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Put one of these underrated palms on your backyard team

Bismarck palms (Bismarkia nobilis) rarely get the credit they deserve. The silver-blue leaves and beautiful growth habit of Bismark palms make all other palms look healthier.
Bismarck palms (Bismarkia nobilis) rarely get the credit they deserve. The silver-blue leaves and beautiful growth habit of Bismark palms make all other palms look healthier. Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden

With football season heating up, it seems fitting to draw comparisons between palms and sports.

Sports keep you on the edge of your seat, while palms are slow growers. Palms are very consistent — the rules of development and growth don’t change. Sports are constantly changing — new players, different rules.

However, there is one striking similarity: the presence of underrated players.

Many Miami locals remember Mike Miller’s one-shoe, three-point shot in the 2013 NBA Finals — and the trade that followed. Or Jared Odrick, an underappreciated Miami Dolphin, who played like a star even during a painful Dolphin season.

Likewise, palms are riddled with players that show up to the game, play their best, yet are never the first-round pick. These underappreciated species are great growers but are not popular horticulturally. Cheer for these underrated palms and plant them in your back yard.

The cycad vista view at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden is one of the most photographed locations on the property. While many stop and admire its beauty, few acknowledge the gorgeous Bismarck palms (Bismarkia nobilis) that tower over the cycads.

Bismarck palms are easy to grow in southern Florida, don’t require much water and love the full sun. When appropriately fertilized with 8-2-12 once a year, their leaves turn a stunning silvery blue. Bismarck palms are the Ray Allens of the palm world. They make the whole palm team look better but never get the spotlight.

The root spine palm (Cryosophila stauracantha) is another underappreciated palm. The trunk of the palm is covered in soft spines and dark green leaves. The epitome of a quarterback persona, the root spine palm is strong, brilliant and beautiful to watch. This species will grow in sun or shade but requires well-drained soil and lots of water. Keep your eye on this palm — it’s about to make it to the big leagues.

The hurricane palm, Dictyosperma album, took a nasty hit from lethal yellowing but is the comeback king. Much like Michael Jordan’s decision to come back to basketball after his baseball stint, the hurricane palm is coming back to the horticulture world with a bang. The hurricane palm gets its name from its tolerance to high winds, making it a great southern Florida ornamental. This palm likes sun and well-drained soil. Yearly palm-special fertilizer is highly recommended.

As in sports, overrated players in the palm league are just as common as underrated ones. Phoenix palms are very popular in the landscape but always nutrient deficient. To hide the nutrient deficiency they are trimmed to resemble feather dusters. Despite their fussy eating habits and subsequent bad haircuts, Phoenix palms are planted everywhere.

Red ceiling wax palms are highly coveted by collectors but grow only under the warmest conditions. Palm enthusiasts waste time dreaming about this unhappy and unforgiving palm.

Instead of opting for an overrated player, choose one of the many underdogs. These underappreciated palms are great growers that can tolerate a wide array of conditions. Learn from past treatment of underrated sports players. Instead of dismissing an underrated palm, plant it and let it grow and it could become the star of your backyard team.

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

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