Fairchild’s tropical garden column

Fairchild’s tropical garden column: What kind of palm are you?

 

Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden

With social media constantly making personality quizzes for everything (What cat are you? Which cast member of How I Met Your Mother are you?), I began to feel left out. As a plant enthusiast, I was waiting for BuzzFeed to create a “which palm are you?” quiz. So instead of sitting and hoping, I decided to make one of my own — plus give horticultural tips to ensure the palms’ success.

So let’s go: Simply pick the descriptor that best suits you (friendly, romantic, rule-breaker, catty, shy, mellow, quirky), find your palm and learn how to take care of it.

•  Mr. Nice Guy: You constantly chat up the person sitting next to you and are never bored standing in line. Well you, my friend, are a Roystonea regia. No one has qualms with this guy. He’s a great grower, seeds germinate easily, leaves are self-pruning and unarmed. He is the epitome of “nice guy” and will grow almost anywhere. R. regia can handle wet or dry but prefers a bit of sun.

•  Romantic: So you’re a Walter Mitty type. You have many dreams that often blur the lines of reality. Well, so does Copernicia hospita. If the leaves don’t stir your creative juices, the incredible inflorescences sure will. To make this dreamer your own, simply find an open, well-drained spot in your yard. This visionary loves full sun and well-drained soil. Keep him high and dry. He is working on his tan, for heaven’s sake!

•  Rule-breaker: Rules aren’t really black and white, are they? To you, “no-no’s” sound more like, “eh, maybes.” Rules state that palms don’t branch, but Hyphaene spp. turned that statute on its head, branching high in the sky. These palms aren’t malicious, they just don’t follow social norms. And if they don’t, heck, you don’t need to, either! If you manage to get your hands on one of these fellers (they aren’t so readily available, sadly), put it in sandy soil in full sun. They grow in the oases of deserts in Africa, so think dry and hot.

•  Catty: You’re not vindictive, but no one has ever called you “sweet.” Maybe you are just misunderstood. And so is Phoenix canariensis. These giants are truly magnificent, but they don’t make it easy. Huge spines armor the petiole and will attack if provoked. Not as cruel as others (oh my goodness, Astrocaryum, take a chill pill) but also not nearly as sweet as royals, this guy is definitely testy. And you can relate. Love this little meanie by placing it in a sunny place. Give it lots of room; it’ll grow quite a bit. Release control and don’t bother pruning — it will only hurt you in the end.

•  Shy: You shy away from the attention and despise the limelight. So does Sabal minor, going so far as to completely hide its trunk underground. This palm will grow in full sun and sandy soils. But, for its own sake, plant two together. They are too shy to make friends with others.

•  Mellow: You just take it as it comes and, honestly, you’re not really sure why you’ve put so much effort into trying to figure out which palm you are. You’d much rather prefer to be hanging by the beach, Red Stripe in hand. You’re as relaxed as they come. Calyptronoma occidentalis is a Jamaican endemic and exudes that island spirit. Plant this palm near the water. Like any true Caribbean islander, it prefers to have its feet wet.

•  Quirky: None of these descriptors fits you. Or maybe all of them do. You’re sweet and spicy. You’re mellow and hyper. Your two extracurricular activities are modeling and playing video games. You really don’t fit a mold. You, my weird little friend, are a Nannorrhops ritchiana. You live where no other palms live, in the highlands of the Middle East, surviving snow storms and droughts without flinching. You branch like Hyphaene but are not as conspicuous. You are unarmored and pleasant. You are a beautiful yet strange plant. If you manage to get hold of a Nannorrhops, you can plant it anywhere; it grows in shade or sun, sandy or thicker soil.

Now that you have identified your palm soulmate, go out and plant one. Treasure it, spoil it and enjoy the company of your palm kindred spirit.

Sara Edelman is the palm and cycad manager at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden.

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