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Sentimental Pygmy Date Palm problems

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Hello folks. I have a bit of a unique situation that I’m hoping to get some sound advice on. 

So about a year ago I ordered online a young Pygmy date palm. Here’s a little background story: my father was killed three years ago and he loved palm trees and so do I. So to honor him in a positive way I decided to put some of his ashes in the pot with my new palm tree. I live in Reno NV so it’s really no easy place for a palm tree to live. I moved the palm outside when the weather wasnt extremely hot or cold but when the extreme weather hit the palm was kept inside near a window. I watered it once a week. This last fall when I moved the palm inside it wasn’t looking too good. I used palm fertilizers and artificial lighting to try to save it but it’s completey dead now and heartbreaking considering my unique story. One by one the fronds shriveled up and easily pulled out of the base. I know a fungus killed my palm as there is a white mold growing on the soil surface. I want to purchase a new Pygmy date palm but I obviously cannot change the soil as that would be the best option to getting rid of the old fungus. What do you recommend for my new palm to succeed in the old soil? 

Thank you! 


Edited by Cushion16

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Hi Cushion,

you can and you must change the soil. go back a page or two and you will find other threads on this. 

e.g.  Your soil mix, tell us 

Palms in pots require an entirely different 'growing medium'  to plants in the ground. They don't usually grow well in 'soil', only in the short term. 

Indoors, in a pot and in a cold locality are all less than optimum for palms. The potting mix is specialized to help to balance these deficiencies.

Although I don't know your weather, the new one will probably be fine if you address the growing mix. Some of the soil and ashes could be added.

Cheers Steve



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I've sterilized small quantities of soil using a kitchen microwave. Put soil in cardboard box, put in microwave on high.  I've done it to kill weed seeds but perhaps with a little research you could find out if that would kill the fungus.

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You can sterilize the soil by pouring it into a metal pan, then baking it at 300 degrees in the oven for an hour to sterilize and dry it.

Growing a pygmy date in a pot in a difficult climate requires a very well draining potting mix. Plain black potting soil will be too dense and tend to turn to muck that will suffocate palm roots. You needs a coarse, light mix which you might have to mix yourself by starting with a quality palm/cactus soil, then mixing in additives like perlite, pumice, fine gravel. Other PTers can suggest other things to add. Secondly, I can almost guarantee you overwatered the palms - every palm newby does. Phoenix palms have a lot of drought tolerance and are more likely to damaged by overwatering than underwatering. Don't water on a strict schedule but only when the top 1" of mix is dry, then water sparingly. Let all excess water drain away - never let pot sit in a tray of water. All Phoenix are sun lovers and need high levels of light indoors.

Don't overpot. The pot in your photo is way too large for those 3 little dates. It will hold water and promote root rot. BTW, they pygmy date is a solitary palm. You may prefer to buy a larger single palm for that pot. If you try smaller pot, your may want to bag and store the sterilized soil with your dad's ashes for when the palm is larger and you upsize its pot.

Welcome to PalmTalk.

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Baking the soil would definitely kill the fungus and spores.  It wouldn't remove any toxins in the soil built up as a result of mold growing in it.  I'm not sure what to suggest there.  I don't know if mycotoxins break down over time, or if they would be an issue for planting a new palm in the same soil.

Meg is definitely right on the pot size, that one is about twice the diameter (and probably depth) that a pygmy triple that size would need or want.  I bought a healthy 3' tall triple in a pot smaller than that, and it was barely rootbound.  Most potted palms tend to like being in smaller rather than larger pots.

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@Cushion16 I would perform the steps suggested by @PalmatierMeg with the soil if it has to be kept.  If you don't need large pygmies right away, I have about a million volunteers growing in my front planter that I can dig out and send to you in a few weeks.

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Here is my pygmy. Actually 4 of them. When I bought them in a 5g pot the roots had Grenaded the pot everywhere which was a perfect choice for me. Back in August I put it in a pot that’s only an inch bigger a side and it has been growing amazing. If I grab the largest of the 4. The whole palm and roots slide right out of the pot. This palm has been indoors on my basement t floor since end of September. Has some artificial light and the room is kept always in mid 70s. So far it has become my fav palm to keep potted. I only water when it’s dry a few inches down. Which could be a month in between 


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