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Christmas Palm vs Foxtail Palm: What’s The Difference?

Palm trees bring to mind sunny, tropical beaches and warm climates. Most palms love heat, so they’re often grown indoors. Let’s talk about our two palm trees and what makes them special.

The Foxtail palm’s leaflets are smaller than the Christmas Palm’s, usually only about 1 foot long and 1 inch wide. However, they have lots of them! Imagine a lively crowd at a rock concert – that’s how the Foxtail Palm’s leaflets compare in number and length to those of the calmer Christmas Palm.

christmas palm vs foxtail palm

Christmas Palm and Foxtail Palm

Christmas palm Foxtail palm
Botanical Name Adonidia merrillii Wodyetia bifurcata
USDA Hardiness zone 10-11 10-11
Mature height 15-25′ (5.5-7.5m) 5-25′ (5.5-7.5m)
Mature width 6-10′ (1.8-3m) 10-16′ (3-4.8 m)
Growth rate fast fast
Light exposure full sun, partial shade full sun
Soil well-drained well-drained
Soil pH 6.0-7.5 5.5-7.5
Watering one time per 10 days in drought one time per 10 days in drought
Diseases fungus fungus
Pests insects, mites insects, mites

Foliage

Both palm trees have their leaves growing on fronds, with leaflets on each side. These leaflets are what we commonly refer to as the leaves of the palms.

The Christmas palm’s leaflets are pretty big, about 2 feet long and 2 inches wide. They usually come to a point at the end, but sometimes they’re more blunt. With these large leaflets, the Christmas palm has a grand, slightly droopy look, as the leaflets tend to sag.

Now, the Foxtail palm’s leaflets are about half the size of the Christmas palm’s, typically just 1 foot long and 1 inch wide. But what it lacks in size, it makes up for in quantity. The Foxtail palm has loads more leaflets. They’re smaller, and the fronds themselves are longer compared to the Christmas palm.

Unlike the Christmas palm, the Foxtail palm’s leaflets don’t grow in pairs. Instead, you’ll find a bunch of them sprouting around the frond’s axis.

This gives the Foxtail palm a really bushy appearance, much like a fox’s tail – which is actually how it got its name! It’s a stark contrast to the style of the Christmas palm.

Sunlight

The Christmas palm is quite adaptable, thriving in both full sun and partial shade. It’s best to ensure it gets at least six, preferably eight, hours of direct sunlight daily for optimal growth. Positioning it in front of a large south-facing window is ideal.

The Foxtail palm, however, is much less forgiving when it comes to shade. It demands a substantial amount of sunlight, needing about 10-12 hours daily. This makes it a challenging plant to grow indoors, especially in zones 4-6 where sunlight is scarce in the winter.

In comparison, the Christmas palm is a more suitable choice for indoor growth, adapting well to such environments.

Size and Shape

Both palms reach similar heights. Indoors, they typically grow to about 10 feet tall, but outdoors, they can shoot up to over 25 feet.

In terms of width, the Christmas palm is narrower. Its fronds can reach up to 5 feet in length, which means the plant’s total width usually stays under 10 feet. Depending on how mature the palm is, it can have between 5 to 12 fronds.

The Foxtail palm, however, boasts longer fronds, stretching up to 8 feet or more in ideal conditions. This leads to the palm forming a crown that’s over 15 feet wide. Plus, it grows quickly.

So, when picking a palm, size matters. The Foxtail palm will need more room than the Christmas palm due to its larger size.

Temperature and Humidity

The Christmas and Foxtail palms both love warmth and can usually be grown indoors. They’re suitable for outdoor planting only in zones 10-11.

The Christmas palm can handle temperatures as low as 33°F. Once it’s fully grown, it can even withstand temperatures down to 30°F.

The Foxtail palm is slightly more resistant to cold. Mature Foxtail palms have been known to survive temperatures between 25-27°F.

When it comes to heat, both palms are on equal footing, tolerating temperatures up to 100°F.

This means you can comfortably grow them indoors throughout the year. Temperature isn’t their only strong suit; they also adapt well to typical indoor humidity levels and don’t require frequent misting.

Fruits

The Christmas palm is named for its red fruits, which ripen around late December. This is when the palm resembles a Christmas tree, adorned with large red balls (fruits). It’s a stunning sight.

The Foxtail palm also produces red fruits, but they’re neither as striking nor as plentiful as those of the Christmas palm.

However, there’s a downside. Once ripe, the fruits drop to the ground. If not cleared away, they start to rot and attract insects. Given the quantity of fruit, cleaning up can be quite a task.