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Phoenix canariensis (Canary Island Date Palm)

If you’ve ever watched The Simpsons you’ll understand why this is also known as the Side Show Bob Palm. Huge, exotic, dramatic. Palm trees don’t get much better than this. Fast growing (20ft x 20ft in less than 10 years), wind proof but – unfortunately – not very hardy and only suitable for certain areas – protected urban coastal and central London. They form a big fat trunk and big established trees can grow to 50ft tall with a 30ft canopy. Impressive by any standards.

You could try it in a huge pot but where are you going to put it for the winter? Do you have a spare hangar?

As the name would suggest, it comes from the Canary Islands and is often referred to as the Canary Island Date Palm. It’s distinct from the true Date Palm (Phoenix dactylifera) by being greener, denser and – most would agree – much prettier. Faster growing too. It doesn’t produce edible fruits but we think we can live with that.

The leaves become so enormous, you need to use quite a substantial saw to cut the old leaves off. Remove them as soon as they begin to look yellow or tatty. The cut ends are diamond shaped and as the tree grows, that familiar pineapple base appears that then changes into a proper stout trunk with age. The base leaflets on the fronds are like stilettos but then most of our best plants are pretty damned dangerous. Quite right too.

Fine specimens can be seen on the roundabout on the north side of Lambeth Bridge, the intersection of Kensington High Street and Warwick Gardens (several), the front at Southsea (a mighty fine row) and waving around in Port Talbot just north of the M4.

For information and ideas on winter protection go to the Glossary of Terms .

Grown from seed.

Last photos courtesy of google street view Lambeth Bridge and Kensington High St, London.

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 green

Hardiness level Red

Find out more

Hardy in Atlantic Seaboard gardens, The Channel Islands, gardens in Central London (and other large cities) and conservatories.

This is only meant as a guide; there are some plants with red labels that would only survive in extremely favoured spots such as The Isles of Scilly or coastal south-west Ireland.

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.