Date Palm (Phoenix dactylifera)

Arabic name: نخلة

The Date Palm (Phoenix dactylifera) is one of the longest cultivated fruit trees.  Native to North Africa and the Middle East, it has been extensively cultivated, with hundreds of varieties now grown for commercial purposes. The Date Palm has provided a food source since ancient times, as well as being regarded a symbol of fertility.  Historically, it has been represented extensively, as on coins and monuments.

Unlike most palms, the Date Palm is dioecious, meaning each plant is either male or female.  Only female plants produce fruit, provided there is a male plant nearby.  In order for its fruits to mature, it requires high temperatures and generous amounts of water. In fact, palms grown for the commercial production of dates sometimes require regular irrigation.  However the Date Palm also is widely grown as an ornamental plant due to its foliage and attractive growth habit.

This beautiful evergreen palm can grow to a height of 15m, with a spread of 5m, and has slow growth of less than 25cm per year.


Date Palms grow in full sun or partial shade, and are drought-tolerant. They can thrive in any kind of soil including relatively saline soil, but require good drainage.  Although the Date Palm is adaptable to differing growing conditions, dates are produced only in hot, dry climates.  

Water usage:

Date Palms require no watering once established.  Generally, trees need supplemental irrigation to get established, especially if planted after the rainy season.  During the first year, irrigate in the amount of 20 – 25 liters of water twice a week. During its second year, a tree needs to be irrigated in the amount of 40 liters once a week.  Beginning with the third year, trees usually get established, and some, like the Date Palm, do not require any supplemental irrigation. 


The Date Palm is a suckering palm that usually is pruned to have only one trunk.  The broad gray trunk is patterned with the remains of sheaths from fallen leaves. These pinnate leaves are clustered together forming a bushy crown.  They are rigid and sharp-pointed, greenish gray in color and are up to 3m long.  The leaves are composed of 15 – 30cm long leaflets arranged in a V-shape along the length of the leaf stem.

Dates are formed from small, white and fragrant unisexual flowers that are borne in clusters in April.  The dates are oblong berries, dark orange when ripe, consisting of a woody seed surrounded by sugary flesh.

Notes on use:

A native specimen tree; suitable as a solitary tree or in groups; good along roads.


Date Palms can be propagated by suckers, or seeding in spring.


In order to produce single trunk specimens pruning should be carried out annually to remove suckers.

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This article is part of a series of articles prepared by the Center for the Study of the Built Environment (CSBE) on water conserving landscapes. 

For additional information on water conserving gardens, visit the CSBE web site at

Support for the CSBE project on water conserving landscapes is provided by WEPIA (Water Efficiency and Public Information for Action), a program being implemented in collaboration with the Ministry of Water and Irrigation and funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).