The queen palm (Syagrus romanzoffiana) is a quintessential palm, with a long trunk, soft, feathery fronds that blow in the breeze, and showy fruits that add color and interest to gardens and landscapes. Because the queen palm grows rapidly, it establishes and reaches full height quickly.
Queen palms are winter hardy to U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 9b through 11. Its glossy, bright green leaves recommend the queen palm as an ornamental plant, though their persistent nature means brown and dead fronds often need to be removed by hand. Fronds are alternate, composed of long, sword-like leaves in opposite rows. Showy cream-colored flowers mature to bright orange fruits. Though it doesn’t do so often, the plant has been known to spread, so be careful about planting it near wild areas where it might naturalize.
The queen palm grows rapidly, and is capable of gaining 24 inches of height or more in a single growing season. It is capable of growing to a height of between 25 and 50 feet, which means it is capable of reaching its full stature in as few as 13 or so years. For taller palms, time to maturity may be more like 25 years. Fronds are composed of 12- to 36-inch leaf blades, and the overall crown of the tree may be as wide as 25 feet when mature. Be careful about pruning too many fronds off at a time, as this can cause the palm’s growth to slow and its foliage to decay or abort.
Queen palms prefer full sun and a medium amount of water. They are drought tolerant and prefer well-drained soil, but can also withstand wet soil for moderate periods of time. Although they tolerate a range of soil types -- sand, clay, loam -- they do not do well in alkaline soils, preferring exclusively acidic environments. Alkaline growing conditions may necessitate frequent fertilization and stunt or even kill the palm.
The queen palm can be used as a specimen tree, but is much more often planted in groupings to line a street or walkway. For growing a screen or row of palms, plant them 15 feet apart. Close up they will not provide much privacy, but from far away they will create a barrier between one area and another. Orange drupes or dates provide winter interest. Fruit may pose a litter problem, so be prepared to clean up a mess in the winter months when dates drop from the tree.