Windmill Palm - Cold Hardy Palms For Shady Areas

8 Cold Hardy Palms For Shady Areas

While palms in general are known for their love of sunlight, it may come as a surprise that there are some palm species out there that will tolerate and in some cases prefer low light and part sun conditions.

If your yard is a bit “sun challenged” then here’s a list of some cold hardy palms for shady areas of your landscape.

TL;DR:

  • General Info:
    • Some palm species thrive in low light and part sun, suitable for “sun-challenged” yards.
    • The article lists cold hardy palms that can grow in shady areas.
  • 1. Butia Capitata (Pindo Palm):
    • Tropical appearance, known for fruit used in wine and jelly.
    • Grows to 25 feet, prefers well-draining soil, tolerates zone 7b-11.
  • 2. Chamaerops Humilis (Mediterranean Fan Palm):
    • Shrub-like, suitable for small spaces.
    • Green fronds, 10-15 feet in height, drought tolerant, grows in zone 7a-11.
  • 3. Livistona Chinensis (Chinese Fan Palm):
    • Popular in subtropical climates, tolerates moderate freezes.
    • Large, light green fan fronds, reaches 40-50 feet, prefers humid environments, and grows in zone 8a-11.
  • 4. Phoenix Roebelenii (Pygmy Date Palm):
    • Ideal for entryways, grows well in low light.
    • Small pinnate fronds, up to 15 feet high, needs moist soil, and tolerates zone 9b-11.
  • 5. Rhapidophyllum Hystrix (Needle Palm):
    • Extremely cold hardy, ideal for northern climates.
    • Dense palmate fronds, 6 feet in height, tolerate various soils, suitable for zones 6b-11.
  • 6. Sabal Minor (Dwarf Palmetto):
    • Shade-loving, almost as cold hardy as Needle palm.
    • Fronds up to 6 feet in width, prefers swampy conditions, and grows in zones 6b-11.
  • 7. Serenoa Repens (Saw Palmetto):
    • Known for medicinal benefits, dwarf variety.
    • Fan fronds, up to 10 feet tall, prefer hot humid areas, and grow in zones 8a-11.
  • 8. Trachycarpus Fortunei (Windmill Palm):
    • Popular in cold climates, tolerates various lighting conditions.
    • Mid-size, 15-20 feet tall, prefers temperate areas, thrives in zones 7a-11.

We also list key characteristics of the listed palms in this article like appearance, size, preferred conditions, and zone tolerance.

What Are the Best Cold Hardy Palms For Shady Areas?

Here are the best cold-tolerant palms for areas with low light and shade.

1. Butia Capitata – Pindo Palm

cold hardy palms for shady areas - Pindo Palm
Pindo Palm – Berkeley, CA

Known for its tropical flavored fruit popular for making wine and jelly, the Pindo palm has a very tropical appearance for such a cold hardy palm.

Pindo palms have large, curved pinnate fronds and will get to a height of approximately 25 feet.

They prefer well-draining soil and will grow in part to full sun.

Zone Tolerance: 7b-11

Read my full article on the Pindo palm HERE

2. Chamaerops Humilis – Mediterranean Fan Palm

Grouping of Mediterranean Fan Palms
Grouping of Mediterranean Fan Palms

The Mediterranean Fan palm is a shrub-like suckering fan palm that has become quite popular in many colder areas.

Its smaller size makes it ideal for entryways, small yards, and around pools.

They have small green fronds and get approximately 10-15 feet in height and 15 feet wide at maturity.

For cool color contrast, plant them with the silver form version known as the Chamaerops Humilis ‘Cinera’.

They are drought tolerant and prefer well-draining soil with part to full sun.

Zone Tolerance: 7a-11

Read my full article on the Mediterranean Fan palm HERE

3. Livistona Chinensis – Chinese Fan Palm

Chinese Fan Palm In a Park Setting
Chinese Fan Palm In a Park Setting

The Chinese Fan palm has become quite popular in subtropical and temperate climates over the years.

It is tolerant of moderate freezes, and low light conditions, and its the ability to grow well as an indoor palm.

These palms have large, circular light green fan fronds that droop at the ends.

They can achieve a height of about 40-50 feet and can grow at faster rates if given ample moisture.

Chinese Fan palms are drought tolerant but prefer humid environments.

They grow in a variety of soils and prefer part to full sun.

Zone Tolerance: 8a-11

Read my full article on the Chinese Fan palm HERE

4. Phoenix Roebelenii – Pygmy Date Palm

Pygmy Date Palms
Pygmy Date Palms

With its growing popularity in temperate and subtropical climates, the Pygmy Date palm is a perfect candidate for low-light areas.

They are compact palms ideal for entryways and near pools due to their nice tropical appearance.

Pygmy palms have small, light to dark green pinnate fronds that grow approximately 2-3 feet in length.

Its solitary trunk can get up to 10-15 feet high at maturity.

They will need moist, well-draining soil with occasional fertilization to keep it looking its best.

Prefers part sun, but will tolerate some full sun in temperate climates.

Zone Tolerance: 9b-11

5. Rhapidophyllum Hystrix – Needle Palm

Needle Palm In Texas
Needle Palm In Texas

Arguably the most cold hardy palm in the world, the Needle palm is a great choice for those in extreme northern areas who would still like to grow an outdoor palm.

They are extremely cold hardy, tolerant of low light, and ideal for growing around the border of properties due to their dense hedge-like stature.

The Needle palm is suckering with several trunks and sharp needles near the base.

The small, dense palmate fronds vary from light to dark green and can reach a height of about 6 feet and even larger in width.

Needle palms need hot, humid summers and will grow in a variety of soil types.

They aren’t picky, tolerating part to full sun, and can be grown as a ground palm underneath larger specimens.

Zone Tolerance: 6b-11

Read my full article on the Needle Palm HERE

6. Sabal Minor – Dwarf Palmetto

Dwarf Palmetto (Sabal Minor) - Encinitas, CA
Dwarf Palmetto (Sabal Minor) – Encinitas, CA

Naturally growing in many areas of the Southeast U.S., the Dwarf Palmetto is a shade-loving trunkless palm known to be almost as cold-hardy as the Needle palm.

There are many different species of dwarf palmetto and can range greatly in size and appearance.

Fronds can get up to 6 feet in width in some varieties and will only show a slight trunk in the most mature of specimens.

They prefer swampy humid conditions, grow in a variety of soil types, and love heavily shaded areas underneath larger growth where they are native.

Zone Tolerance: 6b-11

7. Serenoa Repens – Saw Palmetto

Green Form Saw Palmettos Growing In Central Florida
Green Form Saw Palmettos Growing In Central Florida

Known for its medicinal prostate health benefits, the Saw Palmetto is another dwarf variety similar to the common Dwarf Palmetto.

They can be found widely scattered and tucked underneath larger trees along highways and interstates across northern Florida.

Saw Palmettos have small fan fronds that vary from light to dark green.

There is also a silver form with a much brighter color that contrasts well when planted next to each other.

They can get approximately 10 feet tall and much wider creating a hedge-like appearance, much like the Needle palm.

These palms love hot humid areas and can grow in a variety of moist soil types.

They can tolerate full sun but prefer part sun and shade.

Zone Tolerance: 8a-11, possibly lower

8. Trachycarpus Fortunei – Windmill Palm

A Well-Kept Windmill Palm
A Well-Kept Windmill Palm

The Windmill Palm may just be the most popular cold hardy palm out there.

They can grow in a variety of climates, handle various lighting conditions, and are extremely cold hardy.

Their wide availability and medium size have made them a hard palm to pass up for folks living in northern regions where summers are milder.

Windmill palms have many species and can vary in appearance with a compact crown of green fronds and a fibrous trunk.

They are mid-size palms averaging a height of about 15 to 20 feet tall.

These palms prefer temperate areas and can suffer a bit in extreme heat and humidity.

They prefer moist, well-draining soil and thrive in part or full sun.

Zone Tolerance: 7a-11

Read my full article on the Windmill Palm HERE

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