Rhopalostylis sapida ‘Chatham Island’

nikau palm
Stiff, upright feather fronds are held by bulbous apple green leaf sheaths. Green ringed trunk. Clean, exotic appearance. Robust variety; southernmost palm.
height 20–30ft
width 6–10ft
tolerates Coast, Cool Summers, Fog, Moist Soil, Salt, Wind
Moderate – High
Being from New Zealand, this palm appreciates consistent water, but won’t tolerate soggy soil. Once it’s established, be sure to water it when the top inch or two of the soil is dry. Usually this will mean watering deeply every five to seven days during the dry season.
exposure Full Shade – Part Shade
drainage In Ground: Cactus Mix, In Pots: Cactus Mix, Tolerates Heavy Soil, Tolerates Sandy Soil
fertilizing Palm Fertilizer
origin Chatham Island
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

Thrives in cool marine influence areas of coastal California, even through the drier areas of Southern California.
Palms are generally heavy feeders, so if you want them growing quickly and looking their best, they should be fertilized at least three times a year. Fertilizing at spring equinox, summer solstice and fall equinox will allow for a winter rest. Be sure to feed your palm with a fertilizer that contains micronutrients (especially including magnesium), especially if you see yellowing leaves or yellow spots on the leaves.
Will not grow in interior California as this palm is intolerant of dry heat.
Young plants appreciate shade and can be cooked quickly in full sun. Mature plants do well in full coastal sun.
Adaptable to various soils, but prefers well drained soil.

Special Interest

Since this palm has almost no petioles (leaf stems) and upswept leaves, its crown resembles a shaving brush, thus the second common name for this tree - the shaving brush palm. This also means that the crown is both very full and also narrow, fitting into surprisingly tight spots.