Growth Unveiled: How Fast Do Palm Trees Really Grow?

By: Ken Wilson

You may have been given a potted palm or want to landscape your new garden. Whatever the reason for bringing this elegant and symbolic plant into your life, it’s likely to give the position you place it in a whole new aesthetic. That is, if it fits. There are over 2,600 species of palms, ranging from a few feet high when fully grown to over 200 feet, which could present a problem! So, how fast do palm trees grow?

Most palm trees grow between 1 ft and 3 ft per year, but this can vary substantially depending on the species and also on several environmental factors, including the palm’s planting position, the amount of nutrition it receives, the degree of direct sunshine it gets, and its age.

While there’s no single answer to the question of how fast palm trees grow, I can give you lots of helpful information on the various factors that affect the growth rate, as well as some valuable tips on what you can do to encourage growth, whether its an indoor palm, a potted outdoor specimen or one that planted in-ground. I’ll also highlight some specific varieties of palm trees, especially those most popular in the US.

How Fast Do Palm Trees Grow – All The Facts You Need To Know

Unlike their distant cousin, the bamboo palm trees are not fast-growing, and the smaller varieties, in particular, can take several years to attain full height.

There are various factors that affect the growth at which a palm tree grow:

Where is the Palm Located?

The USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) has divided the country into Hardiness Zones based on each zone‘s minimum average winter temperature. Most palms in the US grow most prolifically in Hardiness Zones 12a (temperatures of 50-55⁰F) to 13b (65-70⁰F). While some species are able to thrive in areas with colder winters, their growth rates will be slower.

The soil type where the palm tree is located also plays a part in its growth rate. Palms do best, grow faster in well-drained, sandy soil, and don’t enjoy clayey soils. If the plant is in a container, the ideal soil is an equal mix of potting soil, clean sand, and peat moss or vermiculite.

Is it Positioned for Optimum Sunlight?

Most outdoor in-ground palms enjoy full sun and will grow quickest if planted to take advantage of this. Indoor plants, conversely, have been bred to do best in indirect light or dappled shade for most of the day, and their fronds tend to burn if exposed to more than an hour or two of direct sun.

For this reason, if you want your palm to grow and remain healthy and happy, it’s essential to choose the right variety for the conditions it’s going to be placed in. Some varieties thrive in shade, and others will survive but grow very slowly unless exposed to the sun.

Water and Nutrients are the Main Factors Affecting Growth

Having originated in the tropical and subtropical regions of the world, palms require regular watering to maintain their growth. Newly planted trees should be watered daily, and then, as they grow, they can be slowly reduced to twice a week. Deep watering around the drip line is the most effective means of delivering the right amount of water.

The soil should be analyzed to find any nutrient deficiencies, which can be resolved by fertilizing. Palms grow and thrive on an equal mix of potassium and nitrogen with a smaller amount of magnesium. Specialized palm fertilizer is available from most nurseries, ensuring the plant is fed all the micro- and macro-nutrients necessary for optimal growth.

Age will Determine How Fast a Palm Tree Grows

All palms grow from seeds, which can take anything from 40 days to a year to germinate, depending on the species. After germination, the growth rate is at its highest, but as the plant matures, growth slows as more and more nutrition is needed to sustain the existing structure.

These are the most significant factors that affect the growth rate and are the easiest to control. Other influences include pests and diseases, which can stunt growth, and conservative pruning to encourage new growth.

Tips for Promoting Palm Tree Growth

We’ve covered the main factors affecting the growth of palm trees so you’ll know how to get yours established in your home or garden. Some additional tips will give your palm that extra boost:

  • When planting in the soil, dig a hole twice the width of the root ball and as deep as the pot holding the plant. Then, spread the roots out from the center, cutting off those growing inwards. This will make it easier for the roots to spread into the surrounding soil and encourage growth.
  • Ensure adequate watering by placing a perforated irrigation hose around the circumference of the hole, and allow deep, slow watering to soak the soil around the palm. When the top two inches of soil are dry, it’s time to water again.
  • The best time to water is in the early morning or late afternoon to give the water the best chance to soak into the soil before evaporating.
  • Don’t fertilize for the first 30 to 45 days after planting, then use a specialized palm fertilizer to ensure the nutritional balance available to the plant.
  • Check regularly for pests, such as mealybugs, leaf scale, or aphids, and treat them with organic pesticides, horticultural oil, and insecticidal soap.

I’ve drawn up a simple table to show the growth rate and maximum height of some of the more popular palms in the US. These figures give average growth rates, but they can vary substantially. For example, in Florida, the Carpentaria palm may grow at up to 6 feet per year in ideal conditions.

Variety of PalmGrowth RateMaximum Height
California Fan Palm2.9 ft/year100 ft
Mexican Fan Palm2 ft/year60 ft
Queen Palm2.8 ft/year50 ft
King Palm2.2 ft/year50 ft
Royal Palm2.5 ft/year40 ft
Fishtail Palm2 ft/year30 ft
Windmill Palm1-2 ft/year20 ft
Jussara / Acai Palm2 ft/year50 ft
Carpentaria Palm3 ft/year50 ft
Foxtail Palm2.5 ft/year60 ft

Final Thoughts

The growth rate of palms varies from one variety to another, but generally, palms can be expected to grow between 1 ft and 3 ft per year. This rate can be increased by providing them with the ideal amount of water, nutrition, and sunlight. Conversely, it might be reduced if the plant has to survive in colder, less favorable conditions, including various limiting factors such as poor soil and lack of water.

About the author 

Ken Wilson

Long time career in the home services industry from remodeling to patio construction. Currently residing to in SWFL and active contributor to multiple home & garden publications.