The right palm tree for your home

Wednesday October 2 2019

Areca palm at Nican Resort on Entebbe Road. The

Areca palm at Nican Resort on Entebbe Road. The Areca palm, just like the sago palm, is good for small spaces. Photo by Tony Mushoborozi 

By Tony Mushoborozi

Palm trees are some of the most beautiful trees in the world. These tall trees with very unique trunks and magnificent leaves are naturally found along the tropical regions of the world. They are associated with warm sunshine, sandy beaches and dreamy landscapes. For that reason alone, palm trees are very popular in landscaping. There are over 2,600 palm tree species. Some palm tree species are stemless while some are shrubs. There are even climbing palms. But it is the tree-like ones, with a tall trunk and beautiful fronds at the top that are the most popular.

Palm trees can be used to transform the aura of any property. Hotels use palm trees to strike an image of hospitality. Businesses plant palms at their premises to communicate friendliness. Condominium properties use palms to strike a balance between natural beauty and metropolitan elegance. Home owners plant palms to create a tropical experience at home. Fortunately, there are species suitable for any amount of space; for expansive compounds and for compact spaces. Some species are so small they can be planted at your doorstep. Some can even fit in a pot.

Simon Singa, a landscape designer, says about 30 palm species are popular on Uganda’s market. “Palms are some of the most popular plants on the market. Unfortunately, most people have very little information about the subject and they often chose the wrong species for the wrong purpose.”
As it is, there are specific species suitable for specific functions (read spaces). Here are some of the species you can choose from for different types of properties.

For miniature home gardens – christmas palm
Most homes in Uganda come with a small garden. After building a house and a parking space on a standard plot of a 50ft by 100ft, the remaining space for a garden is usually quite small. Some plots are even smaller. For spaces of this size, the christmas palm is the suitable species, according to Simon Singa. “Christmas palms don’t grow tall. They don’t grow big as well. That means they won’t crack your walls or shoot past the height of the house and taking their beauty past the eye,” he says.

Other species that grow slow and short include the phoenix palm, the Alexander palm, the Areca palm and the Sago palm. These are suitable for small spaces. “You need to appreciate the fact they concentrate the beauty in the right area for a long time. They keep at eye level for a very long time,” Singa says.

For expansive gardens – coconut, royal, queen palms
Some homes are posh enough to come with very large gardens, some as large as an acre and beyond. The species to chose from in this case become quite endless. While smaller species can be planted in expansive gardens, it’s the larger ones that paint a better picture.


Larger gardens will naturally come with larger, more imposing structures, for instance, a large storeyed home, a hotel, an office block, or even an ivory tower. For that kind of space, species like the royal palm, the Coconut palm, and the queen palm work better.
“If the property is at the lake, the coconut palm will be right at home,” says the young landscaper, adding: “Royal palms and queen palms grow faster and they reach very great heights. This means that they will beautify very tall buildings and make them look more imposing and regal. That is the whole point,” he says.

The doorstep – areca palms
The areca palm, also called the golden cane, or yellow palm, is special because it usually grows in threes or fours from the same root base. They are too small to corrupt the structural integrity of the house and they create a leafy environment because they come in multiples.

They do not break the wall because they are too small and they grow too slowly. Other palms suitable for the front door include the lady finger palms.
“All these are easy to take care of. Growth rate slow and their average height is between 6-8 feet and they will not exceed five or six feet in width,” Singa says.

Beautifying the fence – travellers palm

This species is short and leafy. It grows more to the sides than vertically. Several of those will create a great pattern along the perimeter wall, whether inside or outside.

Same goes with the sago palm, which is bushy and spiky. If the wall is stronger and the space bigger, the foxtail palm and the yellow cane palm are suitable for this function. The triangle palm is great here too. All these are safe near the house, according to landscapers.

Species for shedding – fishtail palm
One of the leafiest palms available is the fishtail palm. Its leaves are quite different from the fronds that identify most other species. They resemble fishtails.

It works great as a shed, but since this species grows large and tall, it must be planted very far away from any walls. Other species that work best as sheds are the chusan palm and the travellers palm. The chusan palm because of its umbrella-like or fan-like fronds, and the travellers because of its leafiness.

For potting – sago palm
There are palm trees small enough to grow comfortably in a pot. If your spacious balcony gives you a feeling of emptiness, you might want to add a couple of sago palms in pots. This species is so small that it can grow in a pot comfortably.

Its bulbous stem shoots out several spear-like branches with sharp leaves, making it appear like a ball. Other species that can be potted include the areca palm whose stems can be as small as miniature bamboo when potted. The other good one is the lady finger palm.