Silver saw palmetto palms (Serenoa repens) are native to Florida and the southeastern U.S. These palms are unusually cold-hardy and can be grown in USDA regions 7 through 11. They are a common understory plant often found in sprawling clusters in south Florida’s pine flat woods and oak woodlands. Read on to learn more about growing these plants.
Growing Saw Palmetto Trees
Although the slow growing silver saw palmetto palms can spread 20 feet (6 m.) wide, the typical size is 6 feet by 8 feet (2 x 2 m.) They have stiff, 3 to 6 foot (1-2 m.) long, silvery green, fan-shaped leaves. The stems and trunks often grow horizontally along the ground. Silver saw palmetto palms produce fragrant, yellowy white flowers in the spring followed by berry-like fruit, which ripens into a blue-black color. They can take shade but prefer the sun. Silver saw palmetto palms tolerate salty conditions and withstand deer. They require moderate amounts of water but can withstand drought once they are established. There are many interesting silver saw palmetto tree facts. The “saw” in the name refers to the saw-like teeth on the petioles (leaf stems). The fruit is an important food source for mammals and birds. An extract of the berries is popular in western herbal medicine where it is used to treat prostate and urinary tract problems. The flowers are highly attractive to bees and are a great source of good-quality honey. Growing saw palmetto trees is easy. They are adapted to Florida’s sandy soils and don’t require any soil amendments unless grown out of their normal range in clay soils. Little maintenance is needed. Fertilize them bi-annually with a palm fertilizer if they underperform. Remove old brown leaves and stems as needed. Cut the dead leaves off at their base. As you can see, saw palmetto plant care is minimal. Other considerations in how to grow silver saw palmetto plants are really about all your varied landscaping options. You can plant them indoors (with enough light) or outdoors. You can install them in pots for a dramatic look. You can plant them close together to form a hedge or screen. They look fabulous at the base of tall palm trees or as an understory plant. Silver saw palmetto palms also create a lovely backdrop for smaller plants with contrasting dark green or red foliage.
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Karen Boness is the founder of Wild Willow Design, an Australia-based company that specializes in ecological landscape design.
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