How to Plant and Grow Foxtail Palm

This tropical tree needs all the sunshine and warmth it can get.

foxtail palm tree against blue sky
Denny Schrock.

The foxtail palm (Wodyetia bifurcata) is an easy-growing tree for frost-free regions (Zone 10–11) that grows fast and produces fronds with a lush, full, feathery look. A well-grown tree can have massive fronds up to 12 feet long. Just take care when placing foxtail palms so that nothing below them is damaged when the fronds die of old age and drop from the tree. It produces clusters of colorful red fruits, which add to its ornamental appeal. It comes in single-trunk and multi-trunk varieties.

Foxtail Palm Overview

Genus Name Wodyetia bifurcata
Common Name Foxtail Palm
Plant Type Tree
Light Sun
Height 20 to 30 feet
Width 10 to 15 feet
Foliage Color Blue/Green
Season Features Winter Interest
Special Features Attracts Birds, Low Maintenance
Zones 10, 11
Propagation Seed

Where to Plant Foxtail Palm

Though native to Australia, foxtail palm is well-adapted to growing in USDA zones 10-11 and is frequently seen in South Florida, where this palm is a go-to variety for tropical landscaping. Its quick growth means you can enjoy a good-sized tree in just a few years.

Foxtail palm works well as a focal point in most landscapes, as long as its large size doesn't overwhelm the house or surroundings. Like many palms, foxtail palms are particularly attractive surrounding a pool, either planted in the soil or in large, heavy containers.

These palms are moderately salt-tolerant, so they're a good choice for coastal areas. Because they like a lot of light, foxtail palms can be tricky to grow indoors unless you have a conservatory or greenhouse, but they make beautiful specimens if you have adequate light to keep them alive.

Foxtail palm is often planted by itself, but it looks best when grouped or clustered as three or more. This creates the look of a tropical oasis and the perfect spot to place a garden bench or arbor with lush and colorful tropical plants.

Because their leaves are so large and will drop from the trees when they die, plant them at least 8 feet from a home or other structure. Plant at least 6 feet apart if planting a row of foxtail palms.

How and When to Plant Foxtail Palm

The easiest (and fastest) way to have a foxtail palm in your landscape is to buy a nursery plant from a garden center. Although a foxtail palm from a nursery can be planted at any time of year, spring or early summer is recommended to give the plant the most heat after planting. Select a location that receives full sun and has fertile, well-draining, sandy soil. Dig a hole twice as wide and about as deep as the nursery container. Amend the soil if needed, and settle the tree in the hole at the same depth as in the container. Press down on the soil to remove air pockets and water it well. Apply a layer of mulch 4 inches deep.

If you are patient, you can grow a foxtail palm from seed. Wash any pulp from the seed and soak it in water for 24 hours before planting it in an 8-inch plastic container. Fill the container with well-draining sandy planting medium or potting soil. Lay the seed horizontally and cover it with only 1/4 inch of the medium. You can plant more than one seed in the container as long as they don't touch. Cover the container with plastic to maximize humidity and heat. Remove the plastic briefly each week and permanently after the seeds germinate, which can be a matter of months or as long as a year! As they grow, move each seedling to its own container, selecting a heavy-duty pot with drainage holes. At this point, they can live as houseplants or be moved outdoors.

Foxtail Palm Care Tips

Foxtail palms are easy maintenance, especially because they're self-cleaning, meaning their dead leaves fall off on their own. They should need little care with the right weather, light, and soil.


Plant foxtail palms in a spot with full sun; they do best when they get at least six hours of direct sun per day. They tolerate part shade but don't grow as quickly as they do in sunny spots and can be more susceptible to attack from fungal diseases.

Soil and Water

Foxtail palms appreciate well-drained sandy soil that's slightly acidic. They aren't suited to spots that see standing water for extended periods. So instead, grow them in raised mounds in areas with a lot of clay or where water may stand. Once established, the trees are drought-tolerant and don't usually require watering to survive. However, they'll grow fastest and look best if given supplemental water during a drought.

When first planted, water regularly for one to two years. After they're established, water once a week or more, depending on how dry the soil gets.

Temperature and Humidity

Foxtail palm requires warm temperatures and plenty of humidity, which is why it's well suited for South Florida. Temperatures should not go below 60ºF for them to stay healthy.

When grown as a houseplant, foxtail palm grows best in the 65°F to 85°F range and needs the most light possible. This tropical plant loves humidity and benefits from added humidity indoors, such as provided by a humidifier. Foxtail palm is challenging to grow indoors unless you have a greenhouse.


Keep the fronds looking lush and dark green by applying a fertilizer formulated for palms in the spring. Follow the directions on the product packaging for application rates.

Spreading a 3- to 4-inch-deep layer of mulch over the soil at planting time helps cut back on competition from weeds and protects the trunks from a lawn mower or string trimmer damage.


Because foxtail palms are self-cleaning, there's rarely a need to prune their leaves.

Potting and Repotting Foxtail Palm

Repotting a foxtail palm can be disruptive to its well-being, so wait to repot until it is necessary. Keep the roots moist for a few days before transplanting. Remove the entire pot of soil and roots and move to a heavy-duty pot large enough for new growth but not so large that standing water could be a problem. Foxtail palm becomes top-heavy as it grows and benefits from a deep planter made of terra-cotta when indoors or a stone planter when it is grown in a container outdoors year-round. Keep the plant out of sunlight for the first few days to give the roots a chance to set.

Pests and Problems

Foxtail palms can be affected by root rot or crown rot, which is identified by brown or yellowing fronds. Both of these problems are a result of poor drainage or overwatering, causing the roots to become mushy. Be judicious about how much you water foxtail palms.

Other issues include leaf blight and brown spot. Both can be treated with a fungicide. Some trees suffer from iron or potassium deficiencies, which can be remedied with fertilizer. Brown or rotting leaves are symptoms of these problems.

Insects that can be a problem for these trees include mealybugs, banana moths, whiteflies, and ambrosia beetles.

How to Propagate Foxtail Palm

Foxtail palm is propagated by seeds, which take 2-12 months to sprout. Plant in loose, sandy soil in a pot about 8 inches in diameter, keeping the seeds from touching each other. Cover the pot with a plastic dome or bag to keep humidity in place and help with germination. Keep in a warm spot.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How long does a foxtail palm live?

    Foxtail palms can live 50 to 100 years in the right conditions with a tropical atmosphere and a healthy environment.

  • How fast do foxtail palms grow?

    Foxtail palms can grow up to 30 feet in height and 15 feet wide. They grow an average of 2 to 3 feet per year, so they'll reach full size in about 10 years.

  • Are foxtail palm trees messy plants in the landscape?

    These low-maintenance trees are self-cleaning, meaning that as their fronds die, which isn't a frequent occurrence, they shed them naturally. Each frond is 6 to 12 feet long, a size that may present a problem with disposal, but it certainly can't be considered messy.

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