Date Palm  Phoenix dactylifera

Records indicate that at one time, dates were grown commercially in what is now Texas. Palm plants were likely brought by early Texas settlers from Mexico more than two hundred years ago. The date palm was brought into Mexico by the Spaniards in 1765 and then dispersed into the southern US. Today California's Coachella Valley grows 60% of the world's supply of dates. Because the weather and soils are so similar to our own in southern Texas, it is surprising that Texans no longer grow dates commercially. This should not deter homeowners from growing them!

The date is a historic fruit. In fact, its origin is unknown because it has been cultivated by man since 6,000 BCE. The Egyptians made wine from it. The Saudis made a syrup and vinegar from dates. Fresh or dried dates were consumed by the entire known world until the 1700s expanded world exploration and trade exchange. Dates were one of the earliest form of barter and considered monetary in multiple Middle Eastern cultures until around 1600.

Date palms will survive drought, but high fruit production demands medium moisture. The female date trees are not self-pollinating, requiring at least one male in the vicinity, but do not require pollination by hand as once thought. The wind and Texas bees can provide the pollination necessary for fruit. Fruiting does not begin on a date palm until the plant is mature, which can take up to 8 years.

The date palm is a stunning and majestic landscape addition that can provide a tropical look without the tropical water levels. It will reach 15 to 20 feet at maturity and grows in a clump or as a single trunk. The leaves are often 3 to 5 feet long with spikes. The lush and extravagant foliage rustle in the wind providing a soothing sound in the landscape. The spikes demand careful placement of the plant in the residential landscape, but also assist in protecting the plant from deer, raccoons or opossums. The date palm is considered drought-tolerant as a landscape specimen and is cold-hardy in USDA Zones 8 to 11. While Central and South Texas do receive severe cold spells periodically, date palms can endure the weather Texas throws at them.