Rhapidophyllum hystrix is one of the most frost tolerant palm species. There is only one species in the genus Rhapidophyllum. The natural habitat of this palm are the wet areas of the South-Eastern part of the USA. However, thanks to its frost tolerance which is as low as – 20 °C it is a very popular garden plant around the world, particularly in Europe.
It is a hardy palm species, which grows only 1–3 meters tall with many attractive spines on the trunk. Rhapidophyllum hystrix is a small shrubby fan palm, which produces suckers freely, these multiple stems creating an ever-widening rounded clump of indeterminate width. Over time, the tightly packed stems will form an impenetrable thicket. The needle palm does not form a trunk but instead has a slowly lengthening crown that may grow to about 1.2m long and about 17.8cm in diameter. The stems are composed of old leaf bases, fiber, and long slender spines. They are usually upright but in older clumps; they may lean or grow prostrate along the ground as they compete for light and space. As each stem matures, more slender spines grow from between the leaf attachments Seeds should be sown into wet soil and kept at the temperature about 20 °C. During the first 3 years, it is recommended to keep young palms away from any frost. The needle palm prefers a moist position in the sun or shade, but generally requires more sun as latitude increases. They look best, however, when situated in partial shade. When grown in full sun the crown tends to become quite compact and the leaves lose their dark green color. Plants older than 3 years can be kept outside in the garden during the whole year if you are living in an area where the temperature does not fall bellow minus 10 °C. In cold areas, you need to supply sufficient winter protection when the temperature falls bellow minus 10 °C. As a frost, tolerant palm it requires well drained soil and should be positioned south. The biggest enemy of this palm during the winter is not frost but soil that is too wet.. A combination of low temperature and too much water will destroy the roots. This palm is able to survive frost up –15 to –20 °C. The lowest recorded temperature, which it survived, was –28 °C.
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