Archontophoenix cunninghamiana ‘Illawarra’

king palm
Mature plants may stand 27F. Fast-growing in fog zone. Amethyst flowers, red fruits. Leaves shed cleanly, leaving smooth ringed trunks. Tidy, tropical look.
height 20–40
width 10–15ft
tolerates Cool Summers, Fog, Moist Soil, Narrow Planting
Moderate – High
Water this plant regularly and deeply, when the surface of the soil has dried. Usually this is once or twice a week in dry weather.
exposure Full Shade – Full Sun
drainage In Ground: Planting Mix, In Pots: Cactus Mix, Tolerates Heavy Soil, Tolerates Sandy Soil
fertilizing All Purpose 1/2 Strength, Fish Emulsion, Palm Fertilizer
origin E Australia
16, 17, 21–24

Sunset Zones Map

Outdoor Exposure Guide


Full Sun
Six or more hours of sun beams directly landing on the plant's leaves.

Part Shade
Three to five hours of sun beams directly landing on the plant's leaves.

Part Sun
One to two hours of sun beams directly landing on the plants leaves.

Full Shade
The plant is never fully lit by sun beams, but is in a bright spot or has dappled sunbeams playing over the leaves throughout the day.

Deep Shade
The plant never has dappled light on the leaves, and is in a place that feels dim, even on a nice sunny day.


Growing Notes

Much faster growing than typical Archontophoenix cunninghamiana and a bit less hardy; at the same time Illawarra is happier with generally cool conditions overall. The ones at the Gardens at Lake Merritt, Oakland, planted in the 90s skyrocketed past the previously planted, older and mature, Archontophoenix cunninghamiana that were planted in the 80s.
Can grow quite fast compared to other palms and form a trunk earlier.
Multiple palms planted in clumps will gracefully arch apart over time.
For planting near the coast, choose the most wind-protected location, like in the lee of a building or fence. Requires almost no pruning once the trunk forms—dead leaves drop cleanly on their own. Roots are sensitive to disturbance: Take care to keep rootball intact when planting. Tolerates a variety of soils. Amend with organics like compost for better drainage in clay soils; in sandy soils adding organics can help retain moisture and nutrients.
Fertilize with slow-release palm food quarterly in March, June, and September for best performance. Skip winter fertilizing to allow rains to leach any buildup of salts.
Not a top choice for a pot. Choose the largest container to plant in to increase the lifespan of the plant.
Not a good choice for a houseplant.

Special Interest

Swaying, rich green leaves and clean ringed trunks set the king palm apart from most other palms regularly seen in California.

Markedly faster growing in coastal areas, this named variety originates from the most southerly population of the species in the Illawarra district south of Sydney, where it has adapted to cooler temperatures. It is not, however, hardier to frost.

Through the warmer seasons, flowerstalks appear when the lowest leaf falls. From the sheath emerges a stalk with purplish flowers followed by red fruits. Bees love the flowers. Seedlings may appear in irrigated areas.
The trunk fades from green to brownish to whitish grey over time.