Monday, December 5, 2011

How to Care for a Saw Palmetto Plant

Saw palmetto berries are known for their medicinal properties.

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The saw palmetto, Serenoa repens/Sabal serrulata, is a cold-hardy palm plant that can grow as a shrub or a dense ground cover. The evergreen, fan-shaped leaves produce many leaflets edged with small spines. Though it is a slow-growing plant, the shrub can reach 4 to 10 feet tall or larger and has a spreading habit. It should be planted with plenty of room to grow. This native of southeastern United States is highly tolerant of a range of environments and adds interesting shape to a landscape. It has other uses as well. Its substances are extracted and used for treating enlarged prostates and other medical conditions.

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Prepare a soil location in full sun or partial shade. The plant will tolerate many soil types but thrives best in dry, well-drained soil. Allow plenty of space for it to spread as wide as 10 feet.


Sow seeds directly in soil bed or seed pots in an ideal location, as the saw palmetto is difficult to transplant. Provide moderate water but avoid soil saturation as the plant is establishing. Germination can be lengthy for this plant and may take six months due to the hard coating over the seed that will slowly break down. This plant will tolerate a range of light conditions, but prefers somewhat shadier conditions early in its life.


Transplant in the soil at the same level that it was planted in the nursery container. When transplanting, keep in mind that the saw palmetto grows with its trunk underground.


Provide moderate watering to promote establishment and avoid soggy or waterlogged soil which can hinder growth. Continue to provide moderate watering as the plant grows. Direct sunlight is ideal once it is established.

Tips & Warnings

The saw palmetto is extremely tolerant, with resistance against fire, drought and freezing temperatures. It is also salt-tolerant and may be planted near the ocean or salt-spray areas.

The white flowers of the saw palmetto develop into yellow berries that turn blue or black when ripe. Pick these berries for their medicinal benefits. The berries are used to make tea, consumed dry, or are made into other tinctures and preparations. They are prescribed for conditions including enlarged prostate glands, bronchitis, prostate cancer, male balding, urinary tract infections for women and sexual dysfunction.

Avoid planting where the sharp spines of the leaves will interfere with areas where people will be walking.

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ReferencesUniversity of Florida IFAS Extension: Saw PalmettoSmithsonian Marine Station at Fort Pierce; Serenoa Repens; K. HillGeorge Mason University; Saw Palmetto; A Miracle Herb?; Mike WardachUniversity of Maryland Medical Center: Saw PalmettoPhoto Credit Siri Stafford/Lifesize/Getty ImagesRead Next:

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