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Grown in the perfect place and in the correct climate, dates are among the best plants that a gardener can grow and cultivate. Apart from being long-lived, the date palm can also produce a heavy crop.
It can also survive well as only a few diseases and pests may hamper its growth. If you have plans for growing date palms, continue reading, as this article will serve as your guide.
Quick Facts about the Date Palm Trees
- Botanical name: Phoenix dactylifera
- Common name: Date palm
- Type of plant: Tree
- Size: 20 to 40 feet wide, 50 to 80 feet tall
- Type of soil and pH level: Loamy, sandy, and well-drained; acidic, alkaline, and neutral
- Sun exposure: Full sunlight
- Hardiness zones: USDA 8 to 11
- Bloom time: Spring
- Native Area: Middle East
What are Dates?
Also called date palms and with the scientific name, Phoenix dactylifera, dates are among those plants considered the earliest to be cultivated in history. This is the reason why they were already part of the lives of humans for several centuries.
Date palms are among the most common fruits found in the Middle East with the majority of crops being grown and cultivated there or in North Africa. Note that they only thrive in areas with hot and dry climates.
For growers who live in North America, the only suitable zones for growing date palms are those in zones 8 to 11. While it is not that easy to grow and harvest palm dates, growing this plant is still fun and exciting. It may require a bit of work but you will be rewarded with impressive fruits.
They are also great additions to your garden as they are highly nutritious, allowing you to use them as healthy ingredients for your food. They are rich in various nutrients, among which are B vitamins and fiber. This is a low-calorie fruit, too.
Types and Varieties
Commercially grown date trees have numerous varieties, but the most common one you can see in most supermarkets and stores is the Medjool date. Medjool dates are so popular worldwide that they were classified as the king of this particular plant.
If you are still unfamiliar with the Medjool date, note that its semisoft yet firm texture is the best way to describe it. It is also moist and sweet. Apart from Medjool dates, you can also find other varieties in areas where they grow well.
Some of these varieties are the following:
Commonly found on Israel’s boulevards, this variety is semi-soft. It features firm flesh. When it already has ripe dates, you will notice them turning from light red to brown. Deglet Noor dates also tend to ripen late.
This common date palm variety, which tends to ripen mid-season, is recognizable because of its sweet taste, caramelly nature, and thick flesh. It looks wrinkled and comes with skin in the color of yellow to amber. The texture and flavor of Halawi dates can also be likened to that of chocolate.
Considered the oldest of the many varieties, Zahdi is extremely popular. It can bear fruits that are chewy and you can store for a long time. If you intend to grow this plant, note that it is a big and fast-growing tree that also has a solid trunk. This variety also grows well in places with a dry climate.
What’s good about this variety is that it has a prolific fruit production. In fact, it can produce fruit every year that can reach up to twenty bunches. This medium-sized plant is also famous for its fruits that are amber in color.
This date palm variety grows well in an environment that resembles a desert. It can tolerate humidity well. It has small fruits, but they are still great because of their sweet, syrupy, and dense nature.
How to Plant and Grow Date Palms?
As a native plant to the Mediterranean regions, the date palm trees can survive well in warm, dry, or humid climates. It is also best to grow a date in semi-arid or arid areas. The perfect zones are 10 to 11, but some varieties can grow and thrive well in zone 9.
It is crucial to note that this plant requires a max of 4 years to reach maturity. However, it is still typical for them to bloom during early spring or late winter. If your place has a cold winter climate, it is advisable to plant the date palm in a container, allowing you to move it easily inside once the winter season comes.
Another thing you should note when planning to grow date palms is that some of their varieties both feature female flowers and male flowers. In this case, they are capable of self-pollinating.
Meanwhile, others require specimens of both male and female. It is advisable to check this once you get a hold of the date tree. You can plant your dates using saplings, palm offset, or seeds.
To plant date trees using their saplings, here are the steps you should take:
- Dig a hole – It should be two times as deep as the tree’s root ball size.
- Add soil to the hole – This is so you can refill it. Make sure you use loose soil and make the hole half full.
- Put the date palm tree in the hole. It should sit level with the earth surrounding it.
- Use the remaining soil to fill in the hole you made. Gently tamp it down then water sufficiently.
From a Palm Offset
One possible problem you may encounter when using seed to plant dates is that you will have no idea what you will get. You may receive date seeds from a female or male tree.
For you to avoid getting confused between a male and female tree, it would be best to plant the sapling or the palm offset referred to as the pup. It refers to the particular area of the plant where the palm develops its growth off the trunk.
Here’s how you can plant the date from a palm offset or pup:
- Cut off the palm offset or pup carefully – Ensure that both have roots and leaves.
- Paint it with copper fungicide, specifically at the spot where the offset was cut off – This is to prevent the development of diseases.
- Get the root hormone then apply it to the plant offset – After that, plant it into a seed-raising mix.
- The next thing to do is to keep the mix moist. Transplant once you notice more development for the top growth and the roots.
If you intend to grow a date from seeds, it would be ideal to use Medjool dates as they have a higher chance of survival. Here are the things to do:
- Buy a few Medjool palm dates then take out their seeds. Wash the seeds using tepid water. Make sure that you have removed every bit of its flesh.
- Put the date seeds in water then soak them for 48 hours. Do not forget to replace the water once 24 hours pass. This is a crucial tip as it ensures that the date seed will be soft for germination.
- Get a damp paper towel then fold the seeds there. Ensure that the seeds do not touch each other. Put them inside a plastic bag then seal.
- Store the bag for around 8 weeks. Make sure that the place where you store the bag has a temperature of around 70 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Check the seeds every two weeks. Towel them every time you check them, too. This can help ensure that mold does not form while retaining moisture. Use a new paper towel every time you are scheduled to check the seeds and if you notice mold formation.
- Hopefully, the seeds will germinate after 8 weeks. It would come in the form of a new and fresh sprout.
- Plant this germinated date seed in a new pot containing cactus soil mix. It should be planted in the potting soil half an inch deep. Start watering sufficiently then wait for it to grow.
Caring for your Dates
To increase the chance of your date trees growing regardless of the method you choose for planting them, ensure that you focus on providing them with the following:
As you may have known by now, this plant loves plenty of full sun as much as it loves the dry and hot climate. They are still capable of tolerating light shade. However, they can thrive even better when exposed to full sun, specifically at least 6-hour direct sunlight.
Ensure that you grow the date in well-draining soil. The soil must also be loamy or sandy and tolerate salt well. In addition, it tends to grow well in soil pH that is a bit acidic to alkaline.
Humidity and Temperature
They also love to be in a hot, sunny, and dry place. You have to ensure that the temperature you provide is around 95 degrees Fahrenheit. This temperature is necessary for the pollination process to take place.
Palm dates are still capable of withstanding temperatures that are around 20 degrees F. However, such cold weather may damage its fronds, or worse, kill the plant.
In terms of its fruits, you can expect them to do well in dry heat. Do not expose this plant to too much moisture and humidity, which may only result in rotting.
Once established, your date tree will most likely become drought-tolerant. However, you should still remember that even moisture is necessary for healthy and fruitful crop production during the fruiting and flowering season.
The water requirement of young trees is also higher than mature trees. Avoid having a completely dry soil but ensure that you also prevent the soil from becoming too soggy.
Manure is one of the best fertilizers for palm dates. However, if you prefer using packaged fertilizer, it is highly recommended to go for the specialty palm tree variety.
Apply this fertilizer based on the instructions stated on the label during early spring or late winter. This is to prepare this plant to produce fruit and flowers in the next few months.
When growing and caring for dates, one more thing that you have to be familiar with is the pollination process. In that case, be aware that these plants are among those with separate female and male trees.
The female trees are only the ones that can bear fruits. With that in mind, it is advisable to grow one male tree, at the very least, for every six female trees. As for the pollination process, take note that it often occurs through the wind.
Generally, the date tree does not require more pruning than what you need to do to get rid of diseased or damaged fronds. It is also necessary to carefully remove suckers that start to grow at the trunk’s base. That way, the tree can give the energy it has to the primary trunk.
You also have to check your tree now and then to know if they already bear several bunches of fruits. If that happens, thin any unripe bunches. This is necessary to improve airflow around the fruits that are already ripening, preventing them from rotting and increasing their size.
Common Pests and Diseases
The white scale refers to small sap suckers feeding on your dates’ fruits and foliage, affecting fruits’ overall quality and health. One sign that white scale is around is when you notice a sticky substance covering the leaves.
There may also be some small bumps appearing on the plant’s stems and fronds. Handle white scale by coating it with horticultural oil. The oil will clog the pores they use for breathing, thereby smothering them.
Date palm spider mites are also those that feed on dates, thereby ruining your yield quality. There is a high chance that spider mites are around if the plants drop off their fruits prematurely.
To deal with spider mites, get a sulfur-based product to dust the date palm tree annually. Do this when the spring season comes.
If the mites are visible, deal with them by using a strong force of water to spray each branch. This should help knock off all the mites present in your tree.
Another possible solution is to use neem oil as a spray for the tree. You can also control spider mites with the aid of insecticidal soap.
This fungal disease is known for spreading too quickly once well-established. One sign that your tree has this disease is when its foliage lightens or becomes white. There is also a high chance for its exposed roots to become red.
If this disease affects your date palm tree, it is ideal to remove and burn the plant since aside from having no cure, it also tends to spread.
Black Scorch Disease
This disease may cause your date palm tree to appear similar to when you have set it on fire, causing all its parts to blacken due to the flames. You will notice the buds and trunk rotting. It is also possible for the buds to fall off even before they get the chance to set properly.
You can prevent the black scorch disease through proper sanitation. This means you have to wash your gardening tools every after use. Do not also do something that may damage or cut the tree. When pruning, use fungicides based on copper to prune the plants’ wounds.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How long does it take to grow dates?
On average, female plants may need up to eight years for them to start producing fruits. This is when you grow them from seeds. If you grow the tree from an offshoot, expect it to begin the date fruit production process within just a short period of time.
Can you grow dates at home?
Yes, you just have to make sure that you can offer the proper environment that it needs to grow successfully and healthily.
What climates do dates need to grow?
To survive, ensure that you grow them in hot and dry climates.
Are dates easy to grow?
In general, the answer is yes, it is indeed easy to grow this plant. Just make sure that you provide the plants with the right climate. The soil conditions should also be appropriate for the date palm, so you will never have problems growing them.
Also, ensure that the palms did not have any serious disease or pest infestation. They should also be capable of tolerating drought.
Are palm trees and date palms different?
Date palms belong to the palm family. This means that while all date palms fall under the category of palm trees, you can’t apply the same premise to palm trees. The reason is that not all palm trees you know can be considered date palms.
The majority of the plants that belong to the family feature feather-like, evergreen, and large fronds while being native to tropical and subtropical climates. They can also produce various foods: dates, the heart of palm, coconuts, and palm oil.
Growing dates is a good idea as their successful survival can let you enjoy a bountiful harvest. In most cases, the fruits will start ripening when the late summer and early fall come. Note, though, that not every bunch ripens simultaneously.
Expect 20 lbs. of fresh dates during the first harvest of a young tree. As for the mature tree, it can produce fruits that already weigh hundreds of pounds. You will also love the fact that the fruits are easy to harvest.
Just wait for them to become brown and soft, then use a sharp knife to cut the tree’s bunch off. You can then store them for around a month at room temperature when placed in an airtight container. You can harvest dates that are also good to use for up to six months when stored inside the refrigerator.