a height anywhere between two and seven feet (0.5 to 2 m.) and a spread between three and five feet (1 to 1.5 m.). The fronds are large and fan-like and, although this palm looks similar to the cabbage palm, unlike that plant its trunk rarely emerges from the ground.

Dwarf palm produces a type of fruit called a drupe, which feeds robins, mockingbirds, woodpeckers, and other wildlife. It also produces small, white flowers in the spring.

How to Grow Dwarf Palmetto Trees

Dwarf palmetto care is easy, as this plant will tolerate a variety of conditions. It can grow in nearly any type of soil, for example, from sand to clay. It will tolerate standing water for short periods of time without rotting. In its natural habitats, the dwarf palm will grow in marshy areas, on drier mountain slopes, and everywhere in between.

A dwarf palm does prefer soil that is rich in certain minerals, like magnesium and manganese. A good palm fertilizer is enough to correct any soil deficiencies, though. Give the palm a spot in the garden that gets full sun or partial shade.

Water your palm regularly for its first two years in the ground to allow it to get established. Pruning of browning palm fronds is important to keep the plant healthy.

Growing a dwarf palm is fairly easy, and it provides a nice anchor in the garden, especially small spaces. Because it is hardier than other palms, you can enjoy its tropical feel even in gardens that get some colder winter weather.

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Dwarf Palmetto, Sabal minor

Common Name: Dwarf Palmetto palm

Sun exposure: full sun to partial shade

You can find this plant growing wild under the canopy of pine thickets in tropical and subtropical climates. This plant has a trunk below ground and rarely gets over 6 foot tall. This plant makes for a great container plant as long as it gets good drainage and also looks great as a mass planting.

  • Find a location that has suitable sun exposure for your particular type of plant.
  • Dig your hole an inch or two shallower than the rootball of the plant.
  • Dig the hole twice the diameter of the rootball.
  • Scuff up the sides of the hole with a shovel to help roots break through the native soil.

STEP 2: Putting plant in hole

  • When removing the plant from the pot, check to see if the roots were circling the pot.
  • If the plant is rootbound, gently break up the roots with your hands until loosened up.
  • Set plant level, in the center of the hole.
  • Make sure the top of the rootball is just above soil level.

STEP 3: Amending the soil and filling in the hole

  • Amend the soil with proper amendments for your soil type .
  • Incorporate 50% native soil with 50% amendment soils like garden soil, composted manure or soil conditioner.
  • Make sure dirt clods are broken up or removed from hole along with rocks.
  • Fill the hole with soils to the soil level and pack down. Do not cover top of rootball with dirt.
  • Water in thoroughly to remove air pockets.

STEP 4: Mulching and fertilizing

  • Cover the planting site with at least 2 inches of the mulch of your choice (pinestraw, cupress mulch,etc.)
  • High Phosphorus root stimulator fertilizers like Quick Start from Miracle Gro are great to use at time of planting.
  • When planting trees, a tree stake kit may be required to prevent the wind from blowing over or breaking our newly planted tree until it becomes established.


Know your Natives: Dwarf Palmetto

Its name means small in size, but the dwarf palmetto packs a big drought-tolerant punch! And it’s a unique evergreen addition to your garden.

Is your garden in need of an evergreen plant that can handle variable soil moisture and lighting conditions?

Meet the dwarf palmetto, also known as Sabal minor. You may have seen this small palm heading east on I-10 as you leave San Antonio, with specimen occurrence increasing as you approach the Louisiana border.

This palm has a very large range and can be found all the way to the east coast. As a matter of fact, Central Texas is on the very edge of its western range. In our area it can be seen growing in colonies along the Guadalupe River in Kendall County and even near Helotes. Dwarf palmetto belongs to the Arecaceae family which includes other fan palms. Members of this plant family can be found all over the world in tropical and sub-tropical environments.

Historically, palms have been used to make wharf pilings, thatched roofs, rattan furniture, woven mats and baskets. There are also many species that produce foods, such as the date palm and the coconut palm.

While the Sabal minor is typically found near moisture, it can actually be quite drought-tolerant once established. But one of my favorite things about this plant is its size: its height maxes out at about 5 feet (unlike other palms that can reach upwards of 50 feet), which means that it can accommodate smaller spaces.

Another uncommon characteristic of this plant is its ability to thrive in areas with poor drainage. It doesn’t mind shade and will maintain its foliage throughout the winter months. But I don’t recommend planting it in thin soil in full sun because it just wouldn’t do well. Think dappled sun or shade under the protection of some large trees. It can grow in full sun too, but may require deeper soil and may need supplemental water, especially during the hottest months of the year.

Plant with other shade-tolerant plants like velvet-leaf mallow, Turk’s cap, broadleaf wood oats, Heller’s marbleseed, three-flower melic grass, southwest bristlegrass, tropical sage, pigeonberry, Missouri violet, white mistflower, river fern, red or yellow columbine, aromatic sumac, evergreen sumac, Barbados cherry, coralberry, Lindheimer’s silktassel, wax myrtle, agarita, etc.

This plant would be perfect at the base of a raingarden (where it can be periodically inundated by our most precious resource). Group with other plants that are capable of surviving similar conditions such as fall obedient plant, big bluestem, eastern gama grass, cardinal flower, goldenrod, bushy bluestem, Lindheimer’s muhly, broadleaf wood oats, snake herb or frogfruit.

Whatever your plan is for this palm, it will be a unique and delightful evergreen addition to your garden. It may even be the perfect solution to that pesky wet spot in your garden that never drains!


Dwarf Palmetto or Blue Palm

Sabal minor, or the dwarf palmetto, is considered to be one of the hardiest palms available. It grows primarily in the southeastern United States, and its natural habitat extends west to Texas and Oklahoma.

Over time, Sabal Minor form a clump about 5-6 feet in height. It grows from a single trunk, which most often grows underground. The presence of a short above-ground trunk may indicate that the plant is actually another palm, perhaps another closely-related species.

Native to the southeastern United States. It is often very slow growing but can become quite a pest when established. Much of the untamed, swampy lands of the eastern United States are filled with dwarf palmettos. Tends to look like a short tangled mess when growing in the sun, but when grown in shade it is much more attractive in the landscape. Doesn't like to be disturbed after it has established itself, so digging them from the wild tends to be unsuccessful.


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