Caring For Travelers Palms – How To Grow A Travelers Palm

By: Mary H. Dyer, Credentialed Garden Writer

Although travelers palm (Ravenala madagascariensis) displays big, fan-like leaves, the name is actually a bit of a misnomer, as travelers palm plants are actually more closely related to banana trees. This exotic plant produces small, creamy white flowers, which often appear year round. Want to learn about growing travelers palm in your garden? Find out below.

Travelers Palm Hardiness

Travelers palm is definitely a tropical plant, suitable for growing in the warm climates of USDA plant hardiness zones 10 and 11. Travelers palm plants may survive in zone 9, but only if they are well protected in the event of occasional frost.

How to Grow a Travelers Palm

Travelers palm plants tolerate sandy and clay-based soils, but prefer moist, rich soil. Although the plant is relatively disease resistant, a well-drained planting site produces healthiest growth.

Provide shade for the base of the plants after planting. Once established, a sunny spot is best, but the travelers palm does fine with a little light shade. Provide shelter from strong winds, which may tear and tatter the huge leaves.

This is a good-sized plant that reaches heights of 30 to 50 feet (9.1-15.2 m.) and sometimes even more, so provide plenty of space for travelers palm. Allow a minimum of 8 to 10 feet (2.4-3 m.) from a house or other structure, and 12 feet (3.7 m.) is even better. If you’re planting more than one, space them at least 8 to 10 feet apart to prevent crowding.

Caring for Travelers Palms

Water as needed to keep the soil evenly moist, but never soggy or waterlogged.

Feed travelers palm plants once in spring, summer and autumn, using a fertilizer formulated for tropical plants or palms. A good, all-purpose fertilizer is also acceptable.

Prune outer leaf branches as needed, and deadhead wilted blooms if you don’t want the plant to self-seed.

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Travelers palm

I have a couple of Huge Travelers Palms about 30 Feet or higher with lots of shoots( about 2-5 feet)around the base. is it possible to remove these safely to replant somewhere else and how would I go about it.. got My licuala mapu recently and since doing research on line for its care I now have a new appreciation for palms. I think like a lot of people in Florida we just take them for granted. unfortunately we see the same ones repeated all over so they tend not to grab the eye. Im hoping to change that in my new garden. i just got another Baby Triangle palm today.They are much more interesting when they are smaller at eye level. I think I have another plant addiction to add to my Vireyas.

Traveler's Palms are related to Bananas and Birds of Paradise, not palms. I think you can separate them, but not sure. Probably should post this on the tropicals page instead. There are pretty marginal here in inland Southern California and I haven't had much success with these plants.

Thanks Bob , Ive moved the thread to here

are there other variegated palms available out there.

Variegation can happen in just about any palm. Look in the plantfiles under Howea forsteriana, Licuala grandis, Licuala obicularis, Chamaedorea seifrizii, Chamaedorea stolonifera and Caryota mitis. those all have variegated forms. However, those variegations are abnormal. Licuala 'Mapu' is 'normally' variegated. The only other 'normally' variegated palm I know of is another Licuala, L radula. And that is a great palm as it is pretty hardy compared to Mapu, and is even growing outdoors here in California in several gardens (costly palm, but probably no more so than yours).

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Learn More About The TRAVELER PALM Tree

Sharpen pruning shears, loppers, saw or spade. If your cutting tools are dull, they will chew and shred your Traveler’s Palm instead of cutting it cleanly. Prune spent flower stalks at the base near the fan structure. Don't cut into the fan itself. Remove brown, tattered or damaged outer leaves near the central fan structure.

Trim off the outer two or three leaves on each side of the fan to shape the Traveler’s Palm and keep it from spreading outside the area where you want it. Never cut into the central fan structure.

Slice into the ground with a sharp spade between the Traveler’s Palm and any smaller shoots, called suckers, that appear from the ground near the trunk of the main plant. Push the spade handle toward the ground away from the sucker to dig it up, and pull the sucker out of the ground. Remove all suckers as soon as they appear to keep a clump from forming.

Repeat the trimming and pruning procedure regularly to keep your Traveler’s Palm healthy and contained within a small area. If you let it become overgrown, it is much harder to cut back than to prune regularly.

Wait until all danger of further frost or freezing is past before pruning dead or damaged foliage from a cold snap. When some new growth has appeared, prune dead outer leaves of the fan with sharp pruning shears or loppers.

Shades of Blue

Jessica Clarke is the Associate Curator of Glasshouse Collections at The New York Botanical Garden.

Ravenala madagascariensis, better known as traveler’s palm, is a plant endemic to Madagascar which can be found in our very own Enid A. Haupt Conservatory (Palm Dome). In addition to its very attractive fan-shaped arrangement of leaves, it has another unique attribute that isn’t often witnessed.

Like a jewel box opening up, its dried brown fruit pod splits apart to reveal remarkable sapphire-colored seeds inside. The reason that they are blue? It can be considered a “tale of two endemics,” or the supposed co-evolution of the traveler’s palm with another species found only in Madagascar—the ruffed lemur.

The lemurs are astute pollinators of Ravenala they use their long tongues to reach the nectar deep inside the flowers. In this way, they collect and transfer pollen on their snouts from plant to plant. Once pollinated, the flowers develop into seed pods, which mature and dry before splitting to expose the bounty inside. The fuzzy blue appendage, or aril, that is attached to the seed is edible—and it encourages animals to eat it and aid in seed dispersal. In this case the animal that it solely appeals to is the lemur, which is only capable of seeing shades of blue and green.

Traveler's Tree (Traveler's Palm) - Ravenala madagascariensis

The dramatic leaves on the Traveler's Tree, relative of the Bird of Paradise, are distinct. They grow in one plane from east to west. Scientific name: Ravenala madagascariensis.


Traveler's Tree culture is similar to that of a Bird of Paradise. For the first year or so, grow your Traveler's Tree in a pot with bright light but not full sun. After it grows larger, plant it in its final position in full sun, part sun, or light shade. Traveler's trees are cold hardy in frost-free locations. Protect it from frost.

  • Average mature height: 20-30 feet
  • Fertilizer: A heavy feeder. Responds well to fertilization.
  • Light: Full sun
  • Soil: Tolerates well-drained, sandy soils. Thrives in moist, loamy soils.
  • Zones: 9-11

Plant size. Our plants ship in 3-inch-deep pots when they are 3-6 inches tall so they can grow to maturity under your green thumb.

Plant care. Wish your thumb were a little greener? Visit our plant care page & become a gardening guru in no time.

Watch the video: Traveler Palm Maintenance

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