NZ Palms, Cycads and Subtropical Plants

Myths about Palm Trees

© NZ Palms, Cycads and Subtropical Plants 2019

A number of myths have evolved over the years about palm trees. Some the result of genuine confusion, others as a consequence of mischief making by political interests and growers of other plants. We’d like to put the record straight.


Palm trees are expensive

Sure. If you want a 30-foot Canary Island Date Palm delivered to your property and lifted into position by crane that’s not going to be cheap. Of course, if you want a palm at around six foot tall you can find several species for around $200. When you consider that the palm’s over ten years old that’s not a bad deal. After all, it’s not difficult to find a small banana tree or canna that’s retailing for $20 and they probably only took a few months to produce. And of course, a well-designed and cared for garden (complete with palm trees of course) can add considerable value to a property.


So yes, an aged palm tree isn’t going to be free but in the scheme of things it’s not that pricy either.


Palm trees grow too big

Right again. Some can reach 200’ tall. Another species has leaves around 80’ long. That’s quite big. Still, there are others that’ll never get much taller than around 8’ and are easily contained in a small garden. It just depends what you’re after.


Palm trees are dangerous

Yes. So are some dogs, cars, hot drinks and, on occasion, angry relatives. Seriously however, there are a few species you want to avoid if you’ve small children. Few of these palms grow in New Zealand but there are some real monsters with six-inch needle-like thorns. We’ll not sell you one of those.


Palm trees can become weeds

Plants reproduce by setting seed. So it’s entirely possible for (brace yourselves) the seeds from your palm to germinate and grow into another palm tree. This can in fact happen with just about any plant. Even the Department of Conservation notes that palm trees don’t pose much of a risk as weeds*.


Palm trees are not environmentally friendly

Eh?! Palm trees turn carbon dioxide into oxygen for us to breathe, they look beautiful and they are not weeds (see above). What on earth could be more environmentally friendly?


Palm trees are too tropical

Some are. Some will struggle to grow south of Cairns. Others can be grown in Iceland. Many will grow perfectly happily in New Zealand.


Palm trees are not fashionable

There was a bit of a palm craze in the mid-90’s. People got carried away and planted nothing but palms in their gardens. That’s passed now thank goodness. Now we can get on with creating gardens that incorporate palms with other plants. That’s much more dignified.


Palm trees don’t look good

Some don’t. In fact, some people shouldn’t be allowed to grow palm trees. See Care to avoid being one of those people.



* Assessing the risk to indigenous New Zealand biota from new exotic plant taxa and genetic material, SCIENCE FOR CONSERVATION 143, Department of Conservation.