Butia odorata best known to most as Butia capitata or the Jelly Palm is a very attractive palm from south Brazil and Uruguay where it grows in grasslands and woodland edges. Producing large pinnate or feather like leaves usually a glaucous grey-green in colour and reaching 5 or so metres high a fully grown jelly palm is a stunning sight. For us these Butias are particularly useful showing remarkable hardiness in milder U.K gardens where they can tolerate heavy frosts and perhaps more importantly our wet winters. Unlike many other palms that may tolerate cold, Butia also seem happy to grow reasonably fast in our relatively cool summers producing both sturdy trunks and leaves 3 or more metres long. They may be an expensive purchase when mature but for me even a young butia is an attractive feature so please lust over the large specimens but console yourself in the beauty of a young Jelly palm, maybe plant a few if you have space.
As for cultivation Butia odorata likes fertile but free draining soils planted in a sunny or slightly shaded spot. Best for gardens in milder parts of the country and suitable for coastal gardens if given shelter from very windy spots. In my West Sussex garden on rank wet clay in winter, bone dry in summer I’ve grown Jelly Palms for many years in large containers where they have grown well suffering the occasional neglect and freezing winters with ease. So in essence a tough palm for milder spots producing large greyish leaves creating a very exotic appearance. Responds well to regular feeding but hates cold waterlogged soils. If you really need a jelly palm and are concerned about overwintering it is possible to give winter protection by wrapping in fleece or hessian during cold spells and if you grow in a container please protect the roots from freezing too by wrapping/insulating the pot.
Oh in case you are wondering, Butia odorata gets its common name, jelly palm, from the delicious jelly that is made from the sweet tasting ripe fruits.
- Eventual Size:3 to 4 metres tall, about 2 metres wide.
- Position:Full sun and sheltered from cold winds.
- Habit:Single trunk, with arching feather-like leaves.
- Soil:All soils, but avoid waterlogged areas drought tolerant once established.