With their tasty fruit and stately growth habit, date palm trees (Phoenix dactylifera) have a long history. They thrive in hot, dry climates in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 9 through 11, where they add a tropical look to a yard. Date palms grow readily from seed gathered and started in spring, but the resulting trees mature slowly and may take six to 10 years to bear fruit.
The pygmy date palm (Phoenix roebelenii) is one of the most widely featured landscape palms in the United States. Its graceful, feathery fronds, short stature and slow growing habit make it an attractive accent plant in tropically themed gardens. Native to Laos and Southeast Asia, this palm features a slender trunk and a maximum mature height of about 10 feet. Often called a miniature or dwarf, its small size and adaptability make it a good choice for container gardening in small yards, or on porches and patios. Growing palms from seed is not difficult, and it is less expensive than purchasing larger specimens.
Fill a small cup with room-temperature bottled water. Remove the seeds from the seed packet. Fresh seeds need to have their thin layer of flesh removed before soaking. Remove the flesh carefully with a sharp knife until the seed is clean. Place the seeds into the water and soak for a week, changing out the water with fresh water each day.
Plant the seeds in a well-draining container filled with an equal amount of moist garden soil and organic potting soil. Poke a small hole in the soil and place the seed with the flattened, root end down and the more elongated end pointing upward. Press soil around the seed. If placing the container in an area receiving full sun, cover the seed with a 1/4-inch layer of soil. If placed in filtered shade, cover the seed with a very thin layer of soil.
Fill the drip tray with gravel or non-clumping cat litter. Set the container on top of the drip tray. Place the pot in an area that receives full sun for several hours a day or an area that gets filtered sunlight throughout the day.
Check frequently to make sure the seeds are kept moist. The seeds generally take three months to sprout. Water frequently while the palm is small. Keep the soil damp but not wet. After the palm tree grows to a height of several inches, add water when the surface of the soil feels dry.
Fertilize your pygmy date palm in the early spring, midsummer and late fall with an organic fertilizer formulated specifically for palms. Mix and apply the fertilizer according to the packaging instructions.