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Adonidia merrillii (Christmas Palm)

Christmas Palm, Dwarf Royal Palm, Manila Palm, Nomanbya merrilli, Veitchia merrillii

Christmas Palm,Dwarf Royal Palm, Manila Palm, Adonidia merrillii

Adonidia merrillii, or Christmas Palm, is a visually appealing tropical palm that is relatively easy to grow and maintain. Its compact size and striking appearance make it a favorite for both residential and commercial landscapes. Whether planted in the ground or in containers, this palm adds a tropical flair to any setting. The bright red fruits add a festive touch, particularly around the holiday season, making it a unique and charming addition to gardens and indoor spaces alike.

Christmas Palm: An In-depth Look

The Adonidia merrillii is an elegant palm tree commonly known as the Christmas Palm or Manila Palm. It is distinguished by its smooth, slender trunk, topped with a crown of glossy, arching fronds.

Native: Native to the Philippines, particularly the island of Mindanao, this palm thrives in tropical environments and is often found in coastal areas.

Plant Type and Habit: It is a monoecious palm, meaning each tree has both male and female flowers. It has a single-trunk growth habit, growing upright and rarely branching.

Size: Typically, it grows to about 15 to 25 feet (4.5 to 7.5 m) in height with a spread of 6 to 8 feet (1.8 to 2.4 m).

Flowers: The palm produces small, inconspicuous cream to yellow flowers. Flowering occurs throughout the year, with a peak in the summer months.

Fruits: Post-bloom, it produces bright red fruits, about 1 inch (2.5 cm) in diameter, around Christmastime – hence the common name, Christmas Palm.

Foliage: The fronds are pinnate, around 4-6 feet (120-180 cm) long, and feature leaflets that are arranged in a feather-like pattern. The foliage is a vibrant green, adding to the plant’s ornamental appeal.

Trunk: The trunk is relatively slender, 5-8 inches (12-20 cm) in diameter, smooth, and gray, often marked with ring scars from old leaf bases. The crownshaft is light green and smooth, adding to its sleek appearance.

Uses: It’s widely used in landscaping for its ornamental value. It is ideal for small gardens, avenues, and pots for patios or indoors. It is a good choice for foundation planting, as a shade tree, or as a specimen. Christmas Palm is ideally suited to small gardens and equally at home in a wild tropical garden.

Hardiness: This palm is suited to USDA hardiness zones 10-11. It prefers warm, humid climates and is not frost-tolerant. Minimum Temperature: 30°F (-1°C).

Wildlife: The fruits attract birds and small mammals, making it a valuable addition to wildlife-friendly gardens.

Toxicity: There are no known toxic effects to humans or pets from the Christmas Palm.

Deer and Rabbit: It is generally not bothered by deer and rabbits.

Drought / Salt: It has moderate drought tolerance once established. It also shows some tolerance to salt spray, making it suitable for coastal planting.

Invasiveness: Adonidia merrillii is not considered invasive. It grows slowly and does not spread aggressively.

Benefits: Besides its aesthetic appeal, it’s low maintenance and can be used to enhance both indoor and outdoor spaces. Its small size makes it ideal for urban landscaping.

Growing and Caring for Christmas Palm Indoors

Light: Needs bright, indirect sunlight. Position near a window where it can receive plenty of light without direct sun exposure.

Water: Keep the soil consistently moist but not soggy. Water when the top inch of soil feels dry.

Humidity: Prefers high humidity. Regular misting or a humidifier can help maintain an appropriate level.

Temperature: Ideal indoor temperatures range from 65-75°F (18-24°C). Avoid exposure to cold drafts or sudden temperature changes.

Soil: Use a well-draining potting mix suitable for palms.

Fertilizer: Apply a balanced, slow-release palm fertilizer every few months during the growing season.

Potting and Repotting: Repot every 2-3 years or when the palm outgrows its pot. Ensure the new pot has adequate drainage.

Pruning: Minimal pruning required. Remove only dead or damaged fronds to keep the plant healthy and tidy.

Growing and Caring for Christmas Palm Outdoors

Light: Prefers full sun to partial shade. Choose a spot that gets 6-8 hours of sunlight daily.

Soil: Plant in well-draining soil; tolerates a variety of soil types including clay, loam and sand.

Watering: Requires regular watering, especially in hot, dry weather. Reduce frequency in cooler months.

Fertilizer: The Christmas Palm tends to suffer from boron deficiency. Use a palm-specific fertilizer during the growing season. Follow label instructions for application.

Climate: Best suited for USDA zones 10-11. Protect from frost in colder zones. The Christmas Palm is extremely cold sensitive and will not survive under 30°F (-1°C).

Planting Location: Select a location that allows for its full growth potential, both in height and spread.

Pruning: Prune sparingly, mostly to remove old fronds or flower stalks.

Pests and Diseases

The Christmas Palm, is relatively resilient but can encounter some pests, diseases, and common problems:

Pests:

  • Spider mites: These tiny pests can cause yellowing or speckled leaves. They thrive in dry conditions, so increasing humidity can help prevent infestations.
  • Scale insects: Manifest as small bumps on leaves or stems, these pests suck sap from the plant, weakening it. They can be treated with horticultural oil or insecticidal soap.
  • Mealybugs: These white, cottony pests also suck sap and can be controlled with insecticidal soap or neem oil.

Diseases:

  • Leaf spot: Caused by fungal or bacterial pathogens, leaf spots appear as brown or black spots on the leaves. Good air circulation, proper watering, and fungicide treatments can manage this issue.
  • Ganoderma Butt Rot: This fungal disease affects the trunk at soil level, leading to decay. There’s no cure, so preventing injury to the trunk is crucial.
  • Root rot: Overwatering can lead to root rot, characterized by soft, brown roots and wilting leaves. Ensure proper drainage and avoid overwatering to prevent this problem.
  • Lethal Yellowing Disease: a devastating condition affecting palms like Adonidia merrillii, is caused by a phytoplasma spread by insect vectors. Symptoms include premature fruit drop, yellowing leaves, and bud death. There is no cure.

Common Problems:

Nutrient Deficiencies: Yellowing leaves or slow growth can indicate a lack of essential nutrients. Use a balanced fertilizer formulated for palms.

Overwatering: The Christmas Palm does not like to sit in waterlogged soil. Ensure the pot has good drainage and the soil dries slightly between waterings.

Underwatering: Brown leaf tips or dry, crispy leaves can be a sign of underwatering. Regular watering is key, especially in warmer months.

Cold Damage: Being a tropical plant, it is sensitive to cold temperatures. Frost or cold drafts can damage the fronds, leading to browning or wilting.

Requirements

Hardiness 10 - 11
Climate Zones H1, H2
Plant Type Palms - Cycads
Plant Family Arecaceae
Common names Christmas Palm
Exposure Full Sun
Season of Interest Spring (Early, Mid, Late)
Summer (Early, Mid, Late)
Fall
Winter
Height 15' - 25'
(4.6m - 7.6m)
Spread 6' - 8'
(180cm - 240cm)
Maintenance Low
Water Needs Low
Soil Type Loam, Clay, Sand
Soil pH Acid, Neutral, Alkaline
Soil Drainage Well-Drained
Characteristics Showy, Evergreen
Tolerance Salt, Drought
Attracts Birds
Garden Uses Beds And Borders, Patio And Containers
Garden Styles Mediterranean Garden, Coastal Garden
How Many Plants
Do I Need?
While every effort has been made to describe these plants accurately, please keep in mind that height, bloom time, and color may differ in various climates. The description of these plants has been written based on numerous outside resources.
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Requirements

Hardiness 10 - 11
Climate Zones H1, H2
Plant Type Palms - Cycads
Plant Family Arecaceae
Common names Christmas Palm
Exposure Full Sun
Season of Interest Spring (Early, Mid, Late)
Summer (Early, Mid, Late)
Fall
Winter
Height 15' - 25'
(4.6m - 7.6m)
Spread 6' - 8'
(180cm - 240cm)
Maintenance Low
Water Needs Low
Soil Type Loam, Clay, Sand
Soil pH Acid, Neutral, Alkaline
Soil Drainage Well-Drained
Characteristics Showy, Evergreen
Tolerance Salt, Drought
Attracts Birds
Garden Uses Beds And Borders, Patio And Containers
Garden Styles Mediterranean Garden, Coastal Garden
How Many Plants
Do I Need?

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