Foxtail palm

Foxtail palm

The foxtail palm tree, Wodyetia bifurcata, is native to Australia but can grow in most tropical areas of the world. It thrives in USDA Hardiness Zones 10 and 11. Although the tall trunk bears some resemblance to other palm varieties, the fronds of the foxtail have a different appearance. Each limb on the foxtail is surrounded in fronds that grow perpendicular to the limb. The result is that the limbs look like a bottle brush or the tail of a fox. Growing a foxtail palm is similar to growing other palm trees.

These trees bear thick fronds that resemble a fox tail and give the tree its name. Gardeners in hardiness zones 10 and 11 can grow these trees; those in zone 9 can try growing foxtail palms with some winter protection.  Foxtail palms produce a creamy white flower and bunches of fruit that are green and then red when ripe.

How to grow

1 Select a site that offers full sun to dappled shade and enough room for your palm to mature. These trees can grow up to 30 feet tall and the fronds spread 15 to 20 feet. Foxtails are fast-growing palms.
Purchase young trees from a palm broker or local nursery and plant them in the spring.

2 Dig a hole twice the size of the palm tree's root ball, removing rocks and weeds from this hole.

3 Pull your foxtail palm from its container and loosen its roots by massaging the root ball between your hands. Trim the ends of any broken roots using clippers.

4 Place the foxtail palm in the prepared hole and backfill the hole with soil, firming the soil around the base of the tree

5 Water the newly planted palm until the soil becomes saturated with water and compresses around the palm trunk.

6 Water the foxtail palm whenever the soil becomes dry and crumbly to the touch, watering until it becomes saturated.

7 Wrap young palms in burlap to protect them from winter frosts. Floridata notes that these palms can tolerate chills up to 27 F before sustaining damage. Wrap the entire trunk in burlap and drape it over the leaves, securing the layers with safety pins. Remove the burlap when the frost passes.

Growing Conditions

Because they are hardy, foxtail palms are considered easy to grow. They will grow in virtually any well-drained soil, including sandy or rocky soil. It will likely do best growing in full sun, but partial shade locations are also tolerable for the foxtail palm. As a plant native to northern Australia, they are quite drought-resistant. In cooler months, occasional waterings are needed. During the rest of the year, it's best to regularly provide a good, deep watering. Over-watering can be a concern with foxtail palms, so be sure not to give too much water at once.


Fertilize foxtail palms regularly to promote growth and good health. The ideal fertilizer should contain slow-release potassium, otherwise the tree could develop a potassium deficiency. Choose a fertilizer that is rich in micronutrients. When a foxtail palm is properly maintained, which will require proper watering, it typically grows between 2 and 3 feet a year, reaching a maximum height of about 30 feet. A foxtail palm can also typically tolerate strong ocean winds and some mild to moderate salt sprays. Apply the manufacturer's recommended dose range for your palm tree, which depends upon the tree's size and age. To apply the fertilizer, scatter the suggested dose around the palm trunk then water the ground to disperse nutrients through the soil.

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