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PlantFiles: Wild Date Palm, India Date Palm
Phoenix sylvestris

Family: Arecaceae (ar-ek-AY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Phoenix (FEE-niks) (Info)
Species: sylvestris (sil-VESS-triss) (Info)

One vendor has this plant for sale.

2 members have or want this plant for trade.


over 40 ft. (12 m)

20-30 ft. (6-9 m)
30-40 ft. (9-12 m)

USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)
USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)
USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 C (30 F)
USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 C (35 F)
USDA Zone 11: above 4.5 C (40 F)

Sun Exposure:
Full Sun

Plant has spines or sharp edges; use extreme caution when handling

Bloom Color:

Bloom Time:
Late Spring/Early Summer

Grown for foliage

Other details:
Drought-tolerant; suitable for xeriscaping
Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Soil pH requirements:
6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)
6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)
7.6 to 7.8 (mildly alkaline)

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:
From seed; germinate in a damp paper towel
From seed; germinate in vitro in gelatin, agar or other medium

Seed Collecting:
Remove fleshy coating on seeds before storing
Properly cleaned, seed can be successfully stored

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to view:

By IslandJim
Thumbnail #1 of Phoenix sylvestris by IslandJim

By palmbob
Thumbnail #2 of Phoenix sylvestris by palmbob

By Greenprem
Thumbnail #3 of Phoenix sylvestris by Greenprem

By palmbob
Thumbnail #4 of Phoenix sylvestris by palmbob

By 1cros3nails4gvn
Thumbnail #5 of Phoenix sylvestris by 1cros3nails4gvn

By 1cros3nails4gvn
Thumbnail #6 of Phoenix sylvestris by 1cros3nails4gvn

By mustangman826
Thumbnail #7 of Phoenix sylvestris by mustangman826

There are a total of 30 photos.
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6 positives
2 neutrals
No negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Positive SouthTexaspalm On Dec 16, 2012, SouthTexaspalm from Cibolo, TX wrote:

This palm grows quickly in the San Antonio area. While it does get damaged by temperatures between 23 and 21 degrees F, the spear for me has stayed green and by Labor Day, it has fully recovered. This palm should be more widely planted here. Does great with the heat and drought.

Neutral NorthSC On Feb 13, 2012, NorthSC from North, SC (Zone 8a) wrote:

I planted Phoenix sylvestris (purchased in a blue plastic pot from LOWE'S in 2011) in the ground in the spring of 2011. It grew quite some and when the winter came it was a mild winter of 2011-12 and the lowest temp was 22F just one night and then more than a month later we had 28F followed by another night of 25F. The palm is brown some and green some, but I was able to pull the central spear. So it either is fully hardy (as a 4 ft. plant) to Z10 or perhaps it is true when some nursery specialist told me to NOT purchase any palms in blue pots from LOWE'S, because he said the nursery who grows those palms treat them with something that makes those palms 1 full hardiness zone less hardy. So whichever is true I was surprised that in Z9A (mostly Z9B) weather this palm that should survive Z8B had its spear pulled easily the next day after we were hit by 22F-25F for a few hours at night. It does not mean it will die, cause it may recover but a spear-pull is not a good sign. Update: The plant died later, it did not recover.

P.S. I just bought a larger specimen with a 2 foot "trunk" and planted it in a sunny spot. Will see how it does this spring, summer and especially the next winter. Hopefully the much larger tree will survive. Update Oct. 2013: The larger palm survived 20F (one night) and numerous 24-26F nights past winter 2012/2013 with very little damage (to the ends of the outer fronds) and has grown a lot this year.

UPDATE: Winter 2013-2014 - the palm that was doing great during the past two winters got completely brown, but has some greenness on its frond bases near the trunk, which gives a hope.

REMARK: I wish everyone would describe hardiness of a plant in several stages: while a seedling, while a young plant, a larger plant but still without much trunk and then an adult plant. This same palm as a small 1 footer can get damaged by temperatures that are much warmer than 20F. Make it a new default standard and lots of new research.

Some plants while small can get killed by 32F or below (or above), yet some can withstand down to 20F more or less as seedlings. This kind of research and info is important to provide along hardiness for adults palms. Giving hardiness info (USDA zones and temperatures) just for adult plants is not enough to get the entire picture.

Mine as a 4 ft. plant in the ground got exposed to one single night ( a couple hours) of 22F and that killed it.

Positive Fires_in_motion On Feb 11, 2011, Fires_in_motion from Vacherie, LA (Zone 9a) wrote:

This excellent, if very spiny, palm is becoming quite popular as the date palm of choice in southern Louisiana. I will always consider it the "poor man's Phoenix dactylifera," but it does have one big thing going for it: It's all but immune to graphiola (false smut), a leaf problem that plagues P. dactylifera and P. canariensis in humid areas with lots of rain. It (along with P. dactylifera) also is immune to the terrible Fusarium wilt that devastates P. canariensis. Its growth rate is intermediate between those two. Mine is extremely cold-tolerant, showing zero damage down to the mid-20s F, despite being in a pot (~15 gal.) on a cold concrete driveway. Some specimens have a very orange/peach color to their upper trunks / leaf bases, while others are more of a standard date palm grayish-brown. Select a nice one and you won't regret it, as long as you live in zone 9A or higher, though they should be fine even in 8B. (My aunt has a big one in her yard on Skidaway Island in Savannah, GA.)

Overall, I'd love to see this tree completely replace P. canariensis in the rainy Gulf South, due to the disease resistant traits I listed above, and due its overall more elegant look, mainly due to having a narrower trunk and bluer fronds.

Where to see them:
A quartet (planted in '09 or '10) in front of the Kenner Police Dept. a few feet from I-10 at Loyola Ave.
Tons (planted in 2008 or '09) in front of P.F. Chang's restaurant at Lakeside Mall on Veterans Blvd.

Positive donnacreation On Mar 21, 2010, donnacreation from Sumter, SC (Zone 8a) wrote:

This palm was heavily marketed here in central SC last summer. I planted three in mid August, and protected two with xmas lights and frost cloth in Dec. The unprotected specimen turned brown, but it is still alive with a half green spear that won't budge. The specimens protected are beautiful and green. I only protected them for about 2 months, and only burned the lights those nights when the temps dropped below about 22f. I moved 2 a few weeks ago and was amazed that they had developed extensive root systems in only 7 mos. I will never attempt to move another Sylvester date - they root quickly and are covered in dangerous and very long thorns. I'm hoping that they will become more hardy with age, so winter protection is no longer necessary. Time will tell.

Positive AmandaTaylor7 On Jun 6, 2007, AmandaTaylor7 from Alvin, TX (Zone 9a) wrote:

WOWOWOWOWOW!!!!!!!! How beautiful!

Positive gardnerj On Jun 12, 2004, gardnerj from Streetman, TX wrote:

Sylvestris dates are not supposed to do well in my temperate zone, 8a-8b. It has survived it's first winter and seems to be doing quite well.

Neutral palmbob On Aug 30, 2003, palmbob from Acton, CA (Zone 8b) wrote:

This is a striking Phoenix, though often confused with Phoenix canariensis. It has more blue-green leaves with more visciously spiney leaflet tips, and slightly more plumose looking. Finding 'true' undiluted species is not that easy, but they are around. I have had several seedlings and they are particularly slow, but forgiving palms (take 'unintentional' drought well).

Positive IslandJim On Aug 29, 2003, IslandJim from Keizer, OR (Zone 8b) wrote:

This is another palm in that promiscuous phoenix tribe that includes the pygmy date [P. roebelenii], the California date [P. dactylifera], the Senegal date palm [P. reclinata], and the Canary Island date [P. canariensis].

The picture I have posted, however, is a one of a kind--it's a three-headed palm. I've heard [but I don't think it's true] that there are only a half dozen multiple-head palms extant. Whatever; this is one--a three-headed sylvester.


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Encino, California
Santa Barbara, California
Visalia, California
Boca Raton, Florida
Brandon, Florida
New Port Richey, Florida
Niceville, Florida
Palm Bay, Florida
Venice, Florida
Houma, Louisiana
Kenner, Louisiana
La Place, Louisiana
Lutcher, Louisiana
Metairie, Louisiana
Beaufort, South Carolina
Bluffton, South Carolina
Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
North, South Carolina
Saint Helena Island, South Carolina
Alvin, Texas
Austin, Texas
Schertz, Texas
Streetman, Texas

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