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GoatLockerGuns

All Sabal and No Heel

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GoatLockerGuns

So, I have always understood that Sabal species need to have a portion of their heel showing above the ground line when young.  Other palm growers have told me this, and the Palmpedia entry for Sabal palmetto even says the same thing; namely, that “…this is a tillering palm, it exhibits saxophone style root growth (it has a heel), keep top third of heel above soil elevation” (http://www.palmpedia.net/wiki/Sabal_palmetto).  I have always followed that advise for the Sabal species I have grown (S. palmetto, S. mexicana, S. minor, S. causiarum, and S. uresana), and I have kept a good portion on the heel above ground level (both planted in pots, and planted in the ground).  I have had success in most cases; however, I have come to question the necessity of that “conventional wisdom” recently after a trip to visit my father in Cape Coral, Florida last Christmas.  We went to J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island for a hike and, while there, I paid close attention to the young Sabal palmetto palms that were growing all over the place.  I must have inspected over 60 juveniles, ranging from new seedlings, to palm frond heights of 3 to 4 feet.  I could not find one young Sabal palmetto that was showing a heel.  Most of the juveniles without trunks had their petioles growing straight out of the ground (or sand as the case may be).  Since they are growing wild in habitat, I figure this is how they normally grow.  Below are a few pictures I snapped there depicting this.  Do any of you have thoughts on the necessity of showing heels on your Sabal species?

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PalmatierMeg

I'm not absolutely sure but I think the issue of heeled palms is of particular concern when you deal with potted palms. A Sabal in situ in the ground has unlimited space to grow naturally and pull its heel down as far as it wants. A Sabal grown in a pot has a "floor" that keeps it able to pull down only so far. Then the top of the heel becomes visible. If you repot the palm into a larger pot or even in the ground, you have to make sure you do not bury the top of the heel but keep it exposed at the orginal level.  

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Fusca

I've wondered the same.  I grew my Sabal guatemalensis in a community pot for almost 5 years and it stayed in that same pot until I put it in the ground here in SA.  I was amazed that upon close inspection when I planted it that there was a tiny heel just starting and barely visible.  I made sure to plant it at the same level it was in the pot.  It's now about 7' overall height and the heel is not visible.  My Sabal 'riverside' on the other hand showed an obvious heel within a year of germination and is still quite quite prominent and visible after 10 months in the ground.  My S. uresana pictured below has a massive heel in comparison so quite different.  I think it's interesting the different species show this difference.

IMG_20200607_203705.thumb.jpg.873beee94fbfbc68b10bc0440dea70dc.jpg

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GoatLockerGuns
1 hour ago, PalmatierMeg said:

I'm not absolutely sure but I think the issue of heeled palms is of particular concern when you deal with potted palms. A Sabal in situ in the ground has unlimited space to grow naturally and pull its heel down as far as it wants. A Sabal grown in a pot has a "floor" that keeps it able to pull down only so far. Then the top of the heel becomes visible. If you repot the palm into a larger pot or even in the ground, you have to make sure you do not bury the top of the heel but keep it exposed at the orginal level.  

The heel formation in the pot makes since to me.  I wonder why you have to leave the heel at the same height when you plant it in the ground?  Maybe it has been acclimated to the outside air while in the pot, and needs to stay above ground for a time thereafter to survive/thrive after transplanting?  Interesting.

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GoatLockerGuns
12 minutes ago, Fusca said:

I've wondered the same.  I grew my Sabal guatemalensis in a community pot for almost 5 years and it stayed in that same pot until I put it in the ground here in SA.  I was amazed that upon close inspection when I planted it that there was a tiny heel just starting and barely visible.  I made sure to plant it at the same level it was in the pot.  It's now about 7' overall height and the heel is not visible.  My Sabal 'riverside' on the other hand showed an obvious heel within a year of germination and is still quite quite prominent and visible after 10 months in the ground.  My S. uresana pictured below has a massive heel in comparison so quite different.  I think it's interesting the different species show this difference.

IMG_20200607_203705.thumb.jpg.873beee94fbfbc68b10bc0440dea70dc.jpg

Jon, that is not just a heel...that is the whole foot!

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Steve in Florida

Richard, that Sabal is planted too high.  The soil line should be at the level where the gray petioles separate.

Edited by Steve in Florida

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GoatLockerGuns
23 minutes ago, Steve in Florida said:

Richard, that Sabal is planted too high.  The soil line should be at the level where the gray petioles separate.

My pictures were of Sabal palmetto palms in habitat.  I think you may have been referring to Jon's @Fusca post/picture.  You think his Sabal uresana is showing too much heel?

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Steve in Florida
1 hour ago, GoatLockerGuns said:

My pictures were of Sabal palmetto palms in habitat.  I think you may have been referring to Jon's @Fusca post/picture.  You think his Sabal uresana is showing too much heel?

Yes,  I was referencing Jon's picture.  He is going to have some problems when the leaves get much larger.

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PalmatierMeg

In nature heeled palms still form a heel but it may not break the soil surface as the saxophone root grows deeper. 

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Fusca
8 hours ago, Steve in Florida said:

Yes,  I was referencing Jon's picture.  He is going to have some problems when the leaves get much larger.

So you are saying that leaving the top third of the heel exposed as suggested in Palmpedia is not good advice?  I planted my uresana at the same level as it was in the container with the top third of the heel above the soil.  Won't it pull itself down as Meg mentioned in her first post?  That was my understanding as well.

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RaleighNC

It will not pull itself down, but if the growing point is still headed downward, the heel will get deeper.  I disagree with leaving any of the heel exposed when planting a sabal.

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OC2Texaspalmlvr

So I'm definitely under the impression that Sabals that show a heel in a pot should be planted in the ground the same height. Basically sabals get acclimated to that height of its planting. If you submerge said heel you will have more problems then not. Dont all heeled palms eventually bury there heels if possible ? 

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PalmatierMeg

At some point the palm no longer needs the heel, which eventually disintegrates. I've read of heeled Dypsis that will push themselves above ground and need soil added around the stem. Most heeled Dypsis won't grow here.

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Steve in Florida
5 hours ago, Fusca said:

So you are saying that leaving the top third of the heel exposed as suggested in Palmpedia is not good advice?  I planted my uresana at the same level as it was in the container with the top third of the heel above the soil.  Won't it pull itself down as Meg mentioned in her first post?  That was my understanding as well.

The heel is part of the root system.  It is normally found underground in nature.  I try to completely bury the heel when replanting but I don't bury the growth point of the leaves too deeply. The growth point of the plant itself is what you should focus on when replanting.  A properly planted Sabal will grow roots laterally and downward while a shallow planted one must first grow downward to secure itself because it is stressed.  It will also establish more quickly and if you planted several at different depths you would notice that the more deeply planted ones were holding more leaves, if not all leaves, and developing a larger canopy, while the ones with visible roots were loosing lower leaves and generally gave the appearance of being lower quality.

The idea of planting a Sabal with the top third of the heel exposed just for the sake of it makes as much sense to me as builing your dream house and leaving the top third of the foundation exposed. 

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OC2Texaspalmlvr

So I literally couldn't bury this palm any lower cause of the pot size but the growing point looks so much lower then the heel. This is Sabal Causiarum by the way 

20210114_154012.jpg

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GoatLockerGuns
5 minutes ago, OC2Texaspalmlvr said:

So I literally couldn't bury this palm any lower cause of the pot size but the growing point looks so much lower then the heel. This is Sabal Causiarum by the way 

20210114_154012.jpg

That jank is going to grow fast...much faster than any Sabal palmetto, Sabal minor, or Sabal mexicana you may have.  I have two that I grew from seed (one in the ground, and one in a pot).  Not only do both grow faster than any of my other Sabals, but I have have no issues with cold hardiness (yet).  I had spear pull on a Brahea sp. "Super Silver" planted close by during a freak cold spell in November 2019, but my Sabal causiarum weathered it just fine.

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