Rhopalostylis sapida

Nikau Palm, Feather Duster Palm


The most southernly growing palm in the world, Rhopalostylis sapida, also known as the Nikau or Shaving Brush Palm, is a wonderful palm for the milder English garden, though it should be protected during the coldest weather.

The Nikau Palm is rarely offered for sale.

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Origin: New Zealand
Genus: Rhopalostylis
Species / Cultivar:
Common Name: Nikau Palm, Feather Duster Palm

Plant Biography

Rhopalostylis sapida grows widely in the north island of New Zealand and on the west coast of the South Island, where it grows in dense colonies. The Nikau Palm is the only palm native to mainland New Zealand. It also occurs in the Chatham Islands which make it the most southerly growing palm in the world.

It was well known and utilised by the Maori who used it for thatching, weaving and also as a food source since the inflorescence makes for a tasty vegetable.

Rhopalostylis sapida
Light: Bright Indirect
This plant likes sun, but keep out of direct sunlight. Best placed in an area near a window.
Soil: Moist but Well Drained
Soil that allows water to drain at a moderate rate, without the water pooling.
Temperature: 5 - 35°C
Temperature range at which this plant is healthiest and grows best.
Growth Rate: Slow
Expect to see quite small amounts of growth over the years.
Final Size: Tall
Final size will work as a large stand-alone specimen plant.
Water Requirement: Regular Watering
Water when soil surface is dry to the touch. Water must draining easily away.
Humidity: Medium
Easygoing in regular home conditions, keep away from cold draughts and heat sources.
Maintenance: Moderate
This plant has specific requirements. Incorrect care can quickly lead to signs of distress.
Situation: Part Shade
Enjoys several hours of direct sunlight but may enjoy dappling or shade at midday.
Eventual Height: 8-12m
The plant's ultimate height in typical growing conditions.
Eventual Spread: 2.5-4m
The plant's ultimate spread in typical growing conditions.
Hardiness: Half Hardy
Will need protection from frosts in order to survive winter, eg. with fleece jacket.

Expert Tip

To give it the best chance of thriving, plant it in a sheltered south facing corner in full sun, and be prepared to wrap it during cold snaps.
Care & Size Guidance

Care & Size Guidance

It is a handsome feather palm, best known for its prominent bulging crown shaft and stiff, erect leaves which give it one of its common names. Ultimately it will grow quite tall, but it is a stunning specimen at every stage of its development.

Does well in the conservatory in a slightly shaded position and keep it well watered during the hotter summer months.

Expert Tip

The Nikau Palm is very fickle about transplanting. Transplant in summer, in tall pots with minimal disturbance to the root ball. Keep in a shaded spot until established. Transplant shock is expected in most cases.


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