Wallichia disticha at Else Kientzler Botanical Garden, Sarchi Norte, Costa Rica
How to grow Wallichia disticha

Native to the lowlands and montane rainforests of the Himalayas, India, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Nepal, Wallichia disticha is just one of seven species within the genus named in honour of Danish botanist Nathaniel Wallich (1786-1854). The species name 'disticha' is derived from the Greek 'dis' and 'stichos' (meaning two lines), a reference to the two opposing rows of leaves. It is also the only species within the genus with this unusual leaf arrangement making it both a handsome and desirable species. The arching, pinnate leaves are approximately 2.4-4.5 metres long.

Commonly known as the False sugar palm, Wallichia disticha is a fishtail-like palm with a solitary trunk and large, stiff, feathery leaves which form from (usually) a single trunk. Under favourable conditions you can expect Wallichia disticha to reach an overall height of between 6-9 metres. The canopy is usually half that of the height. Specimens that are cultivated in dry or infertile soils will tend to produce smaller leaves and be smaller in height.

How to grow Wallichia disticha

Wallichia disticha at Else Kientzler Botanical Garden, Sarchi Norte, Costa Rica
How to grow Wallichia disticha
It is an easy to grow species that will perform best in a reliably moist sandy soil in full sun although it will tolerate half-shade in hotter climates. That being said it has proven to tolerate clay and loam soils which can also be slightly alkaline or acidic. Water during extended periods of drought, and improve drainage where necessary to prevent the roots becoming waterlogged over the winter as this cause the premature death of the plant. Feed with a liquid fertilizer rich in micronutrients (such as a liquid soluble seaweed-based fertiliser) to prevent nutrient deficiencies. Low levels of iron and magnesium can cause characteristic yellowing known as chlorosis. Micronutrient deficiencies are usually known to occur in acidic soils.

Wallichia disticha it is widely cultivated in subtropical and warm temperate regions and is surprising cold hardy capable of surviving freezing temperatures down to -2 degrees Celsius. Even colder temperatures can be survived if only for short periods. This means that it is possible to grow Wallichia disticha outside in the milder regions of Great Britain.

Once established avoid moving as the root system of this species is particularly sensitive to being dug up. This will often result in shocking the plant causing it to prematurely come into seed and then die.

Very little maintenance is required other than to remove any diseased, damaged or drying leaves, but do not prune until all of the leaf's green colour has disappeared.

Main image credit - David Stang Else Kientzler Botanical Garden
In text image - By Photo by David J. Stang - source: David Stang. First published at, CC BY-SA 4.0,

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