The Best Cold Hardy Palm Trees

Cold Hardy Palm Trees for Those Living Farther North

Not everyone wants to live in tropical parts of the country yet still would love the image of a nice tall palm tree swaying in the wind in their back yard. For those individuals you’re not out of luck, this post will focus on the best cold hardy palm trees that may be more suitable for your frigid climate zone.

Keep in mind that as you read through the different types of cold hardy palm trees on this list that just because they can sustain a certain degree of cold temperature doesn’t mean that long term exposure to this won’t necessarily kill the tree in the long run. Like everything else in life – in moderation.

Additionally the links to each of these trees in my post will take you to RealPalmTrees.com, a trusted online palm tree retailer. However just because I link to them doesn’t mean you need to buy cold hardy palm trees from there, if you have strong feelings on buying from a local nursery then go for it.

If you haven’t already, before buying any cold hardy palm trees make sure you’re region isn’t still too cold to grow them. To find your hardiness region use the tool below by simply entering your zip code. This will then give you your hardiness region to reference as you look for palm trees to buy.

Something to keep in mind is the size you wish to buy; the smaller the tree the less expensive however you will need to nurture it more and wait a few years for it to mature, the larger the tree the more expensive however it will be more hardy.

WINDMILL PALM

Trachycarpus fortune
Windmill Palm - Cold Hardy Palm TreesThe Windmill palm (also commonly called the Chinese Windmill palm) is a pretty hardy palm that is compact and great for growing in more narrow areas. Though it can achieve heights of up to 20′ its diameter spread is usually restricted to around an 8′-10′ width at the crown.

The palmate leaves are a  green color with a lighter, silvery underside. They are supported by thin 3′ flattened stems that are rigid along the edges. Leaves are flat and arranged in a circular 3′ diameter pattern and are segmented about halfway. These leaves are arranged into a symmetrical formation around the crown.

These trees are one of the more easy ones to care for or even grow yourself if you’ve got the time to do so since they are a slow growing tree. Ultimately they’ll do well in either drought prone places as well as areas that receive a decent amount of rain, they are pretty versatile.

Windmill palms are dioecious meaning that male and female flowers are borne on separate plants. Come summer the males will produce large yellow flowers while the females show off a green flower. In the fall the female flowers will turn to a black fruit that is NOT edible.

The windmill palm is a hardy tree that resists most diseases though is moderately susceptible to lethal yellowing disease and leaf spotting. Aphids also do tend to pose a threat to this tree.

They are good when used in groupings with alternating heights if used in a large open area, or in linear formation when being used in narrow places.

  • Maintenance: Easy
  • Light: Moderate sun exposure
  • Mature Height: 10′-20′
  • Hydration: Water regularly, well drained soil
  • Cold Tolerance Zones: 7b-11 (no colder than 5°F)
  • Growth Rate: Slow
 Cold Hardy Palm Trees - Windmill Palm Small  Cold Hardy Palm Trees - Windmill Palm Medium  Cold Hardy Palm Trees - Windmill Palm Large
Small Medium Large
1′-4′ 5′-8′ 9′-12′ +
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Canary Island Date Palm Tree

Phoenix canariensis

Canary Island Date Palm - Cold Hardy Palm Trees

The Canary Date Palm, also referred to as the ‘pineapple palm’ is a pretty recognizable tree with its up and outward style crown & leaf structure. Native to the Canary Islands of the coast of North Africa this is a tree that definitely needs a good amount of space around it as the leaves can extend outward to a width of 30′-40′.

The canary date palm isn’t a self cleaning palm therefore pruning will be required to remove dead leaves hanging below the trees canopy. The proper look should be a clean trunk running up to a pineapple shaped crown base. It should look as though there is actually a large pineapple setting atop a thinner trunk structure.

The leaf structure is supported by 18′ long stems with 2′ sharp spines on the lower half. These stems display two rows of feather-like fronds with a dark green color that circle around the crown branching outward.

Highly branched inflorescences form small yellowish-white flowers followed by orange edible dates in the fall and are very decorative. Though I say they’re edible and sweet you still may not want to eat them since the actual flesh on the is minimal surround a very large nut making it a laborious task to eat.

Due to the height and width these palms can reach, I wouldn’t suggest going with this if you have a small house since it will definitely make it look even smaller in comparison to the tree. It’s probably best used if you have a very large open space you’ve like to plant them in or want to use them to run along a road/driveway or even as a focal piece.

  • Maintenance: Moderate (requires pruning)
  • Light: Moderate to high sun
  • Mature Height: 50′-60′
  • Hydration: Moderate, water younger ones more often for faster growth
  • Cold Tolerance Zones: 8b-11 (no colder than 15°F)
  • Growth Rate: Moderate
 Cold Hardy Palm Trees - Canary Date Palm  Cold Hardy Palm Trees - Canary Date Palm Medium  Cold Hardy Palm Trees - Canary Date Palm Large
Small Medium Large
1′-4′ 5′-8′ 9′-18′ +
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Beaked Yucca

Yucca rostrate
Beaked Yucca - Cold Hardy Palm TreesThe Beaked Yucca, native to Texas, is probably one of the most extreme cold hardy palm trees you can buy. Though not the best looking tree when it goes un-groomed since the trunk can start to look pretty shaggy, it can however survive temperatures down to -20°F for up to 100 days.

Aside from freezing temperatures, the yucca is drought tolerant, fire resistant, and deer tend to not enjoy eating it. It is one of the toughest palm trees you’ll find that can survive in North America.

At first glance a beaked yucca with a single crown almost resembles a dead Dandelion before the wind sends their seeds floating through the air. The pom-pom style crown holds thin, stiff, needle like leaves that can grow up to 2′ long, and taper to a sharp point at the tip. The leaves can vary in color from a silver/gray color tone to a green/blue shade.

Come mid-summer it does produce a flower stock stretching up to 2′ long carrying small pale yellow flowers.

These are good trees to place around the house as backdrops to a garden. Since they’ll only grow about 4″ or so a year you don’t need to worry about them sprouting up too quickly and needing to move them further away from the house if accidentally planted too close. The beaked yucca is also commonly used for Xeriscaping.

A word of caution when handling them though, the spiny leaves can prick you.

  • Maintenance: Easy
  • Light: Moderate to high sun exposure
  • Mature Height: 10′-20′
  • Hydration: Moderate watering
  • Cold Tolerance Zones: 5-11 (no colder than -20°F)
  • Growth Rate: Slow
 Cold Hardy Palm Trees - Beaked Yucca
Small
 1′-3′
Cold Hardy Palm Trees - Pricing

Dwarf Palmetto Palm

Sabal minor
Dwarf Palmetto - Cold Hardy Palm Trees

Another of the toughest cold hardy palm trees, the Dwarf Palmetto palm, also referred to as Blue Palm, is a low lying palm tree that can handle temperatures as long as -10°F.  This are commonly seen in North Carolina in ravines.

The leaf blades are usually longer than the leaf stalks and yield a fan shaped structure stretching as much as 4 feet wide. They carry a grey-green color leaf and produce white flowers followed by clusters of black fruit.

The trunk of the dwarf palmetto usually remains underground for most of its juvenile years shielding it from the cold weather. Though abundant exposure to cold temperatures and frost can kill the palms leaves, the roots are usually protected and will re-sprout a tree the following year.

These trees also have the capability of surviving in poor drainage areas and if there is too much water, instead of drowning, they may start to rise up out of the water by generating a taller trunk.

These trees are best for someone looking to add ground cover to their garden or create a low laying foliage barrier along their property or garden bed. Rabbits and other small animals love hiding in the cover provided from these trees so don’t be surprised if you find a rabbit bed in them come spring.

  • Maintenance: Moderate
  • Light: Moderate sun exposure
  • Mature Height: 5′-10′
  • Hydration: Prefers moist soils
  • Cold Tolerance Zones: 6-11 (no colder than -10°F)
  • Growth Rate: Slow
 Cold Hardy Palm Trees - Dwarf Palmetto
Small
 1′-4′
Cold Hardy Palm Trees - Pricing

PINDO PALM

Butia capitata
Pindo Palm - Cold Hardy Palm TreesThe Pindo Palm is also known as the ‘jelly palm’ for the pindo dates that grown on this tree that are used to make jam. It is native to Brazil but is now seen along the southern portion of the US.

The leaf structure are long feather-like pinnate leaves that arch from the crown curving down toward the ground. They can reach lengths of 5′-10′ long with a greenish gray color tone. Be careful when handling leaves though since they are positioned on a 2′-4′ long stem that is covered in spines. The trunk will mature to 1′-1½’ in diameter and will smoothen out near the bottom as it grows older.

This palm tree is salt water tolerate and can sustain areas of high rainfall without drowning. Additionally they are resistant to deer.

In the late spring flowers will bloom a with pink-purple color that are monoecious, meaning that both male & female flowers grow on the same tree. These flowers are followed by orange pindo dates, hanging in large clusters. One of the few cold hardy palm trees that when the fruits become ripe in the summer are edible and very tasty. They can be eaten raw, though they do have large seeds, however are more commonly used to make jelly or fermented into wine.

The Pindo Palm is a tough tree, once mature it’s tolerate to salt water, drought, and cold weather. It’s not too picky when it comes to soil so either clay or sandy soils will support it. Until it reaches about 2 year old though it will need frequent watering, after this moderate watering is all it should need to thrive.

Since the pindo palm’s mature height is average size it’s a pretty versatile in terms of where you plant it. My only suggestion would be not to plant it near walkways or doorways since as the fruits ripen they can attract wasps and other insects or will fall to the ground making a mess if not cleaned up.

  • Maintenance: Moderate (easy growth, fallen fruits can make a mess if not cleaned up)
  • Light: Partial shade
  • Mature Height: 10′-20′
  • Hydration: Frequent watering in 1st 2 years
  • Cold Tolerance Zones: 7b-11 (no colder than 5°F)
  • Growth Rate: Slow to moderate
 Cold Hardy Palm Trees - Pindo Palm  Cold Hardy Palm Trees - Pindo Palm Medium
Small Medium
1′-4′ 6′
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European Fan Palm

Chamaerops humilis
European Fan Palm - Cold Hardy Palm Trees

Known for its beautiful contrasting color schemes, the European Fan palm, also referred to as the Mediterranean Palm, thrives in cold conditions.

It is a cluster forming tree that that yields a fibrous husky trunk that keeps it warm in the cold weather. The european fan palm will grow multiple trunks tightly together from a single base. The leaves are a beautiful blueish-green that contrast well with the color tone of the trunk.

Palmate leaves grow in a triangular formation up to 2′ long and 2′ wide and split into multiple segments supported by 3′-4′ long stems. They usually grow in an upward position aiming toward the sky in varying angles. The stems are covered with small thorns so be cautious when pruning.

In the spring it produces tiny yellow clustered flowers that are followed by tiny green seed like fruits. These fruits are not edible for human consumption.

This tree is pretty versatile in its look, some let the leaves grow all the way up the trunk to create a think bushy privacy plant, while others remove the leaves leaving only the ones at the crown so it looks like a bunch of mini palm trees.

Due to its versatility this tree can either be used as a center piece in a smaller garden or driveway turnaround, or if left unpruned used to create a privacy wall. It is definitely one of the more unique cold hardy palm trees.

  • Maintenance: Moderate
  • Light: Prefer sunny areas but can survive in shade
  • Mature Height: 10′-20′
  • Hydration: Moderate, avoid soggy soil
  • Cold Tolerance Zones: 7b-11 (no colder than 5°F)
  • Growth Rate: Slow to moderate
 european-fan-palm-tree-chamaerops-humilis-10-01-b-realpalmtrees.com  Cold Hardy Palm Trees - European Fan Medium
Small Medium
 1′-4′  5′-8′
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Conclusion

There are other types of cold hardy palm trees however these in my mind are the most common ones you’ll hear gardeners and landscapers talk about.

Though some of these trees are said to be able to handle lower temperatures they usually are not able to handle such cold weather until they have matured, usually after 2 years or so.

Now that you know what can and can’t live in your region lets check out some my next blog post focusing on various palm tree landscaping ideas.

 

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Author: Josh

A gardener with a love for tropical trees and spending time in the sun, water, and in the mountains. I blog about garden ideas, outdoor activities, and various trees/plants that can make your backyard look like a scene out of a tropical vacation.