Archontophoenix cunninghamiana

Geoff Stein - Author & Editor

Pronunciation: ar-kon-tuh-FEE-nix cun-ning-ham-ee-ANN-uh

Common Name: King Palm (US); Picabeen Palm (Australia); Bungalow Palm (Australia)

Archontophoenix cunninghamiana is one of the most commonly planted palms in southern California and very widely available at many common nurseries. Provides a classic and inexpensive tropical look, particularly if planted in clumps in which the palms can arch away from each other. One of the faster growing palms for southern California. Poor choice for deserts (generally will not survive). Cold tolerance seems much higher in southern California than similar USDA zones on east coast.

Appearance and Biology
  • Habit: solitary; 8-12 leaves per canopy
  • Height: 60 feet
  • Trunk: single, ringed and pale grey; 8" thick; arching sometimes if planted in tight groups
  • Crownshaft: medium to olive green, often darkening to brownish purple towards leaves, 2'-3' and barely wider than trunk except at base where flowers form
  • Spread: 12'-15'
  • Leaf Shape and color: pinnate, arching, flat with characteristic twist in mature palms to point where leaflets perpendicular to ground; leaflets long and closely spaced ending in point; pale green underneath and deep green on top (of pale, yellow or burnt in hot, dry conditions)
  • Petiole: 1' long nearly tubular with flattish surface dorsally; unarmed
  • Reproduction: monoecious and prolific once mature
  • Inflorescence: long, pendulous, often multiple arising from base of crownshaft with lavender flowers (male and female flowers separate but on same inflorescence)
  • Fruit: pale yellow-green to red when ripe; 1cm spherical
  • Seed: 8mm black and spherical
Horticultural Characteristics
  • Minimum Temp: 25F but usually damaged foliage below 28F; some mature palms can recover from brief frosts down to 20F
  • Drought Tolerance: low to moderate
  • Dry Heat Tolerance: moderate
  • Wind Tolerance: low to moderate (depending upon humidity)- higher near coast
  • Salt Tolerance: low
  • Growth Rate: moderate to fast with age
  • Soil Preference: very adaptable, but prefers rich, most soils
  • Light Requirement: full sun to partial shade
  • Human Hazards: fruits/ seeds on sidewalks can be slippery
  • Disease or Horticultural Problems: prone to trunk splitting if overwatered in sloggy soils; rare leaning palm syndrome; ratty looking crowns in dry, windy, hot climates
  • Transplants?: touchy and very difficult to successfully transplant large palms without a lot of preparation and acquiring large, intact root balls- rarely worth the price since so common and fast growing
  • Indoor?: needs too much light to do well indoors
  • Availability: very commonly available (one of the most)

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