The Pindo Palm – A Cold Weather Palm

If you look at a map of the distribution of the pindo palm across the United States, your first impression could easily be that the pindo is just another tropical palm tree. It is grown in Florida, southern Georgia, along the Gulf Coast, and across the southern half of Texas. You'll also note that the pindo is grown in southern Arizona and southern California.

A Turn Towards the North

Once you get to the Los Angeles area, the pattern of the pindo's distribution takes a turn to the north. You'll note the pinto palm is found in the entire western half of California, up along the Oregon coast, on up to the Puget Sound region in Washington state, and from Seattle up to the Canadian border. Seattle is not a tropical location, nor is the Canadian border for that matter. What you won't see is any evidence of the tree being grown anywhere in the interior of the United States, from the Cascade mountains in Washington state to New England and the Atlantic Coast states.

What this suggests is that while the pindo palm is not a cold weather palm tree, as it is sometimes advertised as being, it is a cold hardy palm, or at least a cool weather palm. Winter temperatures can be cold at times along the Pacific Coast, but along the Oregon coast up to Seattle they are seldom frigid. This is not true in the interior of the country, where winters can often be very cold indeed. Nurseries in Florida which sell this palm often refer to it as being super cold hardy. A super cold condition is not the same in Florida as it is in Minnesota, but it is true that the tree can survive temperatures into the teens for brief periods of time.

A Smaller, Slow Growing Palm

You will see this little palm in parking islands, near storefronts, and in residential areas in those regions of the U.S. noted above. This palm can be planted under power lines, since it seldom approaches 20 feet in height, and is a relatively slow growing tree.

The pinto palm has a spread that is in the order of two-thirds of its height. Its crown is open and upright, and forms a canopy that has what could best be described as having a smooth outline. It is an evergreen tree that loses its fronds as it grows, which is a characteristic of many palm trees. The leaf color is usually blue and silver, or blue green and silver, and remains the same throughout the year. Pinto palms blossom annually, and the white blossoms are quite showy. Overall however, this palm is not regarded as being particularly spectacular in appearance, and is usually not planted as a specimen tree. It is however, a nice, smaller tree.

Fruit That Is Both Edible and Messy

Once the blossoms have died back, fruit will form. The individual fruits are just under an inch long and are yellow-orange in color. The fruit is juicy, and it is edible, but most often it is left for the birds and squirrels to eat. It can be, and is, used to make jams and jellies. If the fruit is allowed to over-ripen on the tree, it can cause quite a mess on sidewalks and patios, and it’s therefore recommended that one of these trees not be planted any closer to a sidewalk or patio than about 10 feet.


Growing Conditions

A pindo palm can be grown in full sun or in partial shade. It is not terribly fussy about the soil it's grown in, as long as the soil is well-drained. This palm is drought tolerant, and it can also be grown along a coastline, as it is quite tolerant of aerosol salt. The roots of this tree are deep enough so as not to cause a problem when planted in a lawn or near a sidewalk or a foundation. The pindo palm is highly resistant to both insects and disease. When problems do arise, they can often be traced to a deficiency in either iron or magnesium, in which case several applications of fertilizer may be called for. This tree is normally propagated from seed, but germination is said to be a very slow process.

This palm tree has become popular as a container plant. Part of the reason for this is the palm is very low growing. Another reason is that its root system does not require a great deal of room, and adapts well to container life. Still another reason is watering. While this tree should certainly not be neglected, it only needs infrequent watering, as opposed to most container plants, which require constant watering.

A three year old plant, purchased in a container, will usually be between one and two feet tall. It will grow at a rate of about one foot a year until it reaches about eight feet in height, after which its rate of growth will begin to taper off. A 15 year old tree will, on the average, be about 12 feet high.