Phoenix dactylifera

Source: MPF

Phoenix dactylifera

Phoenix dactylifera or date palm has been cultivated more than 5,000 years for its edible fruit called dates.

It is originally from North Africa but the exact location is unknown.

This palm tree is hardy to USDA zone 7 but only in very dry climates. It will not survive frost in wet winters.

Fruit formation occurs only in dry climates.

The date palm is resistant to salty sea air and salty soils and can be grown in coastal areas.

It can be grown in pot as a houseplant and brought outdoors in the summer.

You can grow it easily from seed from dates bought at the supermarket or grocery store.


Phoenix dactylifera forms suckers with age, which are removed in culture in order to maintain a single trunk.

In its habitat it grows up to 27 m high, in cultivation it rarely exceeds 21 m.

The pseudostem is up to 60 cm in diameter, usually 45 cm. Young stipes are marked with diamond-shaped leaf scars. Older stipes usually have a spiral pattern of broad, flat buttons.

The foliar crown is 6 m high and wide with 20-40 leaves. The leaves are 3-6 m long, rigid and slightly curved, the pseudo-petiole is 90-120 cm long. The pseudo-petiole bears long, sharp thorns. The leaflets are rigid, 30-60 cm long, gray-green to bluish gray-green and grow in an angle on the rachis so that the leaf blade has a slight V-shape.

This palm tree is dioecious. The orange inflorescence appears between the leaves, is up to 1.2 m in length and carries numerous small, white flowers.

The fruit is 2.5-8 cm long, oblong or cylindrical, orange when ripe and appears in large, drooping clusters.




The fruit or dates are eaten fresh, dried or processed.

Ground date seeds are sometimes used as a coffee substitute.

The stipe is sometimes tapped for its sweet juice (date honey). This liquid is consumed fresh, transformed into sugar or fermented into an alcoholic beverage. This is rarely done because it impedes the fruiting.

The terminal bud can be eaten as a vegetable but the palm tree has to be felled, so only non-productive palm trees are used for this.


Ground or germinated date seeds are used as animal feed.

Building material:

The stipe and leaves are used as building material.


All vegetative parts may be used as fuel.


Fences, thatch, ropes, packing…

Phoenix dactylifera in an oasis


Commons names:

Date, date palm


Palma dactylifera, Palma major, Phoenix atlantica var. maroccana, Phoenix chevalieri, Phoenix dactylifera var. adunca, Phoenix dactylifera var. costata, Phoenix dactylifera var. cylindrocarpa, Phoenix dactylifera var. gonocarpa, Phoenix dactylifera var. oocarpa, Phoenix dactylifera var. oxysperma, Phoenix dactylifera var. sphaerocarpa, Phoenix dactylifera var. sphaerosperma, Phoenix dactylifera var. sylvestris, Phoenix excelsior, Phoenix iberica


Phoenix: from the Greek phoenix (Phoenician)
Dactylifera: new Latin from the Greek dactylos (date, finger, cluster) and the Latin -fer (bearing)


Northern Africa


Oases, along rivers and streams or in the desert where underground water is available


USDA zone 7-11

Phoenix dactylifera is frost resistant only in dry climates.

Phoenix dactylifera infrutescence



Very well drained, all types, even salty soil


Full sun, partial shade


While this palm tree grows in the desert, it is only slightly drought resistant when older.

In its habitat it grows near water and you must water regularly and keep the soil moist.


As this palm tree grows in the desert, you might think it is satisfied with poor soils and requires little feed but it actually grows on fertile soils.

You should fertilize the date palm regularly: biweekly or monthly fertilizer for palm trees during the growing period.

Fertilizer with high nitrogen content (N) promotes vegetative growth.

Poultry droppings are also very good for the date palm. Apply in spring.


Seed, suckers

Sowing instructions:

  • get the seeds from dates and remove all pulp
  • soak the seeds 2 days in tepid water, change the water once or twice a day (optional, fresh seeds will germinate without soaking first)
  • sow in a moist sowing substrate
  • room temperature: 20-30 °C
  • germination: a few days for fresh seeds
  • transplant the seedlings when they are big enough to handle