This page contains basic information on growing palms. Future pages will focus on care for specific species.
There are hundreds of different species of palms, which originate from a variety of different environments. This extensive diversity makes it difficult to generalize their care and culture. Most people think of palms as "tropical" plants, growing in exotic jungles and on islands, and many species do come from these environments, however there are many species that have adapted to harsh desert and cold climates. Botanically speaking palms are monocots. This means the seeds of palms produce one seed leaf. Monocots also have their vascular bundles filling their entire trunk not just the outside ring like regular trees. These bundles are what transport water, nutrients, etc. up the trunk. The roots of palms grow in bundles of similar sized roots. Roots are rarely larger than finger diameter, but grow in mass. Palms are found in the fossil record. They have been around for a long time, and continue to thrive in our current world ecosystems.
Even though palms originate from so many diverse environments one can create a soil mix that will work for most species. When planting in the ground make sure you add liberal amounts of organic matter, compost, mulch, etc. Soil mixes for containers are different from those for cycads and succulents. For palms we are looking for mixes that have more organics. Our mixes generally contain 30-40% inorganics such as pumice, perlite, and coarse washed sand. The rest of the mix contains peat moss, composted redwood or fir shavings, and sometimes 1/4" bark. As always add a slow release fertilizer such as Osmocote to your mix. This will get your plants off to a good start. Also add some dolomite lime to the mix to bring up the ph of the soil to about 6.5-7. This makes for optimum fertilizer uptake. You can also use a commercial potting mix like Miracle Gro potting soil and just add your inorganics. It comes with a slow release fertilizer and balanced ph.
Since palms come from so many different environments we can not generalize their care. You will have to research and find out what conditions will be best for the specific species you are trying to grow. Factors such as lighting can vary greatly from sun to total shade. As with many plants, young palms will always benefit with some protection from full sun.
Most palms with benefit from regular watering. There are many species of palms that are drought tolerant, however this is usually after becoming established, and in containers all palms need regular watering.
The biggest problem that most people have when growing palms is the lack of food, which results in yellow or chlorotic foliage. Feed regularly! Use a water soluble fertilizer with all micro nutrients. This is very important! If you can, feed at least every two weeks. If your plants still look yellow check the soil ph. I will also alternate with an organic fertilizer such as fish emulsion. As with all plants palms will appreciate consistent attention and care. Remember we are here to help you. We will answer your questions!