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Shifting a nikau

CAN nikau palms be shifted? I have some, which at the moment are in a shady spot. They are not very big yet and I would like to move them to a sunnier position. What is the best way of doing it, and will they stand brighter light?


NIKAU (Rhopalostylis sapida) aren't as amenable to being moved as most other palms, as their root system doesn't recover quickly, particularly with young specimens.

In the native bush they generally spend most of their life under the shade of larger trees, though they can tolerate sun if allowed to become gradually accustomed to it. One expert I consulted recommended the best time to move them is between December and March, as soil temperatures then would give the best chance of healthy new root growth.

Dig up as much of the root system as possible, trying to keep the soil intact around the root ball when you move it. Any roots you cut through with the spade should be cut again with a sharp pair of secateurs so as to leave a clean wound, which will have a better chance of resisting dieback.

You may need to stake them for several months until the new root system has grown, and protect them from the sudden exposure to sun with shade cloth for the rest of the summer. They should have acclimatised to the extra light by the next summer, if they survive the move.

Before digging them up you could also spray the foliage with an anti-transpirant, such as Stressguard, which should be available in most garden centres. This leaves a polymer film on the leaves that reduces water loss through the leaf surface and is also claimed to act as a sunscreen, which may increase your chances of success. Good luck.

Weekend Gardener, Issue 180, 2005, Page 32

Reproduced with permission from the former Weekend Gardener magazine. The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the RNZIH.

Andrew Maloy Weekend Gardener

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Last updated: October 25, 2005