13 Classic Palm Tree Varieties
Who doesn’t love palm trees? Discover some traditional favorites that burst with tropical charm.
True Date Palm (Phoenix dactylifera)
Date palms bring a sense of stateliness to any setting. This is the palm that bears delicious, sweet dates. It hails from North Africa and thrives in any type of soil—even rocky and poor. Many date farms in California have closed due to various pressures, and they’re selling the trees. This makes mature date palms readily available for reasonable prices. Keep suckers removed as they appear to maintain a single trunk palm. Hardy in Zones 8a-11.
Zombie Palm (Zombia antillarum)
Add a little scare factor to your yard with a zombie palm. Native to Hispaniola, which includes Haiti, this palm earns its name from long trunk spines used as needles in voodoo dolls. Leaves on this palm are also commonly used as roof thatch because of their reputed zombie-repellant properties. Very slow growing, zombie palm forms a multi-stemmed clump. Tree height tops at 10 feet. It’s a perfect complement to a one-story home. Hardy Zones 9b-11.
Windmill Palm (Trachycarpus fortunei)
Known by several names including Chusan or Chinese windmill palm, this upright tree brings stately beauty to any landscape. Leaves have a strong fan-like appearance, although some are partially segmented toward the base so that the tips have a weeping look. This is a tough, cold-hardy palm native to mountain and temperate forests in China. Windmill palm is widely available, tolerates urban conditions and adapts well to growing in courtyards or containers. Grows 20 to 40 feet tall. Hardy in Zones 7 to 10.
Sonoran Palmetto Palm (Sabal uresana)
This palmetto palm has classic costapalmate leaves, with a midrib running partway along the leaf. The result is a structured curving leaf shape that’s eye-catching in the landscape. Silvery leaves contrast with a dark brown trunk. Native to Northern Mexico at elevations of 3,000 feet, this is a cold-hardy palm that’s very slow growing. Local people groups used fronds for weaving baskets. Hardy in Zones 8a-10b.
Foxtail Palm (Wodyetia bifurcata)
An Australian native, foxtail palm is winning fans across the warmest parts of Florida, Texas and California. Fronds have a brushy, full appearance, like the tail of a fox. Place this palm at least 8 feet away from a house to give new fronds room to unfurl. Young foxtail palms are somewhat sparse looking and leaves can appear torn. Plants will fill in as they grow. Trees reach 30 feet tall. Hardy in Zones 9b-11.
Caranday Palm (Copernicia alba)
South America is the native home of the uncommon Caranday palm. It’s also known as wax palm. Leaves produce a waxy substance used to make lipstick, car polish and candles. Older leaves tend to bend downward, creating a waterfall of foliage near the treetop. Trunks grow straight, soaring to 50 feet. Hardy in Zones 9-11.
‘Taylor Form’ Windmill Palm (Trachycarpus fortunei ‘Taylor Form’)
Sometimes referred to as Taylor Hardy or Raleigh, this Chinese windmill palm stands up to snow and cold as far north as Baltimore and Philadelphia. It’s reported to have survived -9° F in the 1980s. This has traditional windmill palm leaves and a trunk that looks like it’s been wrapped in burlap. Trees grow to 20 feet at a slow rate. Hardy in Zones 7b to 10b.
‘Bulgaria’ Windmill Palm (Trachycarpus fortunei ‘Bulgaria’)
‘Bulgaria’ windmill palm was found growing near Romania, surviving a winter low of -17°F in 1993. Fruit offers a striking color display with bright yellow stems and blue-black berries. Palms have separate male and female trees, so you never know if your tree can produce seed until it flowers. The blossom cluster resembles beads. ‘Bulgaria’ trees grow to 20 feet at a slow rate. Hardy in Zones 7b to 10b.
Spindle Palm (Hyophorbe verschaffeltii)
Earning its name from a spindle shaped trunk (narrow at both ends and fat in the middle), this tropical palm works well as a specimen or accent tree. The long fronds measure up to 10 feet and arch gracefully. Trees grow to 20 feet tall and benefit from supplemental irrigation. Spindle palm is in danger of extinction in its native habitat of the Mascarene Islands in the Indian Ocean. Hardy in Zones 10a-11.
King Palm (Archontophoenix cunninghamiana)
Welcome royalty to your landscape with the classic good looks of king palm. This Australian native shines when planted in small groups of two or three. The tree is said to have a crown, a green shaft that extends 3 feet along the trunk directly below the leaves. It’s a favorite palm in South Florida, where trees typically grow to 40 feet tall. Hardy in Zones 9b-11.
Florida Thatch Palm (Thrinax radiata)
Also known as Jamaican thatch or chit, this palm is common along South Florida highways and also makes a great palm tree for a landscape. The narrow footprint means it fits neatly into small yards, along fences or lining a parking area. It grows well inside pool cages, provided there’s a 15-foot clearance. Trees grow 15 to 20 feet tall. Hardy in Zones 10a-11.
Triangle Palm (Dypsis decaryi)
Bulging leaf bases overlap on this Madagascar native to form a triangle shape that’s elegant in the landscape. The fronds develop long hanging threads that dangle from the treetop. This palm easily earns the award for most unusual shape, with its attention grabbing, three-sided appearance. Use it as a focal point in a planting bed. Trees usually grow 10 to 15 feet tall. Hardy in zones 10a-11.
Senegal Date Palm (Phoenix reclinata)
As the name suggests, this clump-forming palm hails from dry regions of sub-Saharan Africa. Brown fibers cover trunks and contrast nicely with long green leaf fronds. Trunks produce suckers that, if left unchecked, create large, impenetrable clumps. Selectively remove suckers as they form to create a clump that showcases the gracefully arching trunks. Trees grow 25 to 50 feet tall. Hardy in Zones 9-11.