How to Grow and Care for A Date Tree?

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Date palm 1

The date trees have a commanding presence. They have  a thick trunk, regal fronds, and huge bunches of sweet fruit. The date tree can grow up to 80 feet high and 40 feet wide, with large, sprawling, green fronds at its peak.

When flowering, date tree produces bunches of pale yellow flowers that turn into its famous clusters of dates. Though slow-growing, the date trees give large rewards to those who are patient and diligent in caring for them.

Different Varieties of Dates

There are 20 varieties of dates that are grown commercially throughout the world. Mejdool is the most common date in supermarkets. Medjool dates are considered to be the king of dates and are found in many areas of the world. Medjool date fruits are semisoft, with sweet, moist, but firm texture. However, in date growing areas such as Iran ad Middle East, one can find several other varieties.

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Israel grows seven varieties of dates with each of them renowned for their special attributes and flavor.

  • Barhi dates: These are medium-sized and thin-skinned fruit. They have a soft, tender flesh and a sweet flavor and have a late ripening.
  • Deglet Noor dates: This is a semisoft date seen very commonly on the boulevards in Israel. They have a firm flesh and their color range from light red to brown when they are ripe. They also have a late ripening.
  • Halawi dates: Halawi are soft dates with thick-flesh. They have a caramelly, and sweet taste. They have a wrinkled appearance and they have a yellow to amber colored skin. Their flavor and texture are comparable with chocolate. They have a midseason ripening.
  • Khadrawy dates: These dates are very similar to the Halawi dates. These dates have a caramel-like texture and a sweet flavor. They have a midseason ripening like Halawi.
  • Thoory dates: Thoory dates are dry dates with chewy flesh and firm skin. It have a high content of fiber and are very often used in baking. They also have a late ripening.
  • Zahidi dates: Zahidi is a semisoft date variety having a crunchy fibrous flesh. They are often processed for sliced dates and date sugar products. Unlike other varieties, Zahidi dates have an early ripening.

Ideal Conditions for Growth of Date Tree

If you live in a dry, sunny and hot climate, then you have the right conditions to grow this large, elegant date palm tree. When planting date trees, you will need both male and female trees to enjoy the date fruits. Otherwise, you can grow a single date tree to enjoy the tall date tree and its thick foliage without reaping any fruits.

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It’s generally considered best to plant your date trees in the spring or fall. Choosing an appropriate location for date trees is very important since they require very well-draining soil and total sun exposure.

Date trees are regarded as a slow-growing species, so patience is needed to see them reach maturity. Even more, patience is required if you’re hoping to harvest the fruit since it can take around three to eight years before they produce any date fruit.

Light

The date trees require plenty of sunshine in harmony with a hot and dry climate. It can, however, tolerate light shade but prefers a full sun position.

Soil

When selecting a location for planting a date tree, the most significant factor you need to remember is to have well-draining soil. The date tree is salty soil tolerant and grows well in sandy conditions.

Water

The date tree, especially once it is well established, is drought-tolerant. However, it requires plenty of water to produce a healthy crop during its flowering and fruiting season.

The new trees require more water than the well-established ones. Since date trees prefer well-draining soil, they do not like too much moisture, especially around their roots.

Humidity and Temperature

Date trees prefer dry, sunny, and hot conditions. As a matter of fact, during the pollination period, the temperatures must be around 95 degrees Fahrenheit. Too cold temperatures can cause severe damage to the fronds and may even kill the tree. It cannot tolerate freezing temperatures. The date fruits also grow best in dry heat, and high moisture and humidity can lead to the rotting of the date fruit.

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Fertilizer

To fertilize your date tree, manure is an excellent option. If you want to use a fertilizer of a packaged variety, specialty palm tree fertilizer is recommended. Give fertilizer during the late winter to prep the tree for its fruit production in the coming month.

How to Care for a Date Tree

Date trees have long and spiny thorns which grow up on the trunk as the plant matures.  To prevent injury you can chop off these thorns close to the trunk.  It doesn’t hurt the tree to chop off the spines.

Plants grown indoors or in containers can have problems with spider mites or whitefly.  You can use insecticidal soap for keeping the indoor plants pest-free. 

Birds and squirrels will rob date trees once the date fruit on the tree begins to ripen.  In an orchard, the ripening dates are kept in mesh bags to preserve them from predators.

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Once the dates are ripe,  the dates will fall off from the tree.  You need to harvest them just before they fall.

Propagating Date Tree

Palm trees, including the date trees, propagate by creating new tree growth at the base of the parent tree. These new trees are referred to as suckers or offshoots. These offshoots are the clones of the parent tree.

Propagating by seed can also be done, but it may produce a hybrid tree from cross-pollination. Therefore, if you can spot an offshoot on your date tree, you can easily separate it and start growing another date tree.

  1. Identify the place where you would like to plant your new date tree.
  2. After shortlisting a suitable place, begin separating the offshoot from the parent date tree. You may require a saw to separate the roots. When doing this, you need to be careful and ensure that the offshoot has roots attached once it has been removed.
  3. Dig a hole for your new date tree. The hole should be dug twice as large as required to loosen the soil around the tree.
  4. Fill the hole with loosened soil and cover the roots of the tree.
  5. Please give it a good amount of water. You may require to add supports to assist the tree to grow straight.

How to Get Dates to Produce Fruit

Date trees are either male or female. You cannot make it out from the seed, whether it is a male or female tree. To get date fruit, you will require one male tree and at least one female tree. One male tree can fertilize many female trees.

The wind pollinates date trees. To ensure a fruit set, one has to hand pollinate the female flowers of the date tree with the male pollen of the date tree. Since you are hand-pollinating, you don’t need to have the trees next to each other if there is a space constraint. In a commercial date orchard, the male pollen sheaths are purchased from the market, consequently saving the space available for the female date trees to increase fruit harvest.

A date tree planted from seed will produce fruit in about eight years when grown in full sun in a warm Mediterranean climate. Cloned date trees have fruit in just 4 to 6 years. The date tree may fail to produce fruit in cooler areas, while the tree might appear healthy and grow well.

The male tree produces pollen in sheaths each spring. The male pollen is gathered in a bag when the pollen is ready. Subsequently, the female flowers are dusted with pollen as and when they open.

Growing Date Trees From Seeds

Starting your date tree from seed is an easy way to start growing more palms. The following steps will help you to get date tree saplings from date seeds.

  1. The seeds should be rem oved from ripe dates.
  2. The date seeds should be soaked for at least 24 hours, and the discard the ones that float to the top.
  3. Place each remaining seed in its container of well-draining soil, such as a sandy mix. Press the seeds into the ground, so they are about half covered.
  4. Keep moist and warm. Placing the date seeds in a spot with indirect sunlight is best. You can put a plastic bag on top of the container so as to trap in more moisture.
  5. In the next step, once the seed has sprouted a couple of inches, remove the bag if have used and move the sprouted seeds to a larger container.
  6. Keep the tree in indirect sunlight until the end of its first summer, and then slowly get it accustomed to more sunlight. By its second year, you will be able to plant it in the ground.

Harvesting Date Tree

If you can grow your dates, you need to remember some essential factors. When the fruit is setting in, you need to remove about two-thirds of it while still green. However weird it may sound, it will allow the remaining fruit to grow larger and have a better airflow, ensuring a healthy crop. Additionally, it prevents the tree from producing a hefty crop yield one year, then a very light crop the following year.

Once your fruit is ripe, chop off the fruit bunch and bag the fruit to protect them from moisture and pests. You may need to expose them to heat for further ripening. However, it would be best if you avoided the direct sun as this can burn the fruit.

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