Like all other living things, the lifespan of a palm tree depends on its species.
Some are longer-lived than others. For example, coconut palms may live to be 80 or 90 years old. The Mexican fan palms dotting Los Angeles’s iconic skyline can live for an average of 100 years with some far exceeding this estimate.
The average palm tree will live for 80 years in a typical suburban environment. With proper care, such as regular pruning, watering and fertilizing you can most likely extend that lifespan by about 20% to close to 100 years.
Exposition Park, Los Angeles, is home to one of the region’s oldest palm trees, dating back to the 1850s. It was moved to its current location in 1914 and has thrived there for over a century. Under the proper conditions, some species of palm trees can outlive humans!
Other species of palm trees have much shorter average lifespans, either because of their biology or human intervention.
Areca palms naturally live for an average of 40 years. Oil palms native to Indonesia are felled around the age of 25 after they grow too tall for workers’ tools to harvest their fruits. Date palms are another example of trees that are often felled before the end of their natural lives. In nature, these palm trees could live for more than 100 years, but commercial farmers replace them after the quality of their fruit production declines.
How Long to Reach Full Height and Maturity?
Palm trees are incredibly diverse, so the exact height of a mature palm tree depends on the species of the tree. For example, Foxtail palm trees are known for their fast growth rates. Even in the dry conditions of Arizona and Southern California, these trees can reach their full adult height of 30 feet in just 10 years. Carpentaria palm trees, which are native to the Australian rainforest, can grow as much as 6 feet in a single year. Because of the rich soil and ample rainfall in their native climate, these plants can reach a maximum height of 100 feet at maturity.
Some species, particularly those that are popular with home gardeners, stay short even at full maturity. European fan palms are considered slow-growing and may only grow 10 inches a year until reaching their adult height of 16 feet. Parlor palms are among the smallest of palm trees of all and can take many years to reach a height of 4 feet, making them an ideal choice for people seeking a new houseplant.
Do Palm Trees Ever Stop Growing?
Even if they do not get noticeably taller, most types of trees can grow for what seems like an eternity, getting wider around the trunk with each passing year. Palm trees do not grow in this manner. Upon reaching maturity, palm trees start to grow at a slower rate than in their juvenile stage. At this point, many palms will die off after a certain number of years. Others stop growing due to disease. These palm trees need to be removed as they quickly become unsafe in strong winds.
Even under ideal conditions, palm trees cannot grow forever. Eventually, the tree will become too tall, at which point its vascular system will be unable to send nutrients to the top of the tree. This marks the end of a palm tree’s natural lifespan.
How Can You Tell How Old a Palm Tree Is?
You might have heard that the age of a tree is determined by how many rings are on its trunk. While this rule works for many types of trees, palms are an exception because they do not grow wide rings around their trunks. Unless you grew the plant yourself from the seedling stage, you cannot tell its exact age.
However, there are ways to estimate the age of a palm tree. One method is to examine the tree’s leaf scars, which are the marks left behind when a leaf falls away from the twig. Botanists can estimate a tree’s age by counting the scars and multiplying that number by the amount of time it takes for that type of tree to grow new leaves. Another method is to consider the species of the palm tree. Because not all palm trees grow at the same rate, knowing the species can help botanists guess how old a tree is based on its size.
How Fast Do Palm Trees Grow?
Environmental factors such as rainfall, soil, temperature, and location are all important in determining how fast a palm tree will grow. Palms located in tropical climates, like the Carpentaria palm trees mentioned above, tend to grow much faster. They thrive in wet, topical habitats like their native Australian rainforests and the humid landscapes of Florida. These environments also tend to have nutrient-rich soil that helps palm trees grow quickly.
Sunlight is another important condition for growth. Palm trees exposed to the adequate sun will grow much faster than ones kept indoors or away from the light.
Despite considering environmental factors, the expected growth rate of a palm tree is most dependent on its species. Different species of palm trees naturally grow at different rates. Below are some diverse examples of palm tree growth rates.
Windmill Palm Trees
Windmill palm trees are slow growers. They can grow up to 40 feet in nature, but they are usually much smaller. Gardeners tend to keep these popular landscaping fixtures around 10-20 feet tall.
California Fan Palm Trees
California fan palms grow at a moderately fast speed. In warm, sunny climates like their native California, these trees can grow up to 100 feet tall. Because they grow so quickly, they tend to dominate the landscape around them.
Lady Palm Trees
Lady palms, also known as parlor palms, are considered a slow-growing species. They are often kept indoors, where they will grow less than 3 inches in a year. If kept outside, these plants may grow up to 10 inches per year.
Indian Silver Date Palm Trees
Indian silver date palms are common sights in the southern United States, although they are native to India. These fast-growing palms are tolerant of cold weather and can reach a mature height of 50 feet.