A medium maintenance plant, the date palm (Phoenix dactylifera) has numerous uses in the home landscape, not the least of which are the sweet, sticky fruits that form in bunches beneath the sweeping canopy. Be aware that date palms are an allergen, so do not plant them if someone in your family is frequently allergic to pollen.
Edible Fruit Tree
Date palms are quite drought resistant, having evolved in parts of the world where soil is dry and rainfall is scarce. Adapted to arid and semi-arid regions, they grow best in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 9 through 11. Their growth rate is moderate, usually topping out at a hundred feet in height. Their most obvious use is as a fruit tree, though dates need bagging to protect them from birds while ripening. Fruits are red or orange when ready to be picked.
Date palms are dioecious, which means that the male and female flowers are located on separate trees. If you are growing dates for their fruit, plant both male and female trees. Without a male tree growing nearby to pollinate the female tree, the female will flower but will not produce fruit. Since one male can successfully pollinate 100 females, you should never need more than one in the home landscape.
Date palms, like many palms, look excellent silhouetted against large, open skylines. If you have a part of the garden that looks out over substantial space, consider planting one or several date palms there as an accent. They also work well as ornamentals lining a street, walkway or driveway, so long as you are prepared to deal with the litter that results from fruit drop on unharvested trees. If you are allergic but simply like the look of date palms, you can plant a female tree, which are far less allergenic.
The leaves of date palms are very large, about 12 to 15 feet in length. They usually self-shear, which means that they fall from the tree when dead without much need for pruning. Sometimes, however, they do require pruning, in which case you must wear protective gear as leaf edges are needle sharp. You can use the tough, fibrous leaves to make ropes and cords as well as baskets and crates. If you are especially creative, you can use them as a fabric substitute for outdoor structures, like an awning.