Needle palm, Rhapidophyllum hystrix - care

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Needle palm - Rhapidophyllum hystrix

The name derives from the needle palm (Rhapidophyllum hystrix) the dark brown, about 20 cm long spines that grow from their trunk. The small but expressive needle palm reaches in the field even at a high age only a height of a maximum of 2 meters. The small-sized palm forms short trunks from which it produces its deeply cut fan-shaped fronds.
Very decorative, very exotic and at the same time easy to care for, the coniferous palm is a popular houseplant that does not make any great demands in the tub. The native of North America slow-growing Rhapidophyllum hystrix from the family Arecaceae is frost tolerant and evergreen. In the winter garden, on the terrace, the balcony, in the room and when planting in the garden provided with a sufficient winter protection, the Rhapidophyllum hystrix is ​​a real asset that impresses with a lot of flair. However, the Rhapidophyllum hystrix is ​​rarely offered in our latitudes.

Substrate & soil

Like other representatives of the palm genus, the needle palm prefers a substrate of potting soil and coarse sand that is mixed with gravel, lavagrus or expanded clay. Loose and airy, well permeable to water, but providing sufficient support, most palm species cope much better in a substrate mixture than in regular potting soil. The commercially available palm earth takes this into account, but it can also be further embodied. Peat should be avoided if possible, because it can burn the roots. But clay and humus can be added to the substrate in small quantities. Too much pre-fertilized soil should be avoided, since palm trees basically only have a very low nutrient requirement.


After repotting is not fertilized, provided that pre-fertilized soil was used. Otherwise, the plant is supplied with nutrients every fortnight with a liquid fertilizer (alternatively granules, fertilizer sticks, etc.). Suitable is a special palm fertilizer, a fertilizer for green plants or another, nitrogen-stressed fertilizer. Fertilization takes place only during the main growth phase of the coniferous palm from April to late summer. Fertilization is stopped just a few weeks before the start of the rest period in winter, and watering is also reduced.

To cut

The needle palm is not cut at the top because there is the vegetation point. Brown leaves can be removed after complete drying with a sharp knife, because only then the plant has withdrawn all reserve materials from the leaves. If brown leaf tips are removed, leave a small withered edge to avoid further withering of the leaf.


Propagation of Rhapidophyllum hystrix can be done by seed. These are planted in potting soil in spring in small pots and placed in a bright and warm place. Press the seeds into the soil about 1 to 2 cm deep and always keep the substrate moist (spray).


The needle palm is astonishingly hardy and can spend the winter outdoors (winter hardiness zone 7). However, you should be granted a sufficient moisture and winter protection. The palm trees planted in the garden are covered with foil to protect the trunk tips and fronds from water and precipitation. On the sides, the winter protection remains open to ensure adequate ventilation. As with other types of palm, the fronds can be tied up during the winter and loosely wrapped with fleece. However, this winter protection must be opened regularly to ensure the exchange of air and to prevent rot. The temperature minimum of -15 degrees Celsius should not be undercut in the short term. If the needle palm spends the rest period in the house, then the room temperature is ideally at 8 degrees Celsius (+/- 5 degrees). The location of the needle palm should always be bright in winter. After hibernation, the plant is slowly getting used to the sunlight again.


Planted in the garden, in the tub on the terrace or in the pot in the room culture, the coniferous palm tree grows very well. The needle palm tolerates a sunny to full sun, but should always be used slowly to the full sunlight to avoid a leaf burn.
Tip: From April to October, the needle palm spends its time outdoors. On balconies, terraces and gardens, it becomes a decorative focal point.


In winter, the temperature should be about 8 degrees Celsius. At higher temperatures, the plant may not be able to enter the necessary resting phase. In low-light conditions, this leads to increased root growth. Therefore, special attention is required to avoid drying of the substrate. In summer, the plant gets along well with all temperatures. In very dry air is like sprayed with lime-free water.


For the needle palm is a deep as possible pot, because even their roots seek in the depth. The deep root system enables the plant to absorb liquid and important nutrients during long periods of drought. In addition, the plant reaches a good stop to withstand tropical storms. When repotting the substrate is initially only slightly pressed and possibly filled after casting.

to water

When the top substrate layer is well dried, plenty of water is poured to thoroughly soak the soil of the deep pot. However, waterlogging should always be avoided, as it allows the formation of mold in the substrate and favors root rot. The casting rhythm depends entirely on the outside temperatures, the growth phase of the plant and the sunlight.

Diseases and pests

Spider mites and in winter shield and mealybugs can infest the needle palm. In case of small infestations, the careful wiping of the parasites may help. Occasionally, alcohol-grease solutions are recommended. However, it should be noted that these remedies also harm the plant. In most cases, the handle is recommended for an effective pesticide from the trade, which provides a quick and relatively gentle remedy. In winter, in dry air, regular spraying of the plant is beneficial to prevent spider mite infestation.
Nursing errors show in palm trees first on their leaves. If these brown or yellow are first to reduce fertilizing and watering. In case of doubt, the plant should be repotted in new substrate. If the leaves show brown and irregular spots, this can also indicate that the sun is too intense. The needle palm should be slowly acclimated to the full sun and initially not exposed to the blazing midday sun. The unsightly leaves are carefully separated with a sharp knife.
Tip: Excessive sun exposure can also lead to leaf burning in the light-loving needle palm.

Frequently asked questions

  • Is it allowed to spray needle palm trees? - All palms like a high humidity. Low-calcium water prevents unsightly stains on the leaves.
  • Is it allowed to pour with tap water? - If tap water is used, this should not be too calcareous. Leave the water in the ladle for a few days.

Worth knowing soon

The needle palm is native to the southeastern United States. It is not common there and it is still rare in culture. Rhapidophyllum hystrix becomes about 2 meters tall in old age.


  • The needle palm prefers a moist, sunny to partially shaded, warm location.
  • As the crown increases, the demand for sun increases.
  • Plenty of sun and warmth, especially in autumn, promote growth and frost hardiness.
  • Since the needle palm is very wind-prone, a wind-protected location should always be selected.
  • Wind destroys the leaves and older plants can tip over. This is due to their poor stability by the flat root system.

plant substrate

  • For the Rhapidophyllum hystrix one uses a soil mixture based on compost. To this sand, gravel, expanded clay or lava granules are added.
  • In any case, the plant substrate must be well drained. It can also be slightly alkaline, which is very unusual for palm trees.
  • When the roots grow up out of the plant pot, it's time to repot. Repotting is done in the spring. Place the plant in a slightly larger vessel.
  • Important is a good ground drainage, both in the pot, as well as in the field.


  • The needle palm does not need much water. The plant substrate should always be kept slightly moist. The root ball should be evenly moistened down to the bottom.
  • Between the watering, the top layer of the earth is allowed to dry. Stagnant water must be avoided.
  • In winter, the needle palm needs only a little water. The plant bale should not dry out. Mn lets about 2/3 of the earth dry well before pouring again.
  • Dryness does not get the needle palm. Especially in the summer is to pay attention to a regular water intake.


During the growth phase, the needle palm is fertilized every 4 weeks with a commercially available liquid fertilizer.


  • Young plants are, at least for the first 3 years, better to cultivate than potted plants. These should be protected as soon as frost levels prevail. The vessels must not freeze, the roots do not tolerate.
  • Planted needle palm trees can reach -10 ºC without protection. Adult specimens tolerate temperatures down to -22 ºC. The above-ground part of the palm is far more frost-resistant than the root.
  • The biggest threat to Rhapidophyllum hystrix is ​​not the frost, but wetness. A combination of low temperatures and too much water destroys the root system.
Tip: If the palms overwinter in the house, they must not be placed directly in the sun when exhibiting. Otherwise, it can happen that the leaves burn.

to buy

  • The needle palm is rare to buy.If you find one, then usually only a small palm.
  • These seedlings or young plants cost about 10 euros. Larger copies are much more expensive.
  • Seeds of Rhapidophyllum hystrix are even harder to get. Also, the cultivation is difficult.

Video Board: Rhapidophyllum hystrix Needle Palm.

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