Palm trees with roots in clay

oktober 17th, 2017 · No Comments

When buying a palm it is recommended to check the general condition of the plant. Not only the leaves need to be checked, the roots are an equally important point of attention.

Importation

Most of the palms sold here were grown in southern Europe. The favorable local climate means that the growing season is prolonged considerably. When the palms are large enough for sale, the palms are potted in relatively small pots. It is practically impossible not to disturb the roots when doing this. It is not uncommon that clay soil is used in this process. Clay is not only the local soil, it has the advantage of retaining moisture for a long time preventing the root balls to dry out during transport.
The disadvantage of clay however, is that when it eventually dries out it becomes impenetrably hard.

Consequences of roots in clay

Palms with roots in clay will look good for a long time. But because the clay hermetically seals the roots from nutrients, the damaged roots will regenerate only with lots of difficulty. As a result, the palm will no longer grows leaves. In time even the leaflets will fold; a sign that the palm has difficulties absorbing enough moisture.

When buying

Because sellers also are familiar with the disadvantages of a clay potted palm, it often happens that the clay is covered with a layer of fine potting soil. Therefore, do not hesitate to take the palm out of the pot (or have it taken out) to be able to control the entire root ball. This way you immediately see if the root ball is well developed and healthy.

Treatment of a clay potted palm

If you should unfortunately have to deal with a clay potted palm, the root ball must be treated. With the garden hose, all clay can be rinsed out between the roots. Avoid too cold periods where the ice-cold tap water could bring the palm into shock. You will notice how few (healthy) roots the palm has in proportion to its size.

After rinsing out, the palm is best potted. It is also possible to plant it directly in the garden on condition that it is planted sufficiently early in spring. This way the palm still has a whole season for the production of healthy roots. A good protection is also recommended for the first winter. Use a potting soil of good quality, the palm can use all the extra help now. It is also wise to mix a handful of bone meal in the potting soil to stimulate root growth.

The palm will put all its energy into creating new roots. It may therefore take quite some time before new growth can be observed again. As long as the palm doesn’t deteriorate even further, there is still hope.

N.B. This article only applies to clay potted palms! This means, root balls where you will only find thick clay and no apparent roots. For palms where there are many healthy roots visible, the clay does not pose a problem at all as the roots are not closed off from the environment. Treatment is not necessary in that case!

Video: how palms are dug out at the nursery

© La Palmeraie

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