13 Cold-Hardy Palm Trees
Think you live too far north to grow palms? Think again! Discover palms that stand up to cold—and even snow.
Photo By: DoreenWynja.com photographer for Monrovia
‘McCurtain’ Dwarf Palmetto (Sabal minor ‘McCurtain’)
Snow and palm trees can go together—if you get the right variety. This snow hardy palm hails from McCurtain County, Oklahoma, just west of Folsom, Arkansas. ‘McCurtain’ grows in Wichita, where it’s known to have survived temperatures of -24°F. It’s a good choice for winter gardeners in places like Ohio and Delaware who want to inject some tropical ambience into their landscapes. This variety ultimately grows to 6 feet and has a faster growth rate than other dwarf palmettos. Hardy in Zones 6b-10b.
‘Bulgaria’ Windmill Palm (Trachycarpus fortunei ‘Bulgaria’)
Palm trees in Bulgaria? That’s where this tough-as-nails variety originates. In this setting, temps often plummet, including a record low of -17°F. ‘Bulgaria’ survived the Polar Vortex during the 2013-14 winter in Washington, D.C. Windmill palms come in male and female forms. The female bears striking seeds: blue-black seeds on bright yellow stems. Plants can grow to 12 feet tall. Hardy in Zones 7b-10b, although 7b plants may lose all leaves in a severe winter.
Pindo Palm Tree (Butia capitata)
Pindo palm is what’s known as a feather palm, having classic long palm fronds. It’s the only cold hardy feather palm and tolerates temps as low as 5°F, which means it can grow as far north as coastal New Jersey and British Columbia. Fruits are edible and used to make jelly in South Florida, where this beauty is also called jelly palm. Native to South America, pindo can grow to 20 feet, but usually tops out from 12 to 15 feet. Hardy in Zones 7b-11.
European Fan Palm (Chamaerops humilis)
Also known as the Mediterranean fan palm, this is a clump forming palm that tends to have several trunks growing together in the wild. The secret to success is sharply draining soil that keeps the palm on the dry side, especially in winter. Raised beds filled with a cactus-type growing mix is ideal. A slow growing palm that rarely outgrows its space, this fan palm grows 10 to 15 tall and wide. Hardy in Zones 7b-11, although with proper winter drainage it may survive in colder zones.
Needle Palm Tree (Rhapidophyllum hystrix)
Meet the hardiest palm on record: needle palm. This is a clump forming palm and makes a nice statement in a landscape. The northernmost clump known to be growing without protection resides on Cape Cod. Plants can withstand temps as low as -10°F, but need strong summer heat to thrive. Needle palm tends to survive better on the East Coast (hotter summers) than on the West Coast. It’s native to the Southeast and has sharp, needle-like structures on leaf stems. Hardy in Zones 5b-11.
Sago Palm Tree (Cycas revoluta)
This isn’t a true palm, but it has the tropical look of a palm and can take temps down to 5°F. Also known as king sago, it’s a living fossil, having existed when dinosaurs roamed. It’s native to Japan and commonplace in warm region landscapes. The secret to success with it is providing sharp drainage. Use sago palm with palms, in rock gardens or as a patio plant. The leathery leaves indicate drought tolerance. All parts of this plant are poisonous. Hardy in Zones 7b-11.
Blue Mediterranean Fan Palm (Chamaerops humilis v. cerifera)
A silvery coating on leaves gives this fan palm its blue tones. Native to the Atlas Mountains of Morocco, blue Mediterranean fan palm withstands chilly temps down to 5°F. Plants tend to form clumps, with pups appearing around the main stem. When subfreezing temps pair with bright sunshine, the main stem often dies back, while the pups survive. It can grow to 15 feet, but is more commonly seen at shorter heights because it’s relatively slow growing. Hardy in Zones 7b-10b.
Bismarck Palm Tree (Bismarckia nobilis)
If you want drama in your landscape, plant silvery bismarck palm. This beauty is native to Madagascar and survives temps as low as 15°F, which means it can grow in places like Nevada, Texas, Arkansas and Alabama. This isn’t a palm for small yards—it needs elbow room. Plants grow 50 to 60 feet tall and up to 20 feet wide. Young trees develop the full width while the trunk is still short, spreading up to 20 feet. Plant Bismarck palm against dark leaved evergreens so the silver leaves can sparkle. Hardy in Zones 8b-11.
Mazari palm (Nannorrhops ritchiana)
Mazari palm is a close second to needle palm when it comes to winter hardiness. It’s native to high altitude deserts in Northern Pakistan and Afghanistan. Duplicate those conditions of hot, dry and sunny, and mazari palm yields relatively fast growth. It resembles a large shrub with several short trunks. Leaves are leathery with blue tones. Plants survive winters where temps drop to -4°F, provided soil drains well and roots don’t sit in waterlogged soil. Hardy in Zones 6b-11.
Mexican Fan Palm Tree (Washingtonia robusta)
This is probably one of the most commonly planted palm trees. It’s fast growing and native to northern Mexico and Baja California. This shows a young palm; mature plants have a tuft of palm fronds atop a long, bare trunk. Spent leaves cling to trunks forming a petticoat that’s often inhabited by rats and definitely a fire hazard. Cities like Los Angeles require homeowners to keep dead leaves removed to produce a bare trunk. Plants survive temps as low as 15°F and grow to 100 feet, although in colder areas they stay smaller. Hardy in Zones 8b-11.
‘Emerald Island Giant’ Dwarf Palmetto (Sabal minor ‘Emerald Island Giant’)
Looking for a palm that can survive lows near zero? ‘Emerald Island Giant’ is the palm for you. Deep blue-green leaves are eye-catching in the landscape. Plants form short trunks and tend to grow in clumps. Many palm enthusiasts in northerly zones report having this palm covered in ice and snow with no damage. This is a North Carolina native, found near Emerald Isle where it was rescued from a construction site. Plants grow slowly, adding one or two leaves per year and ultimately reach 7 feet tall and up to 10 feet wide. Hardy in Zones 7a-10b.
Cabbage Palm Tree (Sabal palmetto)
The state tree of Florida and South Carolina, cabbage palm is also remarkably cold hardy, surviving temps of 10 to 15°F. This is a large fan palm that grows slowly, producing a trunk after 10 years of growth. Use cabbage palm as a focal point, planting individual trees, or group several together to form a grove. Remove dead leaf bases to prevent critters like rats from taking up residence. Hardy in Zones 8a-11, although it’s been reported to grow in Zone 7b.
Chinese Fan Palm Tree (Livistona chinensis)
Graceful and elegant, Chinese fan palm also goes by the name fountain palm, referring to the way leaf tips dangle. Plants are native to China, Tawian and Japan, where they grow along subtropical islands and coastlines. Despite their warm-weather origins, this fan palm is strongly cold hardy, surviving temps to 10°F. Use Chinese fan palm as a focal point or understory tree, tucked beneath large Southern live oaks. Plants usually grow to about 30 feet in warmest areas. Hardy in Zones 8b-11.