Years ago if someone had told me that there were palm trees that could survive temperatures into the single digits, I would have thought they were nuts.
Maybe they could take a light frost or a slight dip below freezing for a couple of hours, but 25-30 degrees below the freezing mark? I don’t think so.
While there are many types of hardy palm trees that will not survive these cold temperatures, there are a few out there that have proven cold hardy into the single digits and in some cases below the 0F mark without winter protection!
What Are the 3 Best Palm Trees For Zone 7?
Here’s a list of the best Zone 7 palm trees from the least to the most cold hardy palm.
3. The Windmill Palm (Trachycarpus Fortunei)
For the cooler, Mediterranean climates, Windmill palm trees have become a very popular palm for cold hardy tropical landscape enthusiasts and the only trunking palm on the list.
The Windmill palm tree has a nice, tropical-like appearance and has been known to withstand heavy frost damage and temperatures as low as -5 degrees F!
While a popular pick for coastal areas with wetter climates, the Windmill palm tree is actually quite drought-tolerant and enjoys partial to full sun.
The Windmill palm tree has a slender trunk covered in a fibrous coat of hair with medium to large size fan-shaped fronds.
Many landscapers and palm enthusiasts will choose Windmill palms as a replacement for the popular Mexican fan palm in colder areas due to its ability to tolerate freezing temperatures that the Mexican fan palm would normally succumb to.
Check out my full article on Windmill Palm trees HERE
2. The Dwarf Palmetto (Sabal Minor)
Coming in at a close second place of the best cold hardy palm trees is the Sabal Minor palm, also known as the dwarf palmetto.
This is known as the dwarf version of the Sabal Palmetto or Cabbage palm tree.
These palms are native to the southeast United States stretching from the southern part of Florida all the way up the northeast coast as far as Virginia.
Taking several degrees below zero before showing any leaf damage, dwarf palmettos are native to many freezing areas of the U.S. including parts of Oklahoma where these cold hardy palm trees will grow naturally in the wild.
The dwarf palmetto is a trunkless, slow-growing palm, and can have a nice bluish-green color to its fronds.
Dwarf palmettos can tolerate full shade and are perfect for planting underneath taller trees as they provide a nice tropical look in the underbrush.
1. The Needle Palm (Rhapidophyllum Hystrix)
Considered the cold hardiest palm tree in the world and the top pick for zone 7 palm trees, the Needle palm tree is a shrubby, slow-growing palm with very sharp needles on the petioles.
Once established, Needle palms can tolerate freezing temperatures in the winter months down to -10F and have been known to withstand temperatures down to -15F but could get some leaf damage unless some protection is used, especially during cold winds.
The Needle palm loves moisture and hot humid summers and does best in a subtropical climate.
For this reason, drier desert climates are not ideal for needle palms, although if kept well watered and in partial shade, they will do alright especially since they love the hot summer temperatures.
Check out my full article on the Needle Palm tree HERE
What Is a Hardiness Zone?
Cold hardiness zones, also known as USDA zones, are divided up into a 5-degree incremental number and letter system used to help identify which plants may be suitable for certain climates in an average season. (ex. Zone 7a= 0-5F, Zone 7b= 5-10F, and so on…). The higher the zone number, the warmer the climate.
The USDA Hardiness Zone Map
While it has gone through many improvements and fine-tuning over the years, the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map is a good way to find out what types of plants can grow in your specific climate.
They’ve narrowed their system down to being able to find specific growing zones right down to your zip code to get the most accurate information. You can access the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map HERE.
Not All Hardiness Zones Are Created Equal
One thing to take into account is that just because a palm tree is listed for a specific zone doesn’t mean that it will work long-term.
Hardiness zones are just one element that should be taken into consideration when choosing palm trees.
Other factors you should consider when planting palms in your yard include microclimates (areas of your yard where temperatures could fluctuate depending on sun exposure, wind patterns, or other weather conditions), moisture levels, and soil composition.
All of these can have an effect on how well your plants will thrive in any climate.
Other Palms To Experiment With In Zone 7
If you are living in a zone 7b climate that borders zone 8a, there are some other palm tree species you might want to experiment with.
Here are some more awesome palm trees that you should take into consideration for your landscape!
Pindo Palm (Butia Capitata)
The Pindo palm tree is a nice-looking bluish-green pinnate palm with edible fruit for making wine or jelly. The Pindo palm is possibly the most cold hardy pinnate palm aside from the Chilean Wine palm.
Cabbage Palm (Sabal Palmetto)
A common palmetto palm tree found in the Southeast U.S. The heart of the palm is edible and known for making it into a cabbage called “hearts of palm”, hence the name “Cabbage Palm”.
Saw Palmetto – silver and green form (Serenoa Repens)
The Saw palmetto palm is another Southeast U.S. native with popular fruit berries used in supplements known to aid in prostate health.
Chilean Wine Palm (Jubaea Chilensis)
A humongous slow-growing prehistoric-looking pinnate palm with edible fruit resembling a small coconut. The Chilean Wine palm is very similar to the Pindo palm tree and is frequently hybridized together.
European Fan Palm/Mediterranean Fan Palm (Chamaerops Humilis)
A nice multi-trunking alternative to the Windmill Palm that can withstand temperatures well below freezing in drier climates.
California Fan Palm (Washingtonia Filifera)
A cold hardier version of the Mexican Fan palm (Washingtonia Robusta) the California Fan palm tree can survive winter temperatures in many dry zone 7b climates with moderate leaf damage.
The Wrap Up
As you can see, even a 5-degree difference in average minimum temperatures can make a difference in where certain palm trees grow.
I consider zone 8 to be the gateway to growing more cold hardy palm tree varieties, so if you are in the high zone 7 range, then you really could have more options than you might first realize.
So if you find cold hardy palms that you really like, but it is just out of your cold hardiness zone range, give it a try anyway!
Sometimes just planting a palm near a wall, away from strong winds, and in full sun areas can give it an extra zone push in freezing weather.