everglades palm

Wet Garden? Consider a Palm Tree

“What can I grow in a wet garden?”

Well, here’s an interesting question. It was a plea of help in an email from a lady in Florida with a boggy, soggy landscape. She has given up trying to fix it herself and it’s far too expensive to have it done professionally. No more fighting. “What can I grow?”

She wants to keep the tropical aspect and have I got the trees to give her a start on it. Tropical palms. Well, not all of them, but there are a good many palm trees that thrive in icky, wet soil.

About Palms

What distinguishes a palm from other trees is its lack of bark on the trunk. The palm’s trunk, called the stem, is softer than bark trees, giving the tree the ability to sway with the wind. Most of the over 3,000 species of palms are native to the tropical regions of the world that receive a minimum of 20 inches of rainfall a year. Because they don’t need to search deep in the soil for moisture, rainforest palms have shallow root systems, with some palms occasionally producing roots above the soil.

Here’s a couple to get you started Liz:

mangrove fan palm
Licuala spinosa by Eric in SF (Own work) CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 via Wikimedia Commons

 Licuala spinosa

Licuala spinosa is commonly known as the mangrove fan palm, which gives you an idea of how much this palm tree loves wet soil. It is native to river banks in Southeast Asia. The mangrove palm tree requires high humidity levels and is best grown in tropical regions, although it is listed hardy to zones 9 through 11 on the U.S. Department of Agriculture Plant Hardiness Zone Map, so does well in subtropical Florida.  L. spinosa grows to 15 feet in height.

Licuala grandis

ruffled fan palm
L. grandis

Another member of the Licuala genus, Licuala grandis, is native to the rainforests of the Solomon Islands. Commonly known as the ruffled fan palm, it bears a slender trunk – 4 to 5 inches in diameter – and grows to 10 feet in height. L. grandis must have wet soil at all times. The ruffled fan palm does best within USDA Hardiness zones 10 and above. Grow it in full sun in the tropics and provide afternoon shade in the drier air of the subtropics. You can purchase both seeds (go here) and L. grandis seedlings (here) online.

FULL DISCLOSURE: I get commissions from purchases made through links in this post. I haven’t received any products for free — all of the ones I refer you to are those that I purchase and use in my own garden.

barbados royal palm
Roystonea oleracea by Danielrengelm (Own work) GFDL via Wikimedia Commons

Roystonea oleracea

If you like your palms tall, consider Roystonea oleracea, the Barbados royal palm. Native to swampy areas from the Lesser Antilles to northeastern South America, R. oleracea grows to a majestic height of 65 feet. In Trinidad, where this palm grows in the rainforest swamps, conditions are changing such that seedlings are forced to compete with increased forest floor vegetation and many are unable to survive. R. oleracea bears a single, slender white trunk and requires full sun and consistently wet soil.

Acoelorrhaphe wrightii 

palms for wet gardens
Everglades palm

Another palm that advertises its love of wet soil in its nickname, the everglades palm (also commonly known as the paurotis palm), Acoelorrhaphe wrightii, is native to Caribbean, West Indies and Florida swamps. A. wrightii is a clumping palm, the fans of which bear a silver cast. Although the individual trees in the clump grow at different rates, they are all capable of reaching 25 feet in height. A. wrightii does best when grown within USDA Hardiness zones 9b through 11. Buy seeds online here.


There is a wonderful Australian site you can visit  for more info: The Palm and Cycad Societies of Australia