Date Palms

Wendy S. Delmater
By Wendy S. Delmater on Tue, Apr 25, 2017 - 9:05pm

I'll never forget the date palm oasis farm I saw just southeast of Yuma, AZ. I was recently reminded of it when my friend Charlie, who moved to AZ from Ohio a few years ago, sent me this picture of the date palm fruit in his back yard. He's checking with his local agricultural extension to see what kind of date they are. I wish I could grow them, but we do not have the right climate. Still, if you do, you should consider growing a couple of date palms ( you will need a male and a female plant). 

This rainfall chart from the FAO tells you where the main growing regions for dates are.

Date palms needs temperatures to stay above 20 degrees Fahrenheit (-6 C.) to survive. Pollination takes place at 95 degrees (35 C.) and fruits need dry, hot temperatures with warm nights. So if you live in America, you can grow dates southern California and Arizona. You might be tempted to grow them in FL but resist the temptation: dates fruit during Florida's rainy season and will get moldy and rot before they can mature.

Date trees need a lot of room both vertically (around 100 feet tall, depending on variety)  and horizontally as their surface roots anchor the plant and help it gather surface water. They can tolerate drought but when flowering and fruiting dates need as much water as a willow tree, but only around the roots. Commercial growers often put them in shallow ponds for that reason. But casual gardeners like my friend Charlie don't have to do that. Just water them during fruiting season. Or not. Once established, they're pretty undemanding. You might want to give them some well-rotted manure or a high potassium fertilizer, but that's it. 

You should plant your date palms in spring or fall. Like any other tree, dig your hole twice the size of the root ball and then add loose soil back in until it's at the right level. The roots should be barely covered. You should water it to compact the soil and then add more soil until the roots are covered again. You should water them often for a few months until they are established. My research says you should probably stake them, too, so they will grow straight.

Be patient. Just like nut trees dates will take YEARS to mature and fruit - probably a dozen years. But then they will produce for a hundred years or more. 

Here are some really good articles on growing dates. 

http://www.dateland.com/how-are-dates-grown/ (commercial grower) 

http://www.medjool-date-palms.com/html/medjool-date-palm.html (SoCal focused) 

3 Comments

Luke Moffat's picture
Luke Moffat
Status: Gold Member (Offline)
Joined: Jan 25 2014
Posts: 377
Plum Trees for England!

Hi Wendy,

No date palm trees here in the north of England but I have just purchased my first tree ever (plum) to celebrate the birth of my daughter. It's taken a temporary residence in the kitchen and will be moved to firmer soils once the complaints from my girlfriend become loud enough :)

All the best,

Luke

Wendy S. Delmater's picture
Wendy S. Delmater
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Dec 13 2009
Posts: 1988
congratulations

Congratulations on the birth of your daughter, and a hint about plum trees. They do better with some BT (Bacillus thungaris) sprayed on the blossoms and early fruit to discourage inset larvae. BT is inexpensive, and used by organic growers to kill insect larvae - it's harmless to humans. 

We bought a quince root stock to graft a local pear onto - that's how you make a dwarf tree--and have decided to leave the other as just a quince. It seems to need another organic bug killer-- neem oil--to protect it from white flies. 

Thrivalista's picture
Thrivalista
Status: Bronze Member (Offline)
Joined: Apr 5 2011
Posts: 60
Congratulations; cold climate "date" trees

What a lovely way to mark the birth of your daughter, Luke. If the kitchen is warm, as most tend to be, the tree might do better stored someplace cooler til planting time.

We have 2 jujube trees hanging about in the cold corner of the cellar that we'll plant out this weekend. They're also known as "Chinese Dates". Not likely to live to 100 years, but we'll be happy with 30 or so.

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