Pheonix canariensis (Canary Island Date Palm)

June 6, 2007

Featured tree


The Canary Island Date Palm is one of the most widely cultivated ornamental palms in the world. The species has enjoyed a reputation as a hardy tree that will tolerate a wide range of soil types and climactic conditions that has made it highly suitable for the Australian landscape (Jones 1989).
Not self-cleaning, so the old leaves need to be cut off. An architectural tree that also makes a good avenue tree and can help provide a Mediterranean landscape character.

Origin: Canary Islands, off north/eastern Africa

Description: Very large (to about 20m), majestic palm, with a tall, solid trunk, with a broad crown of large, arching, divided feathery leaves with spined petioles held on sturdy dark grey trunk.

Tolerances: Adaptable to a wide range of soil types, grows best in full sun, well drained position. Has moderate to high drought tolerance and tolerance to frost and salt spray. Transplants easily as a mature tree. Although the species is renowned for its hardiness, it like most other plant species will suffer the effects of waterlogged or saline soils. Drought will also affect the well being of this palm species particularly in sandy soils. Zinc and nitrogen deficiencies often found in costal soils will affect the growth and appearance of the Canary Island Date Palm, as will alkaline soils. Seedlings are quite slow, but speed up considerably once they start to trunk
A significant threat to palm species in particular the Canary Island Date Palm is Fusarium wilt, Fusarium oxysporum f.sp. canariensis. Fusarium wilt is a true wilt disease where plant decline and death is as a direct result of the loss of function of the water conducting cells within the plant.

Availability: Usually transplanted as a mature tree. Specialist nurseries or salvaged from older landscapes.

Reference: Jones, D. (1989), Palms in Australia. Reed
Spencer, R. (2005) Horticultural flora of South-eastern Australia. Volume 5, Flowering plants: monocotyledons. University of New South Wales Press Ltd.


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60 Responses to “Pheonix canariensis (Canary Island Date Palm)”

  1. David Balsamo Says:

    Thanks Penny for the comment.

    All palms that develop a trunk regardless of species will not do so until the root initiation zone and apical bud are fully developed. This process can span a number of years depending on local environmental conditions and climate.

    When pruning palms, only remove dead, dying, yellow, brown or broken fronds; flower and fruit stalks. Remove loose petioles or boots by hand. If they don’t pull off, leave them on. Palms must never be topped. Solitary palms have only one apical bud. Once the bud is damaged or killed so is the entire palm. The buds of CIDP are between 40 to 60 centimeters from the emergent point of the central leaf spears at the top of the trunk.

    Moving palms requires a certain level of expertise and heavy machinery as even small palms like the one you have identified can weigh as much as 3 tonnes. You are best getting an expert (such as Tree Logic) to assist.


    David Balsamo

  2. Penny Says:

    I have a 22 – 25 year old ? canary date palm that has not grown a trunk. The base of the palm is approx 800mm in diameter and the top of the central fronds are approx 8 metres from the ground. Is this a certain species that doesn’t go up? Or is it because I’ve only started pruning it regularly in the last few years? Also I am interested in moving it in the garden approximately 6 metres from it’s current position. How is the best way of going about this? I am on the mornington peninsula – westernport bay side.

  3. James Martens-Mullaly Says:

    Hi Randy,

    Without seeing the palms, your description ‘whitish powdery tufts on the older fronds’ does sound insect in nature, possibly a mealybug.

    The symptoms observed in older fronds including staining of the frond stem (rachis) and one-sided death of the leaf blade are symptoms common to the diseases Fusarium Wilt and Rachis Blight, both of which affect Canary Island Date Palms. For accurate diagnosis and guidance on appropriate control measures, I suggest you engage the service of a local and suitably experienced arborist.

    Best wishes,


  4. Randy Says:

    Hi. Great site.
    I have several dozen CDIP’s that I grew from seed. The largest is over 3 meters tall. It has whitish powdery tufts on the older fronds. They don’t look like any scale or mealy bug pics I’ve ever seen. Additionally, several older fronds on one side develop dark line running down length of frond, dry out and die within days. Still has new growth from crown but it has slowed and looks smaller than usual. Is this Fusarium wilt? Any advice is appreciated.
    v/r Randy

  5. James Martens-Mullaly Says:

    Thanks for your query Emma,

    The seedlings you are observing can indeed develop into mature palms. Although the CIDP is a slow growing species, for ease of removal it is prudent to remove unwanted seedlings as they appear.



  6. Emma Lambert Says:

    Quite a number of the seeds fallen from my CIDP are starting to sprout shoots. What is the likelihood that these could grow into mature trees? I have just been pulling them as I don’t want them to grow.

  7. David Balsamo Says:

    Thanks Peter for your comment.

    Damage to this area for the palm can have dire consequences for long term health and stability.

    Trimming the lower trunk to provide clearance will damage the epidermis (outer sheath) and the peripheral ring of lignified fibres that lay below which in turn may compromise the structural stability of the plant and could result in pathogens such as Thielaviopsis, Ganoderma and Fusarium getting a foot hold in the plant as palms do not create secondary growth and cannot repair injuries to their stem.

    Furthermore, damage to this area of the trunk which is part of the root initiation zone could also affect future root initiation limiting available water and nutrient required to sustain plant health and to maintain the plant in an upright position.

    Hope this helps


    David Balsamo

  8. Peter Says:

    My neighbour has a CIDP growing about 1 metre from my garage wall. Its a lovely palm, about 8 metre tall trunk, but it has a root ball extending out from the trunk above ground that is pushing the brickwork inwards to the point where the wall is now totally cracked and in danger of breaking down. Are we able to trim off the above ground fibrous root matter so that it is clear of the brick wall? And will this pose any danger to the palm.

  9. David Balsamo Says:

    Thanks Alison for your comment. The Australian Standard AS4970-2009 says no less than 1 metre outside the crown projection. Having said that, CIDP roots are adventitious and arise continuously from the root initiation zone. Palms do not develop secondary woody roots and most roots live for approximately 1 – 3 years and are then replaced. This is the major factor in the high success rate of palm transplants. Without seeing your palm, I would suggest that no less than 1 metre from the base of the trunk would be appropriate however you should seek the advice of a local competent arborist on what maintenance may be required and bear in mind the comments made by James in the blog above dated 10/11/2009.


    David Balsamo

  10. Alison Says:

    Hi, we are about to install a pool near to two canary palms of which the trucks are about 2 metres tall. Can anyone advise how far away is the smallest distance we need to be away from the trunks of the palms. The pool is a fibreglass pool, we only have a small yard so want to maximise space etc, but definately dont want to do any damage to these beautiful trees. Situated in SA if that makes any distance.

    Any advice would be welcomed.


  11. Sarah Says:

    David and James thanks very much for your responses to my query back in November.

    The heaving around the trunk is no more than two feet so taking this into account
    it seems like permeable paving no closer than three feet to the trunk will be fine.

  12. Scott Watson Says:

    Weed Potential. Someone asked whether the Canary Island Date Palm has weed potential. The answer is yes. While it isn’t listed as a weed under legislation, it is commonly seen ‘volunteering’ around Melbourne. It is also listed as an environmental weed in several Australian references. Having said that, it can be relatively easily managed by removal of occasional seedlings every few years. Don’t leave it any longer or they will be quite difficult to tackle. The seed appears to be bird dispersed and most seedlings appear within a short distance of the parent (up to 100 m). In my experience they are most commonly seen germinating in mulched areas. Seedlings normally require physical removal or increasing applications of herbicide with size.

  13. Emma Says:

    i am wanting to be rid of my canary palm need to find a new owner anyone interested

  14. James Martens-Mullaly Says:

    Thank you for your query Sarah.

    I am unclear as to the detail of the proposed landscape design around your palm as you mention paving and a retaining wall.

    Several considerations you need to be aware of when installing paving around you palm.

    Excavation associated with the installation of light infrastructure such as pedestrian paving, if kept to a depth of say no greater than 150mm below existing grade will generally not affect the health of the palm despite the loss of some root mass (Do compensate with additional irrigation during the first spring, summer autumn period post construction).

    However, installing an impervious pavement over the root zone can reduce soil moisture levels, which in turn can have a negative effect on palm health if the soil beneath dries out. Water pervious paving would be preferable.

    Furthermore, the provision of a 3 ft / 1m clearance around the trunk may lead to future lifting of the pavement by the force of root growth beneath. I imagine the palm, if it is 150 years old and if no previous level changes have occurred around the base will exhibit an area of heaved soil surrounding the base of the palm, the result of root massing in this area. Such heave usually dissipates within a couple of meters from the trunk. This area of heave provides a useful guide for paving clearances around palms to minimize paving distress.

    With regard to raising soil levels, roots are sensitive to changes in their growing environment and raising soil levels around your palm can have a deleterious impact on the health of your palm. Minor level change may be tolerated; the fundamental consideration is to maintain soil properties conducive to healthy root growth (adequate water infiltration and gaseous exchange between the soil and the atmosphere). I recommend site and design specific advice be sought from a suitably qualified arborist if you are considering raising soil levels.

  15. David Balsamo Says:

    Thanks Sarah for your post.

    Capping or increasing soil profiles over the root zone of your palm could have a detrimental effect on plant health by limiting the exchange of gas from the soil and the percolation of water. You may want to consider installing a permeable pavement at existing site grade to limit impact.

    Palm root morphology is different to that of broad leaf trees. New roots are produced every 12 to 24 months from the root initiation zone located at the base of the palm and that is why palms will transplant with relatively small root balls. Roots can be severed close to the base of the palm with minimal impact on plant health although supplemental irrigation will be required.

    I hope this advice has been helpful



  16. sarah Says:

    What a great site!
    We have a 150 year old date palm on the Bellarine Peninsula. Wanting to landscape around we started investigating the soil and found some longer roots away from the root ball so stopped digging. We are trying to determine whether it will be detrimental to the palm if these are dug up and covered with paving, leaving about 2-3 feet of soil around the palm.
    Also from what I gather above building soil up and adding a retaining wall could be damaging by altering the soil composotion. Is that right?
    Some clarification and advice would be most welcome…we do not want to the wrong thing for this wonderful palm.
    thanks very much

  17. David Balsamo Says:

    Thanks Peter for your comment. I suggest you read ‘Transplanting Palms’ by Meerow and Broschat, 2006. Alternatively, you can contact our office direct and we could undertake the works on your behalf.


    David Balsamo

  18. peter Says:

    My name is Peter, I have just purchased a C.I. Date Palm which i want to transplant into my own garden. The tree I have been told is approx 30yrs old, It has approx 3meters of clear trunk and a trunk diameter at the base of approx 700mm. Could somebody please advise me on the excavation of the root ball around the trunk. I assume the bigger the root ball the better, but transporting could be a problem. I would be greatful for some advice in this matter. Also What is the best preperation for the new position of the tree, in terms of preparing the hole etc.

    thanks Peter.

  19. David Balsamo Says:

    Thanks Sue K for your comment.

    Although not an expert in the field of toxicology, I do know from personal experience that stick injuries from CIDP are painful and will persist for a long time. My understanding is that the spine and its tip are not poisonous but like a rusty nail or other sharp dirty objects, will carry infections that readily transferred should you be unfortunate enough to have your skin punctured by one. I hope you get over you injury soon.


    David Balsamo

  20. David Balsamo Says:

    Thanks Anthony for the comment.

    Palms do not have bark, although the epidermis (outer sheath) is hardened to form a protective layer over the stem (trunk).

    The vascular tissues responsible for the transport of water and assimilates between the crown and the root system of a palm are scattered in bundles throughout the central cortex and survive for the lifetime of the palm. Unlike broadleaf trees that have a vascular cambium that produces new tissues, palms do not create secondary growth and cannot repair injuries to their stem.

    Palm stems are highly resilient to bending stresses caused by wind loading due to a peripheral ring of lignified fibre bundles beneath the epidermis surrounding a soft flexible central cortex. If this is damaged, then there is a strong likelihood that structural integrity has been compromised.


    David Balsamo

  21. Anthony V Says:

    Have just veiwed a large 8m CIDP which is reported to have bird/possomn damage to the trunk with a large cavity present , being a monocot will this ever heal over and is this palm stucturally comprimised/ unstable now due to the weight of the upper canopy.

  22. Greg Pollard Says:

    Hi Raechel,

    Sorry to read about your Palm. It’s sounds like you’re on the right track with the waterlogging theory – the forces on the crown have been too great for the rootball to withstand in a saturated soil.

    If the growing point in the crown has not been damaged then saving the tree should be possible and the issue becomes one of cost.

    One option is to use a machine to pull the Palm back up in position but you may also need to anchor it there and /or install some drainage lines to prevent it going over again. The second option, if space permits, is relocating the palm to another area of the garden with the use of a mobile crane. You are likely to need a 20 tonne machine for this task.


  23. Raechel Says:

    Hi Guys,

    Just after some advice about our beautiful CIDP. Its approx 5 meters tall with a trunk that is more than 1.5 meters across. Has one of the fattest trunks I have seen on a date palm!

    The issue we have is that on Friday morning when we got up we noticed that it has fallen over – root ball and all. It is(was) planted on a bit of an incline.

    We live in the north or Tasmania and the weather has been very wet here of late – the ground is very soggy. We were thinking that it may have become water logged.

    Could you please let us know if you think there is any chance of saving it and if so the best way to go about it. Oh we have covered the exposed root ball with a plastic tarp to protect it.

    Thanks so much for your time,

    Kind regards

  24. Sue K Says:

    Hi Ive just been trying to find info on date palm needlesand came across comment from Allen H june 22 2009. While visiting family in Greece i decided to prune palm and was careful of needles but when moving them got stabbed just above the knee it went in over an inch and made walking difficult . Its now over 2 weeks getting in and out of car bad also stairs .eventually went to doctors and now on course of penicillin and ibebfufen i don’t think any of needle was left behind unless very tip have been told to return to doctors after i week if no better.Are they poisoness or is that a greek myth.

  25. David Balsamo Says:


    Canary Island Date Palm is not considered a weed at Federal or Victorian State level. A review of 14 municipal council weed lists in Victoria contained no reference to the species. Having said that, New Zealand’s land care research body has identified the species as a potential weed as has Pittwater Council in New South Wales. I suppose it depends on where you live. There are certainly many examples of the species listed as significant vegetation in Victoria.


    David Balsamo

  26. David Balsamo Says:

    Thanks Dean for your comment.
    Sounds like you palm needs water and possibly fertiliser. Tree Logic undertakes the type of assessments you mentioned in your blog on the 24 June. Please contact us by phone (03) 9870-7700 to make an appointment


    David Balsamo

  27. debbie Says:

    hi there i was hoping you could answer my question regarding canary island date palm i have been told they are a weed is this correct, they are not a significant tree is this also correct
    thank you

  28. Dean Says:

    Does anyone have any advice on my previous post dated 24th of June.


  29. Lee Says:

    Thanks Rachel,
    I have no experience with CIDP in cold climates let alone the UK. The best advice I can offer is that the palm owner keep a close eye on the growth spear located at the center of the crown. This should be green and standing upright. If they cant see it, then hire an EWP and inspect. If the growth spear is active and has a healthy appearance, then they should fertilise and irrigate to encourage root development. If the spear has browned out and has gone flaccid, then the palm is likely to die. The owner should hire a competent and experienced arborist to advise further on fertiliser and palm health

  30. Rachel Says:

    We have a CIDP which is about 9 years old. Earlier this year we had a hard winter and snow end February (UK) now it appears to be dying. The new roots are stumped and dying. Is it dead or will it come back in a season or 2 (different webistes say different things!).

  31. Dean Says:

    Firstly great site. I live in Melbourne North/West suburbs around keilor. I purchased a large female CIDP 7 years ago and had it put in my front yard, I have a large front yard. When they brought it, they dug a square hole about 1.5 to 2 meters by 1.5 to 2 meters and the depth was about the same. They then added about 300 to 450 mm of crush rock in the hole prior to putting in the CIDP. When I purchased this 20 plus foot CIDP it had a beautiful crown and it had many of those orange flowers which is what distinguish it from a male to a female I believe. Since it has been in my front yard, it’s crown is less then half the size from when I purchased it 7 years ago and I have never seen it flower ever since I have had it. It has one row of dead dried fronds on the very bottom which need to be cut, but the rest of its fronds are a dull green and around the edges they look like a dry brown colour. I’m very worried about it and would like to know if you may know if it has a problem from my discription, or more importantly are there specialists out there that I could call to come and look at it. Unfortunately it’s quite hard for me to get out and see someone as I am a quadriplegic. This Palm means allot to me and I am so worried that it might be dying. If you know of people that specialise in this field regarding diagnosing whether a CIDP has any serious problems could you please give me their number.
    I can ask someone to take a photo of it and show you it if you think that will help in any way.

    Many thanks

  32. Lee Says:

    Hi Allen, Unfortunately this is a reasonably regular occurrence if you work with CIDPs. The spines get coated with bird and rat droppings and any scratch or spike from the spines almost immediately becomes infected. It sounds like you are doing everything you can medically and we have not heard of any alternative treatments for this painful injury. Take care!

  33. Allen H Says:

    Hi there,
    I’ve been spiked on the top of my hand whilst pruning the almost ground level fronze of a CIDP we have. This is proving to be quite painful with the swelling (after 2 weeks) still pronounced.
    Medically I’ve had an antibiotic IV needle and a course of antibiotics. Do you have any suggestions or known history of an alternate treatment.
    I’m reasonably sure I’ve nothing embedded from the spike.

  34. Lee Says:

    Hi Angel, Not real sure about Hurricanes as we don’t get that many Melbourne (thankfully!). I would suggest that leaving them down would probably be best and let the tree deal with it as it naturally would. Good luck and stay safe!

  35. angel Says:

    Hi, I have a question about my canary palm. My husband just put in two canary palms i’m concerned about the leaves with this being hurricane season. Do I tie the leaves up or leave them down because i’m concerned that all of the leaves will break off!

  36. Lee Says:

    Hi Yvonne, As you can probably see, the root system on the palm is very fibrous and can take severe pruning. I would agree that the issue appeared to be that the severed roots have dried out and this has probably led to the frond decline. The ongoing watering is a great idea and you should find that this helps significantly. The next issue will probably be next summer and you may need to provide additional water again then. The palms should be fine. These palms are regularly moved around Melbourne with far more root loss than your palm has sustained. Hope this helps

  37. Yvonne Says:

    I have a question regarding my Canary Island Date Palms which are about 30 feet high/ 20 years old. We are in the process of adding some hardscape to our yard which includes retaining walls and their footings. Our CIDP have suffered some root cutting during the demolition phase of our project(about 2 weeks ago) due to their proximity to the footings of our planned retaining walls. (The trees are growing on a slope). The cut roots are at the closest about 4 feet from the trunk. One of the trees is showing quite a bit of stress – lower fronds are turning brown and I see some browning of the tips of the upper fronds. A few of the others (we have 5 total) have some yellowing and browning of the tips of the lower fronds.

    We have not backfilled the walls yet so some of the roots are exposed and appear to be dried out. I have been watering the exposed roots and keeping the area under the canopy damp to avoid any further shock to the trees. I was told to put a tarp over the exposed roots to keep them moist, although I am not sure even if that is the right thing to do. I have also been told to deep water daily until construction is complete to keep the roots moist because the tree has lost some of it’s root system. Is there anything else I need to do to avoid any further damage to the trees? Your advise is greatly appreciated.

  38. Glenn Says:

    Graham, that sound like more than enough room for a CIDP particularly given the fibrous roots for this palm. The soak pits may be an issue if they have to be kept open as this would be a perfect spot for roots to colonise. Hope this helps!

  39. Glenn Says:

    Hi Ben, Without seeing the tree, this could be White Palm Scale or possibly a Mealy Bug. Control is often difficult but spraying with White Oil and Pyrethrum is possible or perhaps pruning and destruction of the offending fronds. Please let us know if we can help further!

  40. Ben Says:


    I have 1 large CIDP in my front yard. A large number of the fronds have started to look a little discolored and have a white scale of some sort on them. Is there a common disease/insect/deficiency you can think of that may cause this and what treatment would you recommend.


  41. Graham Whyte Says:


    I have a front lawn 9 metres square which is begging to have a feature Canary Island Date Palm in the centre. The lawn is surrounded on 3 sides by our house. Is this a large enough area to accommodate such a tree? The other concern I have is the root structure as there may be 2 or 3 soak pits for stormwater on the perimeter of the lawn.

    I live in Rye VIC 300m from the beach and the soil is sandy.

  42. Glenn Says:

    Hi Fiona,

    Unfortunately, what you see is what you get!

    Wherever the dead frond bases are pruned to is where the trunk size will stay. The Canary Island Date Palms are not able to ‘grow’ their trunks once the frond has been removed.

    Sorry to say that ….yes, there will forever be an indent in the trunk. However, depending upon how the palm is pruned over the next few years will determine just how ‘bad’ it looks!

    Good Luck,

    Glenn Waters

  43. Fiona Says:


    I have a CIDP which I think is around 16-17 years old. It has a trunk to about 1.75m high and then a huge crown on top of that. I have been very careful with pruning over the years not to cut too close to the crown, so as to avoid the pencil neck effect. I ususally cut upper leaves in line with the stumps below them, however, a neighbour recently pruned it for me in my absence and has created a more rounded effect to the trunk under the crown. There is still a decent crown of leaves on it, however, I am worried that there will forever be an indent in the trunk where it has been pruned inwards. Since this is only a one off occurrance, can you please advise if this will correct itself as the tree grows or will it be permanently disfigured.

  44. David Balsamo Says:


    Canary Island Date palms are a large growing species and are better suited to growing in open ground. Maintaining this species in a container can restrict the natural development of the root initiation zone which in turn may result in the plant becoming stunted. In addition, the trunk could become constricted close to its base if growing in a confined root volume which over the life of the plant may become a structural fault that cannot be corrected. I suggest Timothy Broschat and Alan Meerow for further reading. Good luck with your palm!

    David Balsamo

  45. Alison Says:

    Hi, I have a CIDP seedling, just starting to show a trunk! What is the best way to grow it? should I keep it in a container for now and keep usizing as it grows or would it be best to transplant it to where we want it to grow? We are in the Western district of Victoria (not far from Ballarat)

    Any info on growing tips would be great! hard to find!

    Thanks for you help!,


  46. James Martens-Mullaly Says:

    Thanks Ria,

    The exposed roots may either be due to soil erosion around the tree base as suggested, or the growth of roots developing from shoot tissue and not a parent root (adventitious roots) on the lower trunk. The latter is typical of CIDP.

    Building a walled garden bed around the base of a CIDP will alter soil levels that could have a deleterious effect to the existing rooting habitat and should be avoided. Building the soil up around the base of the palms may also encourage further development of more adventitious rooting that will grow into and occupy the new substrate, eventually competing for soil space with the bedding plants.

    In general, pruning of fronds should only occur to remove dead or old and dying fronds. Cosmetic pruning that removes live fronds should be avoided where possible as these fronds contribute to maintaining palm health. A finishing prune to the butts of removed fronds can highlight their attractive patterning. This cosmetic pruning requires the use of a chainsaw.

    Due to the potential risk associated with pruning, namely airborne particulate debris, and noxious spines at the base of the frond, a suitably experienced arborist should be engaged to undertake these works. I imagined the result of pruning will be spectacular.

  47. Ria Says:


    I have four very large CIDPs in my yard and I want to feature them in my garden renovation. I am having a lot of trouble finding information on how to prune them. Also the dirt around the bases is eroding and exposing the tops of the roots – it doesn’t seem to affect the trees – can I build retaining walls around them, fill and plant around the bases? The trees are around 60 years old and have never been touched. Your advice would be gratefully received.

  48. Stephen Frank
    Stephen Frank Says:

    I am not aware of termites causing the softened & spongy leaf stubs you refer to. I have seen it on CIDPs before, I believe it is just normal decomposition of the now non function leaf base. Is the symptom uniform across the stem / trunk or isolated to one area?

    If skewered, the short spines at the base of the rachis can cause wounds to become septic. Caused by bacteria build up from detritus and faeces.

  49. Kiah Says:

    Can the Canary Island Date Palm Tree be classed as dangerous and why?? I was reading an article that states “In addition, dead leaves are dangerous to be removed by hand as the petioles are armed with large spines”

  50. Richard Wilson Says:

    I wonder if you could help me, I have a canary island date palm on which about half of the frond stubs (left after old fronds are cut off) are very easily broken away leaving a fairly soft loose material.
    Is it the result of what we call here in Australia termites or white ants?
    Thanks very much for any advice.

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