Learn how to grow palms and cycads with this online course. Identify the different species and understand their cultural requirements. Horticulturists, Landscapers and enthusiasts will benefit from doing this course.

Course Code: BHT233
Fee Code: S2
Duration (approx) Duration (approx) 100 hours
Qualification Statement of Attainment
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Become an Expert with Palms and Cycads

  • Learn to identify and grow hundreds of palms and cycads
  • Learn to propagate palms and cycads
  • Learn to grow them in pots, as indoor plants and as feature plants in the landscape
  • Indulge a passion, become an expert, find a job, start a business, further your career

Palms are a very important group of plants, primarily throughout the tropics, but also extending into cooler areas. There are some palms which will even grow very well in temperate climates. There are palms growing successfully in cooler places throughout the world, including Tasmania, England, Canada and Cape Cod in the USA. Many palms however are not particularly hardy to the cold, and will be injured by temperatures approaching freezing point. In temperate climates, palms are also often grown as indoor plants.

One of the hardiest palms is the Needle Palm (Rhapidophyllum hystrix). Once established, it is reported hardy to temperatures as low as minus 5 degrees Fahrenheit. It does still like the heat of summer though. Some of the particularly cold hardy palms are:

  • Nannorrhops ritchiana -Survives zero degrees F when established
  • Phoenix canariensis -Mature specimens grow well from England to southern Australia.
  • Sabal minor -Survives zero degrees F when established
  • Sabal palmetto (Cabbage Palm) -Survives to 5 degrees F (maybe lower) when established
  • Trachycarpus fortunei (Windmill Palm) -Are grown successfully in northern British Colombia (Canada)
  • Trachycarpus -several other species will survive low temperatures
  • Washingtonia filifera -There are many mature specimens growing well in southern Victoria (Australia).


Lesson Structure

There are 9 lessons in this course:

  1. Introduction
    • Scope and Nature of Palm Culture
    • Plant Naming
    • Species, Cultivars, Varieties
    • Characteristcs of Palm and Cycad Families
    • Botanical Characteristics
    • Review of Australian Cycad Genera
    • Australian Palm Genera
    • Review of Palms
    • Sub families, tribes and genera of palms\
    • Resources
  2. Growing Palms and Cycads
    • Cultivating Cycads
    • Understanding Soils, Nutrition, pH, etc
    • Soil Mixes for Palms and Cycads
    • Mulches
    • Fertilisers
    • Drainage
    • Planting
    • Water Management
    • Pruning Palms and Cycads
  3. Propagating Palms and Cycads
    • Overview
    • Propagating Palms from Seed
    • Propagating Media
    • Other Propagation Methods (for some palms); eg. Offshoots, layering)
    • Transplanting Seedlings
    • Cycad Propagation; seed, offsets, suckers
    • Transplanting cycads
    • Managing pest and disease
    • Propagating Equipment
  4. Selecting Suitable Palms and Cycads
    • Growth Habits; solitary, clumping, aerial branching, subterranean branching, climbing
    • leaf Types; palmate, pinnate, bipinnate, fan
    • Review of palm genera
    • Cycad genera
    • Cold tolerant palms and cycads
  5. Pests & Diseases of Palms and Cycads
    • Scope and Nature of Pest Management
    • Use of Chemical Legislation
    • Common palm and cycad pests
    • Common palm and cycad diseases
  6. Using Palms and Cycads
    • Growing palms in a greenhouse
    • What palms can be grown in a greenhouse or conservatory
    • Environmental management and plant needs
    • Temperature, Ventilation, Light Management
    • Landscaping with Palms
    • How palms can be used for different affects
    • Planting Design
    • Preparing a Plan
  7. Commercial Applications For Palms & Cycads
    • Scope and Nature of Uses for Palms
    • Rattan
    • Palm Oil
    • Dates
    • Coconut
    • Coir Fibre
    • Palms as Indoor Plants
    • Species Suited to Indoor Plant Culture
  8. Special Assignment
    • A PBL assignment where you deepen your knowledge by planning the establishment of a collection of different cultivars of palms or cycads (your choice) that are suited to growing in a particular situation or locality.
    • Research shows that PBL gives the learner greater long-term benefits than traditional learning. Graduates of PBL courses advance faster and further in their careers.
  9. Other benefits of PBL are
    • Develops critical and creative thinking;
    • Creates effective problem-solvers;
    • Increases motivation;
    • Encourages lateral thinking;
    • Improves communication and networking skills;
    • Is based on real-life situations.


  • Distinguish between the characteristics of different types of palms and cycads.
  • Determine general cultural practices, including propagation, for growing palms and cycads.
  • Choose palms and cycads to suit different climatic situations.
  • Determine treatments for palms and cycads suffering various health problems.
  • Specify appropriate landscape applications for palms and cycads.
  • Explain different commercial applications for palms and cycads.

What You Will Do

  • Distinguish between different plant families, including: *Arecaceae *Zamiaceae *Cycadaceae.
  • Distinguish between different major groups which the Arecaceae (Palmae) family is divided into.
  • Compile a resource file of sources for information on palms and cycads.
  • Prepare an herbarium collection of fifty palms and cycads.
  • Explain different ways to plant different specified palm or cycads plants.
  • Compare growing palms in the ground with growing them in a pot as an indoor plant.
  • Explain appropriate techniques for watering palms and cycads in a specified garden, or collection of container plants.
  • Develop guidelines for preparing a specified soil for planting a palm in your locality.
  • Make a potting media suitable for growing palms or cycads in a 300mm container.
  • Evaluate the chemical analyses of five different types of fertiliser to determine their suitability for use on palm and cycad plants.
  • Prepare a maintenance program for a palm plantation which, includes: *Soil management *Pest and disease control *Weed control *Pruning *Irrigation *A twelve month work schedule.
  • Write a procedure for propagating palms or cycads.
  • Summarise common causes for seed failure when propagating palms and cycads.
  • Perform tasks associated with propagating a palm from seed, including collecting and germinating seed.
  • Identify different environmental zones, in your country on an unlabelled map, which are suitable for growing palms selected from a provided list of twenty species.
  • Determine palm and cycad species which are particularly hardy and adaptable to three different environmental zones within your country.
  • Determine six species of cold tolerant palms and cycads.
  • Develop lists of palms and cycads, suited to grow in each of a variety of different situations.
  • Determine the pests which commonly occur on palms and cycads in your locality.
  • Determine the diseases which commonly occur on palms and cycads in your locality.
  • Develop a checklist of things to inspect when making an assessment of the health of palms and cycads.
  • Evaluate the health of different palms or cycads using a plant health checklist, developed by you.
  • Specify treatments for three different pests which are common on palms.
  • Specify treatments for three common diseases which affect palms.
  • Specify treatments for three common problems which affect cycads.
  • Compare alternative (ie. non-chemical) methods of treating common palm or cycad health problems.
  • Determine five palm species which have spikes on the foliage.
  • Determine five palm species which have no spikes on the foliage.
  • Determine ten palm varieties which have distinct foliage colours other than green.
  • Determine ten self-cleaning palm species.
  • Determine ten palm species which are not self-cleaning.
  • Categorise different palm species according to the texture of the foliage, including: *Broad leaves (e.g. fan palms) *Fine textured feather palms *Coarser textured feather palms.
  • Evaluate the use of palms/cycads in a garden which incorporates at least different varieties, commenting on both aesthetics and function.
  • Draw a landscape plan, demonstrating aesthetic impact, for a garden bed, where palms and cycads comprise 75% of the total number of plants used.
  • Evaluate the use of palms in a commercial interior (e.g. office or shopping complex).
  • Develop a procedure for the production of a palm plant in a wholesale nursery, from germinating the seed to the time it is ready for sale.
  • Determine how a specified palm needs to be treated differently when grown in a greenhouse.
  • Describe commercial farming of palms including the production of coconuts, dates and palm oil.

Tips for Growing Common Palms and Cycads

Most palms originate in tropical and subtropical areas, though some come from cooler zones and are more adaptable.
Generally palms prefer hot, humid conditions. They will often grow slowly for the first year after planting, but with adequate moisture, once the roots establish, they tend to grow fast. Some palms drop dead fronds naturally leaving a bare trunk (ie. are self cleaning). Others which hold dead
fronds have the problem of breeding cockroaches and other insects behind the dead fronds.
Many palms grow as single trunks (ie. solitary) with leaves on top; but others form several trunks, making a denser, bushier habit.


Solitary palms grown throughout tropical and sub-tropical zones. These are self cleaning and easily maintained palms. Very popular for landscaping singularly or in clumps. Both species have similar features and requirements. Needs to be irrigated in dry hot times.
A. alexandra (Alexandra Palm) To 20m with a swollen base to the trunk. Leaf fronds have a silvery tone beneath.
A. cunninghamiana (Bangalow or Picabeen Palm) From 8 to 20m without a swollen base. This species does not have silvery undersides to fronds.
A solitary palm suitable to torrid, tropical and subtropical zones.
B. nobilis (syn. Medemia nobilis) This 8m tall native of Madagascar has blue-green fan shaped frons to 1.5m diametre.
A solitary stemmed group of palms with mild tolerance to seaside conditions and good hot sun tolerance. Features include spiny foliage and bluish-green fan shaped fronds.
B. armata (syn. Erthea armata) (Mexican Blue Palm) Slow growing to 15m
B. edulis (Guadalupe Fan Palm) To 10m tall and 4 m diametre.
Solitary stemmed palms with very high seaside t
olerance, occasional dry tolerance and hot sun tolerance. Regarded as slow growers in most districts. Suited to climates encompassing equatorial zones to cool temperate regions. Feather shaped fronds.
B. capitata (Cocos australia) (Jelly Palm) Very hardy solid palm with edible juicy fruit used for jamming and eaten raw.
B. yatay To 5m with fronds to 3m long. A good sized palm for the home gardener.

Calamus Rattan Palm
A warmth loving slender climber which may be clumping in habit or solitary stemmed. These prickly rainforest palms are native to Africa, Asia and Australia.
C. caryotoides (Fishtail Lawyer Cane), C. muelleri (wait-a-while) and C. autralis (Lawyer Cane) are the three species grown.
C. spicatus to 13m tall, fronds to 4m long. For Equatorial and tropical zones only.
Solitary trunked palms for areas ranging from equatorial to warm temperate zones.
Solitary trunked small genera from equatorial to subtropical areas. 7 16m tall with feather fronds.
Solitary stemmed palm suitable for equatorial to warm temperate zones. The one species C. acuminata grows from 14m to 20m with strong arching feather fronds.
Caryota Fishtail Palms
These palms with distinctively shaped leaf fronds grow from equatorial to warm temperate zones. Palms may be either solitary or clump forming.
C. cumingii To 8m with dense foliage
C. mitis To 12m with a thin trunk
C. no (syn. C. albertii) To 25m and narrow trunk
C. ochlandra A good landscaping fern.
A large genus of palms suitable for equatorial to warm temperate climates. Most are very ornamental and adaptable to garden situations.
C. atrovirens A clumping palm to 3m high and 3m wide. Makes a good screen.
C. cataractarum Attractive palm good indoors
C. elegans (Parlour Palm) A small palm to 2m. Excellent as an indoor palm.
C. seifrizii (Bamboo Palm) Clumping palm with bamboo-like stems to 2m
Chamaerops humilis (Mediterranean Fan Palm/European Fan Palm)
A clustering fan palm which is extremely hardy. Will grow in tropical zones to cool temperate. Will also tolerate coastal areas, full sun, shade and dry conditions once established. Its form varies from a single trunk growing to 6 m to clumps of ground covering trunks (usually seen as a low spreading plant). The leaves are a fan of narrow, stiff, dark green leaves up to 1 m in length.
A genus with highly decorative feather fronds. Suited best to tropical and subtropical zones. It will grow in warm temperate zones. It is slightly tolerant of salt laden seaside winds.
C. lutescens (Golden Cane Palm) Large clumper to 10m with attractive yellow-golden trunks. Good palm for landscaping.
C. madagascariensis To 10m with a single greyish-brown trunk.
Single trunked or clustered palms suited to equatorial to warm temperate areas.
C. alta (Silver Palm) silvery, slender trunk, to 10m, green fan shaped fronds.

The source of the edible coconut, C. nucifera, this palm grows up to 30m, a dwarf variety grows to around 8m tall. Is well adaptable to seaside conditions. Equatorial to subtropical zones are needed.
Solitary trunked palm grown in equatorial to warm temperate areas. It is dry area tolerant once established.
C. hospita (Cuban Wax Palm) to 9m tall, palm shaped 1m dia. fronds.
C. umbraculifera (Tailpot Palm) to 18m tall, Foliage and flower
heads both spread to 5m diameter on top.
Solitary stemmed palms for tropical to warm temperate climates. Graceful feather shaped fronds up to 3m long.
H. belmoreana (Curly Palm or Belmore Sentry Palm) Grows to 6m.
H. forsteriana (Kentia Palm) To 15m, popular indoors.
Solitary stemmed palms tolerant of hot sun conditions. Suited to equatorial and warm temperate zones. Most have distinctive swollen bases. All have feather shaped fronds.
H. lagenicaulis (Bottle Palm) To 6m, fronds 1-2m long.
Jubaea chilensis Chilean Wine Palm
Large grey trunk to 25 m tall x 1.3 m broad; massed head of dull green, stiff feather leaves; bears orange yellow fruits. Suited to tropical and warm temperate zones. Generally will need frequent watering until fully established.
Clustered trunked palms suited to tropical and warm temperate zones.
L. australasica To 4m tall with deep green feather fronds. Very tolerant of shady conditions.
Single trunked palms for the warm and humid areas of the word. It does not tolerate cool temperate zones. Is sun tolerant once established.
L. loddigesii (Blue Latan Palm) to 15m with bluish-grey fan fronds.
Single stemmed or cluster palms suited best to subtropical or warmer and more moist environments. Distinctive palmate leaves, almost circular.
L. gracilis Cluster palm to 1.2m high
L. grandis Solitary palm to 3m
L. ramsayi (syn L. muelleri) (Queensland Fan Palm) Solitary palm to 5 or 12m.
A large genus of twenty eight species from tropical to warm temperate zones. Most species will need some protection when young. Useful species for landscape features, tub specimens and indoor plantings where they can be given room to spread (ie. offices and public buildings).
L.australis (Australian Fan Palm, Cabbage Tree Palm) Ringed dark trunk to 20 m, topped by heavily divided fan leaves. The hardiest species in the genus, especially to frosts.
L.chinensis (Chinese Fan Palm) Most common fan palm in cultivation. Broad trunk to 10 m, cream flowers and dark grey fruits. Frost hardy.
L.decipiens (Weeping Cabbage Palm) Similar in appearance to L.australis; fan leaves are longer, more divided and drooping, smaller trunk. Frost hardy.
L.mariae (Central Australian Fan Palm) Trunk is 15 20 m, topped by a crown of long silvery green leaves. Flowers are cream.
Nannorrhops ritchiana
Mazari Palm. Occurs naturally in Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Arabia at altitudes up to 1600 m. Clustering habit with branching trunks, blue green fan leaves on upright stalks, orange brown fruits. Tolerant of frost, wind, drought, snow; dislikes humidity and overwatering.

A single or clustered trunked palm suitable for tropical to warm temperate zones.
N. decaryi (Triangle Palm) To 5-10m tall with triangular base of leaf sheaths.
One species : N. normanbyi (Queensland Black Palm) Solitary trunked to 20m with feathered fronds in a plume-like appearance. Suited to equatorial and warm temperate zones.
Seventeen species which are distributed in Africa, Middle East, Asia, south China and the Philippines. Usually occur in semi-arid areas though well adapted to equatorial zones and cool temperate areas. All species can be grown indoors while young. Regularly remove old leaves to maintain appearance. Hardy in cold and dry conditions but will grow best with regular watering in sheltered positions. P.canariensis (Canary Island Date Palm) Upright palm with a heavy trunk to 20m; large head of long feather leaves to 6 m. Showy orange fruits. Needs room to spread. Grows well in cool areas.
P.dactylifera (Date Palm) Stout trunk to 20 m; sparse head of grey green leaves; suckers at base of palm. Commercial source of dates which only form in hot, dry climates.
P. reclinata (African Wild Date Palm) forms a clump with several
trunks to 7m tall and 3m long fronds.
P.roebelenii (Dwarf Date Palm) Will eventually grown to 3 m; leaves are 1.5 m long. Popular indoor pot plant place in bright light, and keep soil moist but not wet.

Solitary trunked palms suited to only equatorial and tropical zones. Feather shaped fronds. Palms are armed with spines.
P. filaris (Wanga Palm) fast growing in hot climates to 50m tall
Solitary trunked palms grown in equatorial to warm temperate areas. It is tolerant of full sun.
P. pacifica (Fiji Fan Palm) to 10m tall, slender trunk, 1m dia fronds
Warmth loving palms with either solitary or clump forming habits. Tolerant of full shade. Feather fronds.
P. elegans (Solitaire Palm) To 10m with a short crownshaft and pale undersides to the leaves.
P. macarthurii (Marcarthur Palm) Slender clumper to 6m.
A localised group of palms which prefer tropical and subtropical zones only, though they can be grown outside this areas with care. Solitary trunked.
R. glauca Attractive palm to 6m
R. rivularis (Majestic Palm) Very attractive popular palm
Small clump forming palms suited to equatorial and warm temperate zones. Regarded as one of the better genera for shade growing.
R. excelsa Dense clump to 3m with deeply divided fan shaped fronds.
Hardy palms, tolerating tropical zones to some frost. Protect from hot, drying winds and provide ample water and rich soil. Solitary trunked palms with very good seaside tolerance. feather shaped fronds.
R.baueri (Norfolk Palm) Ringed grey trunk to 10 m, red fruits.
R.sapida (Feather Duster Palm) Grey ringed trunk to 6 8 m, purple-red fruits.
Roystonea (syn. Oreodoxa)
Robust solitary trunked palms for equatorial to warm temperate zones. Very tolerant of hot sun and wet conditions. Feather shaped fronds.
R. regia (syn O. regia) (Cuban Royal Palm) To 25m with a 2m crown shaft and
3-4 m long fronds. A very fast grower given the right conditions.
Palmetto Palms. Hardy fan palms which will tolerate light frosts but prefer warmer conditions. Require room to spread. Grow best in fairly rich, moist soil but will adapt to drier conditions.
S.bermudana. Thick trunk, topped with compact head of blue green fan leaves. Hardy palm but prefers good drainage.
S.domingensis Thick trunk to 20 m. Best species for hot, dry inland areas.
S.minor (Dwarf Palmetto) Short trunk to 2 m best species for container growing.
Strong growing palms suited to equatorial zones through to warm temperate zones. Most have solitary trunks and plume-like feathered fronds. They are tolerant of full sun and many are suited to near full shade conditions. Some are armed with spines.
S. coronata (Licury Palm) To 9m which retains old leaf bases.
S. romanzoffiana (syn. Arecastrum romanzoffianum, Cocos plumosa) (Queen Palm) An easy to grow palm to 25m with 5m long fronds.
Solitary trunked palms for equatorial and warm temperate areas.
V. merrillii (Manilla Palm) To 7m with deep green recurved feather leaves. Red fruits.
Widely used as specimen and street tree plantings. Tolerate both hot and cold conditions. Position in full sun in well drained soil. Needs room to spread. Suitable for tubs in open, sunny areas.
W. filifera (American Cotton Palm) Thick grey trunk to 15 m; retains old leaves to give a "petticoat" effect. Tolerates drought, heat and frost.
W. robusta (Cotton Palm) Brown trunk to 25 m; fan leaves with thorns. Popular palm but not considered as hardy as W. filifera.
Solitary trunked palms suited to equatorial, tropical and subtropical areas. Once established it is fairly dry area tolerant.
W. bifurcata (Foxtail Palm) To 15m with highly ornamental plume-like fronds.

Cycads look like palms but are more primitive plants bearing cones rather than seed, and unlike palms they grow slowly. Cycads are like palms grown by seed, but seed can take many years to germinate.
51 species from Africa. Varied but showy genus. Blue coloured species usually tolerate heat and drought; blue green leaved species prefer cooler conditions; green leaved plants require regular watering and protection from sun. Good feature plants in the landscape. Propagate from seeds or from offshoots.

17 species from Australia, ranging from arid inland conditions, to eucalypt forests in eastern and south western Australia. Most species
prefer shaded conditions; they make excellent pot specimens, providing soil is rich and moist. The following species should tolerate light frosts:
M. communis
Burrawang. Occurs in coast and ranges in NSW. Trunk up to 2 m; numerous arching, upright fronds to 2 m long.
M. diplomera.
NSW inland ranges. Subterranean trunk; approx. 40 upright fronds.
M. spiralis.
Sydney to the Western Slopes, NSW. Subterranean trunk; approx. 12 spiralled fronds.
M. stenomera.
Northern Tablelands, NSW. Subterranean trunk; approx. 10 fronds, often spiralled.

Other genera classified as cycads include: Bowenia, Ceratozamia, Cycas, Dioon, Lepidozamia, Microcycas, Stangeria and Zamia.


Who will benefit from this course?

Landscapers, Horticulturists, collectors and home gardeners will benefit from doing this course. Students will learn about the different species of Palms and Cycads, propagation techniques, pests and diseases, and nutritional requirements.


UK Register of Learning Providers, UK PRN10000112

Our principal John Mason is a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Horticulture

ACS Distance Education is a member of the Australian Garden Council, Our Principal John Mason is a board member of the Australian Garden Council

Member of the Nursery and Garden Industry Association since 1993

ACS is a silver sponsor of the AIH. The principal, John Mason, is a fellow. ACS certificate students are offered a free membership for this leading professional body.Provider.

Course Contributors

The following academics were involved in the development and/or updating of this course.

Bob James

Horticulturalist, Agriculturalist, Environmental consultant, Businessman and Professional Writer. Over 40 years in industry, Bob has held a wide variety of senior positions in both government and private enterprise. Bob has a Dip. Animal Husb, B.App.Sc.,

Rosemary Davies (Horticulturist)

Rosemary trained in Horticulture at Melbourne Universities Burnley campus; studying all aspects of horticulture -vegetable and fruit production, landscaping, amenity, turf, aboriculture and the horticultural sciences.
Initially she worked with the Depart

Gavin Cole (Horticulturist)

Gavin started his career studying building and construction in the early 80's. Those experiences have provided a very solid foundation for his later work in landscaping. In 1988 he completed a B.Sc. and a few years later a Certificate in Garden Design. I

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