NZ Palms, Cycads and Subtropical Plants

Large Palms for New Zealand.

For those of you lucky enough to have a large garden and the desire to grow something really huge here are some palm trees that might just suit your needs.

A young Giant Fishtail Palm (Caryota gigas)
The huge Himalayan Fishtail Palm (Caryota gigas)
The truly enormous Chilean Wine Palm (Jubaea chilensis)
Large palm trees in Singapore Botanic Gardens

Jubaea chilensis

Difficult to obtain in New Zealand the Chilean Wine Palm is one of the largest and heaviest palms in the world. Structurally similar in appearance to the Canary Island Date Palm, Phoenix canariensis, it is an altogether much larger palm growing to around 25m tall. The smooth, grey trunk itself is perhaps twice the width of Phoenix canariensis and a sight to behold. It’s also unbelievably hardy when mature growing well in the UK and Europe.

Looking up at the crown on the Australian Cabbage Palm (Livistona australis)
A semi-mature Ribbon Fan Palm (Livistona decipiens)
A clump of large Date Palms (Phoenix dactylifera)
A huge Senegal Date Palm (Phoenix reclinata) in Auckland’s Albert Park
Semi-mature Majesty Palms (Ravenea rivularis)
A big Puerto Rican Palmetto (Sabal causiarum)
Mature Mexican Cotton Palms (Washingtonia robusta) growing in Kaitaia

© NZ Palms, Cycads and Subtropical Plants 2019

Caryota gigas

There’s a good reason why Caryota gigas is called the Giant Fishtail Palm. It’s a monster which can reach anything from 12m to 20+m tall. What’s more its umbrella shape results in a palm with a canopy that can spread to around 6m. To our mind this is the most beautiful palm in the Caryota genus.

Caryota maxima

Whilst not as broad as Caryota gigas the Himalayan Fishtail Palm is a large palm in its own right potentially reaching 30m in the right climate (usually less in cultivation). In many ways the structure of this palm is similar to a mature Queen Palm being a tall, solitary palm with a thick trunk and crown of large leaves. What’s different however is the beauty of the fishtail fronds which put other palms to shame. Being tough and quite hardy this is a palm that should be grown in their tens of thousands in New Zealand.

Livistona australis and Livistona decipiens

Both the Australian Cabbage Palm, Livistona australis, and Ribbon Fan Palm, Livistona decipiens are big trees capable of making an impact in a sizable garden. Despite a relatively thin trunk (c.30cm in diameter) these palms support a large crown of 30-60 leaves. Growing to a height of around 20m the eventual result is a large and impressive palm.


Phoenix dactylifera

Whilst not as massive as the more common Canary Island Date Palm, Phoenix canariensis, the Date Palm is still a large plant capable of reaching 25m tall with leaves 3-5m long. Much like its common cousin it’ll take some time to reach such heights but even as a small palm it will quickly grow to become an impressive centrepiece in any garden.

Phoenix reclinata

Another large Phoenix palm is the Senegal Date Palm, Phoenix reclinata. Whilst not as heavy as some species the clustering nature of this palm ensures its place as a large palm. Having said this, the species does show some variation. If you’ve seen the truly massive Phoenix reclinata in Auckland’s Albert Park you’ll understand why we recommend this as a palm for those with plenty of space.


Ravenea rivularis

In the right spot in northern New Zealand the Majesty Palm, Ravenea rivularis, is much underutilised. It’s a palm that needs some heat and plenty of water to look good but with the right conditions it can grow quickly. Outside of the tropics this is a mid-sized palm but in steamy, wet climates it can reach 30m with a large trunk and impressive crown.

Sabal genus

There are a number of Sabal species which produce quite gigantic palms. In particular Sabal domingensis and Sabal bermudana. In general these are slow growing but in terms of size Sabals are as close as we can get in New Zealand to growing the truly massive Corypha fan palms from Asia.


Washingtonia robusta

In terms of height one can’t go past the lofty Mexican Cotton Palm. When semi-mature this is a respectable sized palm but with age grows upwards... to around 30m tall. What’s more they’re fast. So if you want something impressive in just a few years this is the palm for you!