Tropical Gardening: Palm Sunday marks the beginning of the Christian Holy Week

  • Photo courtesy of Voltaire Moise Date palms are popular in the desert landscapes of southern Spain, California and the Middle East. They will grow where most other palms will not survive, so are ideal for the dry landscapes of Kohala and Ka‘u.

Palms are a key component of Hawaiian gardens, and it was date palm (Phoenix dactylifera) leaves used to greet Jesus as he entered Jerusalem the Sunday before Easter. Date palms are not often used in the typical garden because nurseries seldom carry them. On the other hand, the pygmy date palm is much more delicate, smaller and popular. Pygmy date palms (Phoenix roebellini) fit well in limited spaces and are slow growing, so consider them in that they are drought and wind tolerant. They will tolerate full sun and shady locations as well. However, the date palm of the Middle East and other dry regions of the tropics or subtropics should not be ignored. It is extremely tolerant of dry, windy and salty locations where most other palms would not survive. They can be grown from seed if you have the patience. At Spencer Park in South Kohala, there are fruiting specimens that actually produce edible dates. Collecting seeds there is an option for a fun project.