Christmas Palm vs Foxtail Palm
Christmas Palm vs Foxtail Palm

Christmas Palm vs Foxtail Palm: Choosing the Perfect Palm Tree for Your Landscape - With their tropical elegance and graceful fronds, palm trees bring a sense of paradise to any landscape. Two of the most popular choices for gardens are the christmas palm and the foxtail palm. But how do you choose between these two spectacular palms?


In this guide, we'll take an in-depth look at the unique features of the christmas palm and the foxtail palm. We'll compare everything from growth habits and ornamental traits to ideal conditions and care. Whether you're a palm aficionado or are planting your first palm tree, use this guide to pick your perfect fit!

Overview of the Classic Christmas Palm

Christmas Palm
Christmas Palm

Few palms can compete with the vibrant beauty of the Christmas palm (Adonidia merrillii). Christmas palm the most common variety of Manila palms. With its full, bright green fronds and compact size, it's easy to see why the christmas palm is one of the most popular palm trees for landscapes across the southern United States.


Native to the Philippines, the christmas palm thrives across USDA growing zones 10-11. It can tolerate brief dips into the upper 20s Fahrenheit. This makes it a great choice even for areas that experience a rare winter frost.


Mature christmas palm trees reach heights of 25-40 feet tall and up to 25 feet wide. They have a smooth, slender grey trunk topped with a burst of plumy green fronds. Each frond is made up of 40-60 linear leaflets that give it a full, feather-like appearance.


One signature feature of the christmas palm is the enlarged base where the frond stems meet the trunk, known as the crownshaft. This bulge has a tufted, coconut-like appearance that adds to the tropical flair.


As a slow but steady grower, the christmas palm may take up to 10 years to reach its mature size. But the wait is worth it for the showstopping specimen this palm becomes. Its lush fronds will provide beautiful structure and shade to your landscape for decades to come.


Fun fact: The christmas palm gets its name from its bright green foliage that stays vibrant even through winter, like a little slice of the tropics during the holidays.

All About the Graceful Foxtail Palm

Foxtail Palm
Foxtail Palm

Just like its namesake, the foxtail palm (Wodyetia bifurcata) is easily recognized by its elegantly cascading fronds that resemble a fox's tail. This Australian native palm is another sought-after option for gardeners in USDA zones 9-11.

What foxtail palms lack in cold tolerance they make up for in fast growth. They establish quickly, with some varieties adding up to 3 feet of growth per year. Mature trees reach heights of 30-40 feet tall. Their slender grey trunks top out around 1-1.5 feet in diameter.


The real showstopper feature of the foxtail palm is its long, flowing fronds. Each frond grows 3-5 feet in length, with thin, grass-like leaflets coming off the stem in a singleplane. This gives the fronds a wispy, plume-like appearance as they gently cascade downward.


Foxtails typically retain around 30 fronds at once, continually self-cleaning by dropping older lower fronds as new growth emerges. The smooth, self-cleaning trunks keep a polished, tropical look as well.


Overall, foxtail palms have a playful, casual vibe. Their gracefully dancing fronds and slightly shaggy trunks provide fun contrast to more refined palms like the christmas palm.

How Do Christmas and Foxtail Palms Compare?

Now that we've introduced both palms, let's take a closer look at how their growth habits, ornamental traits, and care needs stack up:

Mature Size

  • Christmas palm: 25-40 feet tall and up to 25 feet wide
  • Foxtail palm: 30-40 feet tall with a 1-1.5 foot trunk diameter

So in terms of height, christmas and foxtail palms reach comparable mature dimensions. But christmas palms tend to have a slightly wider canopy when branches and fronds are included.

Growth Rate

  • Christmas palm: Slow steady growth, reaches maturity in 8-10 years
  • Foxtail palm: Moderately fast growth, matures in just 6-8 years

Here's a key difference between these species. Foxtail palm is faster growing and establishes noticeably quicker than the slower-growing christmas palm.

Ornamental Features

  • Christmas palm fronds: Full, plush, feather-like appearance. 40-60 leaflets per frond.
  • Foxtail palm fronds: Thin, wispy, grass-like. Cascade downward gracefully.
  • Christmas palm trunk: Slender and smooth with a rounded base.
  • Foxtail palm trunk: Slightly wider with more defined ring markings.
  • Overall look: Christmas palm has a formal, refined appearance. Foxtail has a casual, playful look.

The differing frond structure and overall form create unique ornamental interest for each species. Christmas palms appear more orderly and refined, while foxtails have a relaxed, whimsical vibe.

Cold Tolerance

  • Christmas palm: Can tolerate brief dips to 30°F
  • Foxtail palm: Needs temperatures above 40°F to thrive

Christmas palms win when it comes to cold hardiness! They can withstand short cold snaps better than foxtail palms.

Sun Requirements

  • Christmas palm: Full sun
  • Foxtail palm: Full sun

Both palms require the same full sun exposure - at least 6 hours of direct sun per day. Morning sun is ideal if possible.

Soil Needs

  • Christmas palm: Well-draining soil enriched with organic matter
  • Foxtail palm: Well-draining soil enriched with organic matter

Proper drainage is crucial for both species. Add compost or peat moss to planting holes and keep soil moist but not saturated.

Watering Needs

  • Christmas palm: Can tolerate occasional droughts
  • Foxtail palm: Prefers consistent moisture

Foxtails are slightly less drought tolerant than christmas palms. Water young trees twice weekly and established trees every 2-4 weeks depending on rainfall.

Humidity Preferences

  • Christmas palm: Tolerates lower humidity
  • Foxtail palm: Prefers average humidity

Christmas palms hold up better in drier air. Mist foxtail fronds during periods of low humidity to prevent leaf tip burn.

Overall, the christmas and foxtail palm have very similar growth requirements. Both thrive in full sun with well-draining soil and moist but not soggy conditions. Christmas palm is a bit more forgiving if conditions are not perfect.

Ideal Uses in the Landscape

So when and where should you use these ornamental palms? Here are some top landscape uses for each species:

Christmas Palm

  • Use as a striking specimen plant to create a focal point
  • Group in rows to form elegant alleyways or screening
  • Frame entryways to create an inviting tropical look
  • Plant around pools or patios for a resort-style atmosphere
  • Use as street trees in tropical and subtropical climates
  • Plant in containers for movable color

Foxtail Palm

  • Showcase as an individual specimen to highlight the graceful cascading fronds
  • Use clusters of three or five foxtail palms for visual interest
  • Underplant with brightly colored flowers and foliage
  • Mix with other tropical plants like hibiscus and bird of paradise
  • Use in mass plantings for dense, tropical-inspired screening
  • Add fun textural contrast to landscapes

Other Palm Comparisons

How do christmas and foxtail palms compare to other popular species?

  • Queen palm: Fast growth rate but less cold tolerant than christmas palm. More tropical look.
  • Pygmy date palm: Much smaller stature, only 10-12 feet tall. Great for containers.
  • Pindo palm: Very cold hardy for a palm but has a shaggy, unkempt appearance.
  • Sylvester palm: Similar full, plush fronds like christmas palm. Shorter overall height.
  • Sabal palm: Native Florida palm good for coastal areas. Large size and wide trunk.

For most residential and commercial landscapes, christmas and foxtail palms provide the best blend of aesthetics, performance, and mature size. They're less unruly and fast growing than queen palms, with better structure than sylvester or pindo palms. And they reach a more usable size than sabals and other massive palm species.

Caring for Your Ornamental Palms

To keep your foxtail or christmas palms looking their best, be sure to provide the right care from planting through establishment and beyond. Here are some key palm care tips:


  • Dig a wide planting hole at least 2-3 times wider than the container size.
  • Fill the hole with a quality potting mix enriched with compost and nutrients.
  • Carefully remove the palm from its container and place it in the hole at the same level it was growing in the nursery pot.
  • Water thoroughly to saturate the soil and eliminate air pockets.
  • Apply 2-3 inches of mulch around the base but avoid piling it against the trunk.
  • Stake newly planted palms until roots become established.


  • Provide 1-2 thorough weekly waterings for newly planted palms.
  • As trees mature, taper off to thorough monthly soakings during the growing season.
  • Always allow the soil to partially dry between waterings.
  • Increase frequency during periods of drought.


  • Palm trees need more nutrients than typical plants.
  • Apply a granular palm fertilizer every 2-3 months during the growing season.
  • Slow release fertilizers provide a steady supply of nutrients.
  • If using quick release fertilizer, split applications into smaller monthly doses.


  • Remove dead or damaged fronds regularly by cutting at the base.
  • Only remove green healthy fronds if they are completely browned by cold weather.
  • Avoid removing inner fronds and do not prune too heavily.
  • Prune only as needed for safety and aesthetics. Don't over-prune.

Pest/Disease Prevention

  • Keep trees healthy with proper irrigation, fertilization, and pruning.
  • Monitor for early signs of palm pests like mites, borers, and scale.
  • Treat most pest infestations early with horticultural oils or insecticidal soaps.
  • Remove palms displaying severe decline or damage.

With the right care and conditions, christmas and foxtail palms make exceptional long-living additions to tropical garden landscapes. Their graceful forms and vibrant foliage bring cascades of exotic beauty.

Christmas or Foxtail: Which Palm is Right for You?

When choosing between the christmas palm and foxtail palm, consider factors like your climate, growth rate preferences, and overall landscape needs.


Here are some final tips for deciding:

  • Christmas palm is a better choice for cooler areas since it takes more cold. It has a more formal, orderly appearance.
  • Foxtail palm establishes and grows faster. It brings a casual, playful tropical look.
  • Group christmas palms together for beautiful uniformity. Use clustered foxtails for whimsical interest.
  • Plant christmas palms to frame entryways or anchor corners. Showcase foxtail's flowing fronds as a specimen.
  • Choose christmas for drought tolerance. Select foxtail if you prefer lush green fronds.

No matter which alluring palm you choose, proper siting and care will keep your landscape looking like a tropical oasis. The graceful, exotic beauty of palms like the christmas and foxtail palm take any environment from ordinary to extraordinary.


As we've covered in this guide, both the christmas palm and the foxtail palm offer outstanding ornamental appeal. Their lush, vibrant foliage and graceful tropical forms make them ideal choices for gardeners and landscapers in warm climates.


While they have some differences, christmas and foxtail palms share many similar needs. Pick the species that best fits your landscape goals and conditions. Christmas palm brings refined elegance, while foxtail offers whimsical, casual elegance.


With the right planting techniques and proper ongoing care, you’re sure to have a showstopping palm specimen that will bring the essence of the tropics to your outdoor space. Before you know it, you’ll be transported away to a palm-filled paradise every time you look at your landscape.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are answers to some common questions about growing and caring for these ornamental palms:

How fast do christmas and foxtail palms grow?

Christmas palms have a slower growth rate, adding about 2 feet per year once established. Foxtail palms grow faster at up to 3 feet annually.

How cold hardy are they?

Christmas palms tolerate brief temperatures down to 30°F. Foxtails need 40°F minimums.

Do they produce flowers or fruit?

Both palms produce small yellow flowers followed by tiny berry-like fruit. Neither are particularly showy.

Should I prune my palm?

Prune only dead, dying, diseased, or broken fronds. Avoid over-pruning healthy green fronds.

How often should I fertilize?

Apply palm fertilizer every 2-3 months during the active growing season for younger trees. Mature trees can be fertilized 1-2 times per year.

What if my palm fronds are turning yellow or brown?

Check for pests, overwatering, underfertilizing, or cold damage. Improve conditions and remove damaged growth.

Can I grow foxtail or christmas palms in a container?

Yes, both adapt well to container life. Use a quality potting mix in a large container and provide adequate water and nutrients.

How do I plant a palm correctly?

Dig a wide planting hole, backfill with amended soil, water thoroughly to settle roots, and mulch. Don't plant too deeply.

  • 네이버 블러그 공유하기
  • 네이버 밴드에 공유하기
  • 페이스북 공유하기
  • 카카오스토리 공유하기