Palm Trees Unveiled: Lifespan, Growth Rate, and Care

By: Ken Wilson

Seeing tall palm trees in gardens is becoming a regular occurrence, especially with everyone wanting that oasis look in their garden. Planting a palm tree in your garden requires careful study, including its growth rate, lifespan, and the care it needs to be healthy.

There are different palm trees, and their life span can vary between 30 and 100 years. Every species is unique; some grow as much as 6 feet annually whereas some only grow a moderate 2 inches yearly. Caring for all palms is vital to prevent them from getting a disease and to flourish.

Whether you have a palm tree or are considering planting one, you must know how tall it will get, how long it will live, and what care it needs to become strong and stay healthy. There are numerous palm tree species worldwide, and I will discuss these factors, using a few popular ones to help you better understand them.

How Long Do Palm Trees Live?

Palm trees (Palmae or Arecaceae) are common in tropical regions, especially coastal ones. There are more than 2,500 different types of palms, each with its own growth rate and lifespan characteristics. These tropical trees typically have tall, slender trunks and no lateral branches, leaving them vulnerable to strong winds and harsh weather.

The most common trees found are Areca Palms, Coconut Palms, Oil Palms, and Date Palms, and they usually grow in areas with high humidity and above-average temperatures. Most palms are easily identified by their extremely high, thin trunks that produce leaves or fronds at the top. We will closely examine some palm trees’ lifespans, growth rates, and care methods.

Coconut Palms Height and Lifespan

The Coconut Palm (Cocos nucifera) is the best-known in the palm family and is famous for its large fruits (Nuts) called coconut used in various dishes worldwide. Like most palm trees, its life span is significantly shortened due to strong winds blowing it over and humans cutting it down.

The Coconut Palm can reach a staggering height of 60 to 80 feet. According to the Union County College in New Jersey, the Coconut Palm trees average lifespan is between 80 and 90 years.

Date Palms Height and Lifespan

Date Palms are famous for their fruit (dates), and various species are mostly cultivated in tropical African regions. Research at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization shows that in its natural undisturbed environment, the Date Palm can reach up to 75 feet in height and live up to 100 years. Date orchards cut them down when they reach 45 feet, or their productivity lessens.

Areca Palms Height and Lifespan

Madagascar is known for its beautiful coastal areas, home to the Areca Palm (Dypsis lutescens). This palm is often seen in gardens and even as potted houseplants, although it can reach a height of 30 feet and live up to 40 years.

Oil Palms Height and Lifespan

There are various palm trees known for their oils that provide numerous functions. Oil Palms are cultivated in Indonesia for their oil, and in 2007, it was estimated to produce 20 million metric tons each year.

The trees’ fruit is harvested when the tree is between 8 and 15 years old and cut down when it is 25 years old or 25 feet tall. In its natural environment, the Oil Palm can reach an age of 30 years and grow up to 100 feet in height.

How Long Do Palm Trees Take to Grow

Each palm tree’s growth rate differs depending on the species. Here are the seven top palm species and their average growth rate:

Lady Palm: The Lady Palm is a rare species and slow grower. Even when the soil and weather conditions are perfect, it grows between 2 and 10 inches annually. The Lady Palm takes about 5 years to reach maturity, reaching a height between 1 and 10 feet.

Fan Palm: The Fan Palm, also known as the Mexican Palm, grows 4 feet yearly. It is one of the fastest growers of this species especially in good soil with regular watering.

Windmill Palm: The Windmill Palm is a hardy tree that only grows 8 inches annually. The tough palm is often used indoors for its resilience and short height.

Queen and King Palm: The King and Queen Palm grow an average of 2 feet yearly. These palms are extremely resilient and thrive almost anywhere. It grows as high as 49 feet, which takes several years.

Foxtails: Popular in Austria, the Foxtail Palm grows 1 foot per year and up to 30 feet if given ample space.

European Palm: The European Palm grows about 10 inches per year in its early stages of growth, but it significantly decreases once it reaches a moderate height.

Carpentaria: The Carpentaria Palm grows at a staggering rate of 6 feet per year, making it one of the fastest-growing palms in the world. This unique species can reach a maximum height of 100 feet when fully grown.

Tips To Care For Your Palm Tree

Generally, palm trees only need care in their early stages of growth to ensure healthy roots; once they are fully grown, they need less care. Here are some tips to ensure it stays healthy.

Prune Dead Fronds

Nature has its way of caring for palm trees, and they self-shed their fronds to make way for new leaves, but if you leave it all up to nature, you may encounter some problems. It is wise to ensure it stays healthy by pruning it yourself. Pruning promotes faster growth and prevents dead leaves from taking unnecessary nutrients from the tree.

Here are tips to help you successfully prune your palm tree:

  • Prune during the trees’ growing season (March/October) to guarantee new fronds replace the old leaves.
  • Palms are extremely susceptible to disease and fungi. Sanitizing your shears before pruning will ensure that diseases do not spread between your palm trees.
  • When pruning, you must cut the leaves about two inches from the trunk and not closer. Doing this will prevent you from damaging the trunk, inviting diseases and insects.
  • Only prune once or twice a year to prevent weakening the palm. New fronds require energy, and over-pruning will drain the palm tree.

Avoid Overwatering

Due to their height, palms are generally planted outdoors and only need regular watering in their early stages of growth. Once the tree is grown, it needs less watering and will survive on rainwater unless you are in a drought.

Here are some watering tips:

  • Outdoor palms: Only water outdoor palm trees twice a month during the summer. During the cooler and winter seasons, only water it once every six weeks and never after it rains.
  • Indoor palms: It’s important to water your indoor palm trees only when the top 2 inches of soil becomes dry, and only add water to drain to the bottom to cover the roots.
  • Yellow or brown fonds often indicate that you aren’t watering enough, and standing water at the base shows that you are watering too much.

Fertilize Regularly

Additional nutrition is good for your palm, especially in its growing season. Additional feeding will give the tree the necessary energy to produce healthy new fronds. Most fertilizers will show how many times per year you should feed your palm. When fertilizing, avoid spreading it against the trunk and only cover the root base between one and two feet away from the trunk.

Final Thoughts

Some trees, like the Coconut Palm, can grow up to 80 feet and reach an age of 90, meaning it will outlive some people if it is cared for.

Knowing how fast and high the palm tree grows will help you accidentally plant a 90-foot skyscraper in the middle of your home or a restricted area. Caring for your palm will ensure a healthy tree that generations after you can also enjoy.

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.