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Butia capitata (The Jelley Palm)

Like many palms, they grow slowly but there are a number of plants in Britain that have been planted over the last 30 years that have done well. We have one at our old nursery in Nuthurst that I planted in 1990. I bought it on my very first trip to the Italian nurseries in Tuscany and it cost the buttock clenching sum of L 1,000,000 (One Million Italian Lira) and had a trunk of about 1ft. Thirty years on and it looks good and has a trunk of about 5ft. I’d include a photo but it was planted by an idiot (me) too close between a building and an enormous clump of bamboo. Not the finest example and not my finest moment. During that 30 years in our famously chilly site, it never suffered any damage from cold weather.

Avoid windy places but give them plenty of light and space to show themselves off to their best. Unlike what I did in 1990. Remove old leaves and as the trunk grows, you can remove the leaf bases to display a smooth trunk.

Because they’re grown from seed, they vary. Some are bluer than others and some have more recurved (arching) leaves. If the idea of having an enormous beautiful blue sea anemone in your garden appeals, then choose the bluest one with the most arching leaves.

Butia grows to at least 10 ft across and after many years can reach 30ft tall.

There is (to me) an indistinguishable form from further south in Argentina (and therefore possibly more cold hardy) called Butia odorata.

In 1990 One Million Lira was about £450. My God, I was keen.


N.B. When clipping several plants with the same tool, have a bucket containing a 5% bleach solution and swish your blades around for 30 seconds between plants to sterilise them. This will help avoid the chance of cross contamination of disease.

As with all woody plants, plant high, exposing as much of the taper at the base of the trunk as possible. Allowing soil to accumulate round the base of a tree can be fatal. Keep very well watered when first planted.

Hardiness traffic light amber

Hardiness level Amber

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Hardy in the Home Counties if sensibly sited (avoiding severe frost pockets, for example). Many Amber Labelled Plants are from cuttings from well-established plants that have survived many harsh winters in the South-East.

This is only meant as a guide. Please remember we're always on hand to give advice about plants and their frost hardiness.

Please remember that these coloured labels are only a rough guide.

General Point about Plant Hardiness: The commonly held belief that it's better to 'plant small' is perfectly true with herbaceous plants, but not necessarily true with woody plants. They need some 'wood' on them to survive severe cold - so plants of marginal hardiness in very cold areas should really be planted LARGER, rather than smaller, wherever possible.