Cold Hardy Palms 101

The ultimate symbol of tropical or subtropical climates is the palm tree. That is why I wrote a post on Cold Hardy Palms 101. Many of us go on vacation to Florida or other warm climates and see the beautiful palm trees. While it is true that palm trees generally are native to warmer tropical or subtropical regions there are some species that are native to warm temperate areas and some that will grow in parts of the northern United States and Canada. The term cold hardy palm trees is a relative term. It all depends on what people mean by cold hardy. Is being able to withstand 10F cold hardy or what about 0F and for how long? Also some trees can stand colder temperatures in dry sandy soil or if they are in a location that is out of the wind.

There are two main kinds of palm trees. There are Fan palms and feather palms. Feather Palms have the type of leaves that a Coconut Palm has. Fan Palms have the type of leaves that Palmettos have. These are the familiar palm trees from Myrtle Beach. Generally speaking fan palms are hardier than feather palms.

In this article I am going to focus on palms that have a shot in climates that are Zone 7B and colder. The average minimum winter temperature in Zone 7B is 5-10F. The USDA has climate zones for the entire United States. These climate zones are separated in 10 degree F increments with half zones in between. Some cities in Zone 7B include NYC, Philadelphia, and Atlantic City etc.

In this article I am going to focus on palms that have a shot in climates that are Zone 7B and colder. Specifically gardeners in zones 5A to 7B. There are people that grow palms outdoors in climates colder than 5A but the winter protection involved can get pretty elaborate. For zones warmer than 7B you start to see a number of palm varieties out in the open with no winter protection. In future blog posts I will go into ideas for winter protection and report on other varieties of cold hardy palm trees when I find out about them.

The 2012 USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map is the most commonly used climate zone map in the United States. This map was updated since the last edition came out in 1990 and the end result was that many locations moved a half zone or even a full zone warmer.

2012 USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map
2012 USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map

2012 USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map
2012 USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map
Zone 5B Major Cities

Lansing MI, Colorado Springs CO, Chicago IL, Denver CO, Des Moines IO, Omaha NE, Albany NY, Portland ME,

Zone 5A Major Cities Casper WY, Rapid City SD, Madison WI, Burlington VT, Bangor ME,

Zone 6 A Major Cities Durango CO, Topeka KS, Fort Wayne IN, Ann Arbor MI, Columbus OH, Buffalo NY, Springfield MA,

Zone 6B Major Cities Santa Fe NM, Wichita KS, Kansas City MO, Evansville In, Toledo, OH, Pittsburgh PA, Providence RI

Zone 7A Major Cities Boise ID, Grand Junction CO, Tulsa OK, Nashville TN, Richmond VA, Boston MA

Zone 7B Major Cities Albuquerque NM, Lubbock TX, Tupelo MS, Chattanooga TN, Charlotte NC, New York City, Parts of Cape Cod MA

 

 

Trachycarpus Fortunei Commonly Known as the Chinese Fan Palm
Trachycarpus Fortunei Commonly Known as the Chinese Fan Palm

Trachycarpus Fortunei

Commonly called the Chinese windmill palm this is most likely the coldest hardy trunked palm. There are various reports of the hardiness of this palm. In my research I have seen it listed as hardy from up to -10 F to 10 above F. My personal opinion is that it is hardy to somewhere between 10F and 0 F. I have grown small specimens using winter protection (Styrofoam Rose Cones) in Toledo Ohio Zone 6 B Climate. These plants are native to Mountainous regions of Central China, Southern Japan and Burma. They can grow up to 35-70 ft. tall in ideal conditions. They generally prefer cooler wet shady conditions except when planted in colder climates where they can take sunny conditions.

Here is a link if you wish to purchase this plant from Amazon. Please be aware that I  receive a small commission if you make a purchase which helps support the costs of running this website.

 

Commonly called the Takil Palm
Commonly called the Takil Palm

Trachycarpus takil

Commonly called the Takil Palm this tree is native to areas of northern India and Nepal. It grows in higher altitudes in areas that can get snow in winter. This tree is native to areas of high humidity so regular watering is important. It can grow from 30-50 ft. in height. From my research it may be hardy from 5F to -5F. It is not common in cultivation yet. It is an attractive tree that looks similar to the Chinese windmill palm.

Nannorrhops ritchiana

Mazari Palm

This is a rare shrubby palm native to desert regions of Afghanistan, Pakistan and neighboring countries. It is reportedly very cold hardy with reports of it possibly being hardy down to -4 F. It is a picky plant and does not like damp conditions. This might be worth a try in warmer areas of New Mexico, Utah, Colorado and other areas with similar climates.

Sabal ‘Birmingham’

This plant appears to be a hybrid between Sabal Minor and Sabal Palmetto. The first time this plant was identified was in a garden in Birmingham Alabama. The plant was said to have survived may freezes over the years of 10F and at least one freeze of below zero. The original tree died sometime after it was transplanted but there are many descendants of the original tree that have been grown from its seed. Some of these trees have survived temperatures well below zero. It is a slower growing tree than Sabal Palmetto but it does grow a trunk and can reach a height of around 40 Ft. My guess would be with my research that this plant is hardy to somewhere between 10-0F with well sited healthy specimens with some winter protection hardy to -5F. This palm would most likely be pretty safe in a Zone7B area and in the right microclimate might make it in 7A or 6B.

 

Sabal minor Commonly called the Dwarf Palmetto
Sabal minor Commonly called the Dwarf Palmetto

Sabal Minor

Commonly called the Dwarf Palmetto this palm is usually trunkless and grows to around 3 ft. tall in most cases. In some cases after many years it can develop a small aboveground trunk and grow up to 9-10 ft. tall. This is one of the hardiest of the palms. These palms are native the southeastern US as far north as the southern tip of Virginia and southern Arkansas and Oklahoma. They also range into northern Mexico. The variety McCurtain from southeast Oklahoma is the hardiest known variety of sabal minor. It has been reported to survive -10-20 F without major damage.

 

Rhapidophyllum hystrix Commonly called the Needle Palm
Rhapidophyllum hystrix Commonly called the Needle Palm

Rhapidophyllum hystrix

Commonly called the Needle Palm this is probably the hardiest palm in the world. It is a trunkless palm in most cases but sometimes will have a short trunk. It can grow from 6- to 10’ ft. tall. It is native to Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama and Mississippi There are reports of the plant surviving -10-0 degrees. At 0 degrees or below expect some damage. Generally speaking this is a plant that likes hot summers. It is a good bet to try in parts of the eastern United States that are too cold for the larger trunked palms. There are needle palms along the Atlantic Coast including in New York City. This plant is known for having large needles or spines around the base. These needles can be from approx. 4”-10” long. They protect the plant from grazing animals in the plants native habitat.

 

Sabal palmetto Commonly called the Cabbage Palm
Sabal palmetto Commonly called the Cabbage Palm

Sabal Palmetto

Commonly called the Cabbage Palm this is a trunked fan palm that is common on beaches in the Southeastern US. These palms are very common in Myrtle Beach. They are native to the southeast US from coastal North Carolina to Florida and in the coastal plain of the states bordering the Gulf of Mexico. They commonly can reach from 40’-60 ft in height and in some exceptional cases up to around 90 ft. in height. I have seen reports that they are hardy down to 7-15 F. As with many palms it is the duration of the cold as well as how cold it is that is important. The coastal southeast gets periodic cold snaps but usually they are short lived.

 

Chamaerops humilis Commonly called the European fan palm
Chamaerops humilis Commonly called the European fan palm

Chamaerops

Commonly called the European fan palm this palm has the most northerly native range of any palm. It grows as far north as Latitude 43. This is the same latitude as Boise Idaho and Rochester New York. The difference being in Europe to the north and west is the Atlantic Ocean and not Arctic Canada. The natural range of the species is the Mediterranean basin and adjoining areas. This is a fan palm which usually grows in a shrubby manner with multiple trunks and growing from 4-20 ft. in most cases. It is hardy down to 12-8F for short periods. This plant does not like prolonged cold spells. It comes from places with a Mediterranean climate so for those experimental gardeners it may do best out west in lower humidity areas.

Here is a link if you wish to purchase this plant from Amazon. Please be aware that I  receive a small commission if you make a purchase which helps support the costs of running this website.

 

Serenoa repens Commonly called the Saw Palmetto
Serenoa repens Commonly called the Saw Palmetto

Serenoa repens

Commonly called the Saw Palmetto This is a shrubby fan palm which usually does not develop a very tall trunk. It grows very slowly and can spread out over great distances. It can grow from 7-10 ft. tall after a long period of time. These palms are relatively common in Florida and adjoining areas of the southeast and grow in open pine forests and also along the coastline. This palm has spines along the stem and this is where it gets its common name Saw Palmetto. From my research it appears that the tree can survive from 5-0 F.

 

Butia capitata Commonly called the Jelly Palm
Butia capitata Commonly called the Jelly Palm

Butia Capitata

Commonly called the Jelly Palm this is a feather palm. This palm is native to Argentina, Paraguay, Brazil and Uruguay in South America. It can grow rather tall. It prefers full sun to partial shade. It can grow to around 20 ft. tall and in exceptional cases 30 ft. tall. In researching this plant I have seen it listed as hardy from 14 F to 5 F. This would place it in zones 7-8. This is a common plant in the coastal southeast. It is naturalized as far north as Virginia. It does not like extreme heat. There are specimens growing as far north as New York City on the East Coast and Coastal British Columbia on the West Coast. They have fruit which are used to make jelly and wine.

Here is a link if you wish to purchase this plant from Amazon. Please be aware that I  receive a small commission if you make a purchase which helps support the costs of running this website.

Butia Eriospatha

Commonly called the Woolly Jelly Palm this is less common in the US than the Jelly Palm. It is a 15’ tall slow growing feather palm native to southern Brazil and northern Argentina. It prefers full sun to light shade. Is hardy without damage to around 15F and there are reports of it surviving below 10F.

 

Jubaea Chilensis Commonly called the Chilean wine palm
Jubaea Chilensis Commonly called the Chilean wine palm

Jubaea chilensis

Commonly called the Chilean wine palm this plant is native to central Chile. It can get up around 80ft in height and has a thick trunk that can grow over 4ft wide at the base. It is hardy down to 5F for short periods. It would not do well in an area with extreme cold all winter. These plants do best on the west coast from southern British Columbia to Southern California. There are also specimens in Arizona and New Mexico.

I hope this post was helpful for you. I will be updating it in the future.

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