What Is A Pindo Palm? (5 Things To Know)


If you want an attractive tree that stays small and resists cold, a pindo palm might be on your radar.  This adaptable tree can make a great addition to your landscape in zones 8 through 11.

So, what is a pindo palm?  A pindo palm is a perennial tree with a thick knobby trunk.  It is native to southern Brazil and Uruguay.  A pindo palm has large leaves (grey or green) that are 4 to 6 feet long.  The leaves have fronds up to 15 inches long.  A pindo palm tree produces flowers and fruit, which can be used for making jams and jellies (hence its alternate name of “Jelly Palm”.)

Of course, pindo palms cannot survive everywhere, so it makes sense to check your cold hardiness zone before ordering this interesting palm tree.

In this article, we’ll talk about pindo palm trees and how to care for them.  We’ll also answer some common questions about pindo palms.

Let’s get started.

What Is A Pindo Palm?

Pindo palm (Butia odorata, formerly known as Butia capitata) is a type of palm tree and is native to southern Brazil and Uruguay.  It is also known as jelly palm.

pindo palm tree
A pindo palm tree is perennial with large leaves that have many fronds. It produces flowers and fruit.
Image courtesy of user:
William Avery via:
Wikimedia Commons https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:
Butia_capitata_Madrid.jpg

Pindo palms are perennial, with leaves that are pale grey, blue-green, or dark green.  These large leaves provide plenty of shade underneath the tree.

Pindo palms grow in sandy or rocky soil, and they prefer dry and sunny conditions.

What Does A Pindo Palm Look Like?

A pindo palm has a thick trunk that may become curved over time.  As the tree ages, the trunk becomes knobby due to the bases left behind by leaves that are removed.

Pindo palm trees have feather-like leaves that arch towards the trunk.  The leaves have many leaflets attached at a V-shaped angle.

pindo palm tree
The trunk of a pindo palm may become slightly curved over time.
Image courtesy of user: MichaelMaggs via:
Wikimedia Commons https://commons.
wikimedia.org/wiki/File:
Butia_capitata,_Tresco.JPG

According to the University of Florida Extension, pindo palm leaves are 4 to 6 feet long.  The individual fronds on the leave can reach up to 15 inches long.

Pindo palm sometimes serves as a host for certain lichens and Ficus cestrifolia (a type of epiphytic fig, which climbs up other trees).

Do Pindo Palms Have Thorns?

Pindo palms do have thorns.  These thorns (or spines) are found at the margins of the petioles (which attach the leaves to the trunk of the tree).

pindo palm fronds
Pindo palm trees have thorns (spines) around the margins of the petioles (where the leaves attach to the trunk).
Image courtesy of user:
KENPEI via:
Wikimedia Commons https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:
Butia_capitata3.jpg

However, the trunk itself has no thorns.  Rather, the trunk becomes knobby over time as leaves are removed and leave behind their bases.

Do Pindo Palms Flower?

Pindo palms do produce flowers, which are showy and fragrant.  According to the University of Florida, pindo palm flowers are white and appear in the spring.

The flower stalks are 3 to 4 feet long, but the flowers themselves are small (less than 1 inch).  With proper pollination, these tiny flowers will eventually produce fruit.

Do Pindo Palms Produce Fruit?

Pindo palms are capable of producing fruit, which are often called pindo dates.  Pindo palm fruit is small (up to 1 inch in diameter), and usually wider than it is long.

pindo palm tree unripe fruit
Pindo palm trees produce fruit, which is green when unripe.
Image courtesy of user:
KENPEI via:
Wikimedia Commons https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:
Butia_capitata4.jpg

Pindo palm fruit contains lots of pectin, which makes it ideal for use in jams.  Pindo palm fruit comes in a variety of colors, including:

  • Yellow
  • Orange
  • Red
  • Purple
  • Yellow-green

The flesh of pindo palm fruit is usually yellow, and the fruit flavor is a combination of sweet and sour.  Like the flowers, the fruit is very fragrant and attracts squirrels and other animals.

pindo palm ripe fruit
Mature pindo palm fruit is yellow, orange, red, purple, or yellow-green.
Image courtesy of user:
Moxfyre via:
Wikimedia Commons https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:
Ripe_fruit_of_Butia_
capitata_on_the_vine.jpg

Pindo palm fruit can make a mess when it falls to the ground.  The fruit also contains a hard nut, which contains 1 to 3 seeds.

How Tall Does A Pindo Palm Get?

Pindo palm trees often only grow 15 to 20 feet tall, with a width of 10 to 15 feet.  However, they can grow as tall as 33 feet (10 meters).

pindo palm tree
A pindo palm tree grows slowly, but can reach a height of 15 to 20 feet or more.
Image courtesy of user: Blmurch via:
Wikimedia Commons https://commons.
wikimedia.org/wiki/File:
Pindo_Palm.jpg

Pindo palms grow slowly, so it is rare to see them get this tall.

How Much Does A Pindo Palm Grow Per Year?

According to Clemson University, a pindo palm has slow to moderate growth.

How Long Do Pindo Palms Live?

According to the Citrus County Chronicle, pindo palms can live for up to 80 years.  Since they are so slow-growing, it will take several years for them to grow to full height.

Where To Find & Buy Pindo Palms

Remember that pindo palms are hardy in Zones 8 to 11.  They will not survive outdoors in colder locations (such as far northern states in the U.S.)

frosted leaf
Pindo palm trees are cold-hardy, surviving in Zones 8 to 11.

As a result, you should check your cold hardiness zone with this map from the USDA first.

Here are some places you can find pindo palm trees to buy:

Pindo Palm Care

Pindo palm trees need little maintenance.  They are highly adaptable to a wide variety of conditions.

Pindo palms can survive in many different soil types, but they like well-drained soil.  According to Gardenia, they can tolerate some salt, and they can survive with acidic, neutral, or alkaline soil pH.

According to the University of Arizona Extension, the best time to plant a pindo palm is during warm weather.  Soil temperatures of at least 65 degrees Fahrenheit (18 degrees Celsius) are optimal for root development to help young trees get established.

They are surprisingly cold-hardy, and are able to tolerate temperatures much colder than you might expect!

Pindo Palm Cold Hardiness

Pindo palm trees are remarkably resilient in terms of cold tolerance.  According to the University of Florida, they can survive temperatures as low as 5 degrees Fahrenheit (-15 degrees Celsius).

However, pindo palm is generally considered hardy from Zone 8 (minimum temperature of 10 degrees Fahrenheit (-12 degrees Celsius) to Zone 10b.

In colder climates, pindo palm trees might be able to survive outdoors in spring, summer, and fall.  However, when extreme cold threatens, they will need to come indoors or be kept in a heat greenhouse.

Keeping them in pots will limit their size and make it easier to move them indoors and outdoors as the seasons change.

How Much Water Does A Pindo Palm Need?

Pindo palms need very little moisture once they have an established root system.  As a result, you can water mature trees infrequently with no trouble.

However, in the first two years, pindo palm trees need more water to get established.  You may need to water daily in hot, dry climates in the southern U.S.

water
A pindo palm needs little water once established, but requires more during the first two years.

Remember that sandy soil drains faster than clay soil.  Also, keep in mind that soil in containers dries out faster than the ground, so plan accordingly if you are growing in pots.

You can learn more about how to treat dry soil in my article here.

When To Fertilize Pindo Palms

According to the University of California, pindo palms should be fertilized 2 to 3 times during the warmer months of the year (April through August in the U.S.).

According to Clemson University, fertilization of pindo palms should begin after new leaves appear (indicating that the tree is established after planting).

Louisiana State University suggests that pindo palms have a greater need for magnesium than some other plants.

The University of Florida suggests using a special palm fertilizer 4 to 6 times per year (every 2 to 3 months).  For example, you can find PalmGain plant food at Home Depot.

Without enough nutrients (such as nitrogen), older palm leaves (near the bottom of the tree) will turn light green or yellow.

The University of Arizona Extension suggests using a fertilizer that has about 3 times as much nitrogen and potassium as phosphorus.  For example, you can find 15-5-15 fertilizer from Peters’ Excel at A.M. Leonard.

Pruning A Pindo Palm

According to the University of Florida Extension, pindo palms do not automatically lose their leaves.  This means that it will take some work to keep the trees looking neat if you want to remove older leaves.

According to the University of Arizona, you can leave old dead leaves to form a thatch for decorative purposes.

If you do decide to prune a pindo palm, do not remove green leaves.  Remove only yellow and brown leaves and flower stalks that have died.

It will be much easier to remove a pindo palm leaf when the leaf base is dry.

Remember that pruning too high will expose tender new growth to disease or insect damage.

Pindo Palm Propagation

You can propagate pindo palm trees by seed.  You will first need to wait for flowers to appear and ensure pollination.

pindo palm seeds
Pindo palm seeds are found inside nuts, which are found inside the fruit from the tree.
Image courtesy of user:
Abrahami via:
Wikimedia Commons https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:
Butia_capitata_seeds.JPG

Then, when the fruit forms, wait for it to ripen.  The fruit contains a nut, which will contain 1 to 3 seeds.

According to the University of Florida Extension, pindo palm seeds will take many months to germinate, so be patient!

Conclusion

Now you know what pindo palms are.  You also know a little more about where they grow best and how to care for them.

I hope you found this article helpful.  If so, please share it with someone who can use the information.

If you want to read some of my most popular posts, check out the “Best of GreenUpSide” page here.  Enjoy!

~Jonathon

jonathon.david.madore

Hi, I'm Jon. Let's solve your gardening problems, spend more time growing, and get the best harvest every year!

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