The beautiful Washingtonia filifera is native to the south-western deserts of the United States, but grows well in our South African climate.
This hardy palm can reach a height of 15 m and the common name of ‘Petticoat palm’ is ascribed to the ‘petticoat’ of dead leaves that cover the trunk. The old leaves usually fall away after many years, but can be trimmed for aesthetic landscaping purposes. The brownish coloured trunk is solitary and has a columnar form.
Grey green, deeply divided radial palm leaves are carried on top of the tree and have the shape of a big fan. The leaves are edged with prickles and stand well apart in an open crown. The leaf segments have marginal fibres and birds often pick at these strands to uses as building material for nests.
The root system is compact and fibrous which means that the palm can be grown successfully in an area where the roots are restricted i.e. in large containers. Hardy and drought resistant, Washingtonia filifera needs full sun exposure and will grow faster with regular watering. It is also wind resistant and will tolerate exposure to frost.
Wonderful as a specimen tree in a garden where you want to create a tropical feel, this palm will be able to handle our harsh climate with relative ease. Washingtonia filifera is also often used as an avenue tree in our cities.