Palm trees are actually considered by botanists to be complex grasses.  Almost all palm species have a single trunk or multiple trunks that do not branch above ground.  Palms are used in landscaping due to their tropical look and overall beauty.  Most of the 2600 species of palms in the world come from tropical regions near the equator (pink shaded area in left picture).  Most of the palms in the United States are found in Hawaii, California, Arizona, Texas, Louisiana, Georgia, the Carolinas, and Florida.  Some common palms used in these states are the Mexican Fan Palm (Washingtonia robusta), Queen Palm (Syagrus romanzoffiana), Cabbage Palm (Sabal palmetto), Pigmy Date Palm (Phoenix roebellinii), King Palm (Archontophoenix cunninghamiana), and Jelly Palm (Butia capitata).  Once you travel north of these states, you will  not see as many palms because of the frequent frosts.  There are only a handful of palm species in the world that can survive extended frosts below 25 degrees F.
 
Where do Palms Come From?
Chances are, the palm trees growing in your yard did not originally come from the United States.  Palms that grow naturally in your area or state are called native palms or palms in habitat.  Palms that grow naturally in say, Brazil, but are brought in to be grown in US yards are called non-native or exotic species.  Here’s how it works…
 
About 100 years ago, a botanist traveling through Brazil noticed a colony of palms growing in a semi-arid region.  He thinks the palm may be a new species so he collects seed from below one of the trees in the colony.  These seeds are brought back to the US and studied.  If he finds it is a new species, the botanist describes the tree and gives it a name such as “Queen Palm (Syagrus romanzoffiana)”. 
 
Meanwhile, some of his seeds are sold or given to friends or business acquaintances who grow them up into plants.  The resulting plants are then sold or planted for future seed production.  As more and more of these Queen Palms are grown in the US, they make their way into yards and gardens in any city that as a semi-arid climate.  Palms that are found to be particularly drought tolerant, sun tolerant, or cold hardy are usually grown in higher numbers by nurserymen because they know their customers can grow them with ease.  The problem with this practice is that every landscape in a given area ends up using the same five types of palms and you run into the “cookie-cutter” landscape… very boring.  This gave us our Seabreeze Palms company motto:
 
“If you want your neighbor’s boring landscape, call your neighbor’s landscaper…
If you want a one-of-a-kind Tropical Paradise, talk to us.”
 
Leaves
All palms have three basic types of leaves:
 
Pinnate Leaf (Feather Leaf) – Christmas Palm
Bipinnate Leaf – Fishtail Palms
Fan Leaf – Loulou Pal
 
In order to achieve a true “jungle look” in your yard or garden, it is important to incorporate palms of all three leaf types.
 
Sunlight
Keep in mind, each type of palm prefers a different amount of sun.  If you live inland or in the South, your sun may be more intense, calling for more shade from overhead trees or a house.  Some palms, like King Palms (Archontophoenix sp.), grow well in sun or shade, making them very versatile.  Others, like the Metallic Palm (Chamaedorea metallica), need to grow in shade their entire life.  If the palm tree you just bought didn’t come with any care instructions, simply Google its common name to find out what country it comes from.  Is its natural climate dry and deserty?  Or, is does it come from the rainforests of Papua New Guinea?  This will determine what type of light and how much water it will like.
 
Water
As a general rule, palm trees prefer a well-draining soil mixture that contains any combination of: peat moss, perlite, coarse sand, pumice, wood chips, volcanic rock, or vermiculite.  When you water your palm’s soil, the water should drain through the soil almost instantly.  If water pools on the ground for 30 seconds or more, the soil is not draining fast enough.  Palms growing in the ground outdoors should be watered differently than indoor palms.
 
Soil
Soil is different depending on what state you live in.  Here are some generalized soil types per state:
 
Hawaii: Volcanic rock and dead leaf matter
California: Clay, rock, and dirt
Arizona: Clay, rock, and sand
Texas: Rock, dirt and sand
Florida: Cap rock and marl (southeast).  Sand and shells (southwest and central).
 
For container palms, if you live in Hawaii you will want a very fast draining soil due to the high rainfall; whereas if you live in Texas, you want to use more peat moss or wood chips to hold in as much water as possible.  If you live in Florida, the native soil has very few nutrients, so your palms will need more fertilizer.