Monocots comprise one quarter of all flowering plants and include some of the largest and most well known groups of plants: orchids, palms, grasses. Bromeliads are members of a plant family known as Bromeliaceae (bro-meh-lee-AH-say-eye). The family contains over 3000 described species in approximately 56 genera. The most well known bromeliad is the pineapple. The family contains a wide range of plants including some very un-pineapple like members such as Spanish Moss (which is neither Spanish nor a moss). Other members resemble aloes or yuccas while still others look like green, leafy grasses. In general they are inexpensive, easy to grow, require very little care, and reward the grower with brilliant, long lasting blooms and ornamental foliage. They come in a wide range of sizes from tiny miniatures to giants. They can be grown indoors in cooler climates and can also be used outdoors where temperatures stay above freezing.
Indeed when people think of palm trees, they envision tropical beaches. Yet some palms grow quite well in less idilic arenas. With a little effort, you can grow a few palms of your own.
- Windmill Palm -
The windmill palm (Trachycarpus fortunei), which is native to the Himalayan region, has a reputation for being one of the world's hardiest palms. It has an amazing ability to survive, even when completely defoliated. It grows to about 40 feet tall and develops a solitary trunk covered with matted fiber. The palmate leaves of the windmill palm can grow to 4 feet wide and are deeply divided with drooping tips. It should be planted on a well-drained site that is protected from winds. It performs best when planted in partial shade as an understory plant or where it receives afternoon shade. Some arboretums have several cultivars if you want to see one before you plant, including "Bulgaria", "Norfolk", and "Taylor's Hardy".
- Windamere Palm -
Another hardy palm native to the Himalayans is newer to the landscape trade so it can be difficult to find. The windamere palm (Trachycarpus latisectus) grows fast once it develops a trunk and can attain heights of 40 feet and a trunk diameter of 6 inches to 1 foot. This palm has large, leathery leaves with very wide leaflets and faint rings on the light-gray trunk.
- Palmetto Palm -
The native dwarf palmetto palm (Sabel minor) is easier to find at local nurseries. This evergreen palm has a slow growth rate and reaches 10 feet tall at maturity. It prefers light shade and moist to wet soil, but tolerates considerable drought. Sabel minor produces small white flowers on large branched clusters in summer. Sabel a "Birmingham", commonly accepted to be a hybrid of Sabel minor, makes a nice show in the landscape as well.
No matter what your summer travel schedule looks like, by including a few hardy palms in the landscape, you can have that tropical feel year-round.