Bismarck Palm | Plant Guide

This plant guide has everything you need to know about the Bismarck Palm. You’ll also find out how to use it in your Central Florida landscape. Find all the basics and expert growing tips right here.

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The Bismarck Palm (Bismarckia nobilis), is the palm you’re looking for if you want to make a dramatic impact in your landscape.

With striking silver-green coloring and gorgeous fan shaped leaves, this palm is sure to make a strong statement.

Bismarcks add a noble and regal elegance to any landscape, but only if you have the space for it. These solitary palms can grow up to a height of 60 feet, and can overwhelm a small landscape area.

Alternate names for this palm include: Bismarckia Palm, Nobilis Palm, and Bismark Palm (common misspelling).

Bismarck Palms can tolerate partial shade, but will thrive exceptionally well in full sun.

This palm grows natively in Madagascar. When mature, Bismarcks are drought-tolerant and moderately tolerant to salt.

If you’re in search of a large palm that thrives in full sun to partial shade and makes a noble, strong statement, the Bismarck Palm is a great option.

In this post, let’s explore the Bismarck Palm in detail. We will talk about its characteristics, growing requirements, maintenance, and also it’s uses in landscaping.

Characteristics and Appearance of the Bismarck Palm

Bismarckia nobilis has massive fan-shaped leaves reaching 4 feet wide.

You’ll usually see this palm in its silver or blue-green color, but a light green color variety exists, as well. They grow to a height of 30-60 feet and a spread of 12-16 feet.

This palm has persistent leaf bases that make a lovely pattern at the base of the fronds. It’s trunk grows to a diameter of 15-18 inches.

The massive size, great height, and bold texture of these palms make them wonderful stand-alone specimens, but they may not be suitable for small residential landscapes.

In optimal growing conditions, Bismarck Palms grow at a rate of 2 feet per year. For a large palm, this is actually considered a slow growth rate.

Female Bismarck Palms produce 1.5-inch olive-brown fleshy fruit. The fruit does not attract wildlife.

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Fleshy olive-brown fruit of female Bismarck palm

Light Requirements

The Bismarck Palm can grow in partial shade to full sun. However, it will do best in an area that receives full sun. That’s because it needs a minimum of 4 hours of direct sunlight for optimal growth.

Temperature Requirements

Bismarck Palms grow natively in Madagascar and are cold hardy down to only 30°F.

Although they are preferred for USDA Hardiness Zones 10-11, Bismark Palms still grow well and thrive in Central Florida’s Zone 9b.

Temperatures only occassionally dip below 30°F here in Central Florida and these palms can grow perfectly well in a protected area.

That means when they’re planted among other tall trees or palms that protect it in cold weather or windchill.

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Water requirements for Bismarck Palm

A newly planted Bismarck Palm needs moist soil and requires a lot of watering. Later on, when it becomes more established, it requires less watering and even becomes drought-tolerant.

Water a newly planted Bismarck every day for the first month. If your palm arrived in a 25-gallon container, then give it 25 gallons of water each time you water.

A simple rule of thumb is to match the gallons of water you give it with the size of the container you purchased it in.

After the first month, cut back watering frequency to 2-3 times per week for the next several months. Then continue to water this palm at least once a week for the first 2 years.

Central Florida usually experiences high levels of rainfall. However, during seasons with less than weekly rainfall, you may have to manually water your Bismarck.

Ideally, an irrigation system helps tremendously with maintaining this palm.

During the hotter months, provide your palm with a bit more water, as the soil tends to dry out faster. Provide it with less water during the cooler months.

Although your Bismarck needs moist soil, don’t allow it to sit in water for an extended period of time. That means you will need to provide it with proper drainage from the start.

Ensure that you plant your palm in an area with adequate drainage after watering or a heavy rain.

Maintaining Your Bismarck Palm

This palm requires more care in the beginning, but once well-established, it requires less maintenance on your part.

Soil

Bismarck palms can tolerate a variety of Florida soil conditions such as clay, loam, sand, slightly alkaline or acidic. And therefore, amending your Central Florida soil is not necessary.

One condition that it does require, however, is well-draining soil. Place this palm in an area that drains well after a heavy rain.

Fertilize

Bismarck Palms are susceptible to potassium, magnesium, and boron deficiencies because of the quality of Florida’s soil.

Potassium deficiency shows up as translucent yellow-orange spots on the leaves and possibly also dead tips on the oldest leaves.

Magnesium deficiency shows up as a yellowish tiny on the silver leaves.

Boron deficiency shows up as dead bands around the spear leaves and also deformed spear leaves.

To prevent and/or correct nutrient deficiencies, use a high quality controlled-release granular fertilizer of 8-2-12-4Mg with micronutrients. Apply it 3 times per year in the spring, summer, and fall.

Pests and Diseases

Bismarck Palms release a volatile stress response chemical that attracts palmetto weevils. Palmetto weevils cause the palm to turn brown and eventually cause the entire crown to collapse.

Bismarcks usually release this palmetto weevil-attracting chemical during times of stress during cold weather or transplantation. It is also released when cutting leaves for pruning.

Bismarcks can die from a fungal disease called Ganoderma butt rot caused by Ganoderma zonatum. The disease starts at the bottom of the trunk and leads to decay.

Unfortunately, there is no treatment or prevention for Ganoderma butt rot.

Pruning

You won’t need to do much maintenance in terms of pruning.

Only prune off brown leaves, immature fruit, and spent flower stalks.

Over-pruning a Bismarck palm can lead to bad overall health of your palm.

As mentioned above, the leaves release a stress chemical that attracts palmetto weevils.

In addition to that, pruning off lower yellow leaves robs the entire palm of valuable nutrients that the lower fronds are known to give the rest of the palm.

Bismarck palms at EPCOT in Walt Disney World

Plant Spacing

Bismark Palms are large and solitary and do not cluster like other palms. Take their massive size into consideration when choosing a location for this goregous specimen.

You’ll usually see Bismarcks on buffer strips around parking lots and also lining Florida’s highways. Their silver leaves contrast well with other bright green plants planted among them.

Although these are huge palms that are widely used in commercial landscaping, a single Bismarck palm in your residential landscape would be a stunning focal point.

Just keep in mind the eventual dimensions of this large palm and plant it in an area that can accomodate its height and spread at maturity. We recommend a minimum of 15 feet from a home or building and/or between other Bismarcks.

Be cautious of planting this palm under utility lines, as well. Their mature height goes up to a maximum of 60 feet, and their canopies cannot be pruned to accomodate utility lines.

You can do this with trees, but unfortunately, palms will suffer if you prune their healthy fronds.

Choose your location wisely because Bismarcks don’t respond well to transplanting, either.

Landscape Uses for Your Bismarck Palm

These palms look strikingly beautiful:

  • in commercial landscaping: along a buffer strip bordering parking lots and along highways
  • in large residential landscapes
  • as a single specimen in a residential landscape
  • in evenly-spaced rows bordering a long driveway or walkway
  • at the center of a circular driveway

Key Takeways for Bismarck Palm (Bismarckia nobilis)

  • Strong choice for a large residential landscape or commercial landscape
  • Use it as a single, dominating specimen in residential landscape
  • Easy care when well-established
  • Cold hardy to 30°F
  • Grows in full sun to partial shade. But full sun is best
  • Requires moist, well-draining soil. Needs daily watering when newly-planted
  • Fertilize regularly 3 times per year during spring, summer, and fall with controlled-release granular palm fertilizer
  • Don’t over-prune
  • Good for snowbirds? Yes. Slow growing and requires minimal care when well established. Requires regular irrigation, but can also tolerate drought conditions once mature.
  • Good for coastal landscaping? Maybe. Bismarcks are only moderately salt tolerant.

Other palms you might like: Saw Palmetto Palm

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