Just like many other types of trees out there, palm trees can be large, small or somewhere in between, but what if you live in colder areas? Are there also cold hardy palm trees for small gardens?
Luckily for folks with limited space, there are quite a few cold hardy palms that will stay smaller even at full size.
- Palm Tree Varieties:
- Chamaerops Humilis (Mediterranean Fan Palm): Small to medium-sized, tolerates cold to about 10°F, suitable for zones 8+. Grows up to 20 feet tall.
- Cycas Revoluta (Sago Palm): Not a true palm, slow-growing, cold hardy in zones 8b+, reaches 8-15 feet in height.
- Nannorrhops Ritchiana (Mazari Palm): Thrives in dry climates, cold hardy to low single digits, grows 10-20 feet tall, zone 7+.
- Phoenix Roebelenii (Pygmy Date Palm): Moderately cold hardy, suitable for zones 9+, grows up to 15 feet tall.
- Rhapidophyllum Hystrix (Needle Palm): Extremely cold hardy, grows up to 6 feet in height, suitable for zone 6b+.
- Sabal Minor (Dwarf Palmetto): Trunkless, cold tolerant to single digits, grows 2-6 feet in width, suitable for zone 6b+.
- Serenoa Repens (Saw Palmetto): Tolerates cold to about 10°F, grows 5-10 feet tall, suitable for zones 8+.
- Trachycarpus Fortunei (Windmill Palm): Cold hardy to low single digits, can reach 30-40 feet in height, suitable for zone 7+.
- Key Features: All of the palms listed are ideal for small gardens and spaces and can withstand cold temperatures. They vary in size, cold tolerance, and zone suitability.
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What Are the Most Popular Hardy Palm Trees For Small Gardens?
Here are some palm picks to check out if you are limited on garden space.
All of the palm tree types listed are very cold-hardy as well, so if you live in an icebox with very little yard room, you will still be able to accommodate most of these palms.
Chamaerops Humilis – Mediterranean Fan Palm
A small clumping palm and ideal for zones 8 and above, the Chamaerops Humilis also known as the Mediterranean Fan palm or European Fan palm is one of only two palms native to Europe.
They can tolerate temperatures down to approximately 10 degrees Fahrenheit once established making them perfect for northern states with chilly winters.
Mediterranean Fan palms can handle a wide range of climates from the western areas of the U.S. and Canada as well as Italy and Spain to the hot arid climates of the southwestern U.S.
Just keep in mind that regular watering in these drier areas will keep it looking its best.
They also do quite well in cooler Mediterranean climates (hence the name) and can handle a decent amount of moisture in these cooler places.
Mediterranean Fan palms are small to medium-sized, getting up to 20 feet in height when mature, but normally average in the 10-15 foot range.
If kept in a group they can take up more room but have a small crown of palmate fronds so you don’t have to worry about it taking up too much width.
Zone Tolerance: 8a-11, possibly lower
Check out my full article on the Mediterranean Fan palm HERE
Cycas Revoluta – Sago Palm
While I was hesitant to include this one on the list since it isn’t a true palm (it’s actually a cycad), the Cycas Revoluta or Sago palm has become a popular choice.
Palm lovers gravitate toward this cycad due to their compact size, cold hardiness, and unique prehistoric and palmy look.
They are native to southern Japan and cold hardy in zones 8b and above in sheltered conditions.
If you live in a colder area than zone 7 you can easily enjoy it as a potted specimen and can be brought into warmer areas when the winter hits.
The Sago palm is fairly drought tolerant and quite popular from temperate to tropical regions. Many folks use the Sago palm to line walkways and entrances to their house.
Sagos prefer part to full sun and if grown indoors they will need a well-lit area to be happy.
They need well-draining soil or root rot could occur.
Sago palms are also sensitive to frost, so growing underneath taller trees or overhangs where they’re protected is recommended.
These palms are also known to be poisonous, especially to animals, so caution is advised if you are a pet owner as they can be fatal.
Sago palms grow to a height of 8-15 feet, however, they are very slow-growing and can take many years to reach these heights.
They have a dense crown of bright green pinnate leaves on a solitary trunk that will grow suckers at the base that can be removed for propagation.
Zone Tolerance: 8b-11
Check out my full article on the Sago Palm HERE
Nannorrhops Ritchiana – Mazari Palm
The Nannorrhops Ritchiana or Mazari palm is native to Southeastern Asia and found growing in areas of the Arabian Peninsula.
It is a SOLID zone 7 and above palm taking temperatures into the low single digits (-15-20 Celsius).
These palms are perfect for anyone living in high desert climates in U.S. states like Nevada, Southern Utah, and upper elevations of Arizona where the seasons are mostly dry, but the winters are frigid.
When it comes to moisture tolerance, the Mazari palm hates wet and cold conditions, however, it will successfully grow in warm humid areas such as the Gulf Coast of the U.S. and South Florida.
In extremely hot and dry conditions, regular watering in well-draining soil will keep it looking its best.
The Mazari palm can average 10-20 feet in height and spreads out into a cluster of several stems.
The crown of palmate fronds is quite small measuring about 4 feet wide, so the Mazari palm won’t take up much room, similar to the previously mentioned Chamaerops Humilis.
Zone Tolerance: 7a-11
Phoenix Roebelenii – Pygmy Date Palm
Native to south-central China, Vietnam, and Laos, the Phoenix Roebelenii or Pygmy Date palm is a small, solitary-trunked palm that is moderately cold tolerant.
They will do best in zones 9 and above handling temperatures into the low to mid-20s Fahrenheit, although they will have some leaf burn after reaching that level of cold.
Pygmy Date palms make great potted specimens for easy transport if you live in a cold winter climate.
While drought tolerant to a degree, the Pygmy Date palm doesn’t do well overall in really hot dry climates unless given ample water and part sun.
If in a full sun position, place in an area where the sun isn’t as direct during the hottest parts of the day.
I see these palms all the time in temperate coastal climates usually placed at entrances of businesses and residential yards.
Feed often with a balanced palm fertilizer as these palms can get nutrient deficient if not given proper soil with good drainage.
Pygmy Dates are slow to moderate-growing palms reaching heights of 12-15 feet once mature.
The bright green pinnate fronds reach approximately 2-3 feet in length.
These are perfect palms for entryways, walkways, swimming pools, and patios.
Zone Tolerance: 9a-11, possibly lower
Rhapidophyllum Hystrix – Needle Palm
Possibly the most cold hardy palm on the planet would be the Rhapidophyllum Hystrix or Needle palm.
They are native to the southeast U.S. along the Gulf Coast and southern Atlantic coast.
The Needle palm will easily grow in zone 7 and above taking shorter cold spells in the 6b range without protection.
While extremely cold hardy, the Needle Palm will need areas with hot, humid summers to look their best.
They grow in a variety of soil types and will do well in cool Mediterranean climates, but will grow insanely slow without the high heat during the summer months.
The Needle palm does best in part sun making them excellent for growing underneath larger trees, but will tolerate areas of full sun as well.
Needle palms are suckering palms with long sharp spines for protection from small animals.
They can also prevent unwanted critters from getting onto your property when planted in a dense row as a property break.
They will get up to 6 feet in height and 6 to 8 feet in width with a wide bushy appearance much like a hedge.
Zone Tolerance: 6b-11
Check out my full article on the Needle Palm HERE
Sabal Minor – Dwarf Palmetto
Native to the southeast U.S. and cold hardy in zones 7 and above, the Sabal Minor or Dwarf Palmetto is a small-sized trunkless palm with large or small fan fronds that range from green to bluish silver.
Dwarf palmettos are cold tolerant down the single digits with brief spells below 0 degrees Fahrenheit.
Due to its extreme hardiness for cold, the Sabal Minor is a great choice for a wide variety of climates excluding extremely dry hot areas.
They do their best in hot humid climates during the summer months and even do well in cooler Mediterranean climates, but growth will be slower without high summer temps.
They can handle a variety of soil types and are a perfect choice for planting underneath taller trees as they can grow well in part or full sun.
Sabal Minor palms have palmate fronds that range in height from about 2-4 feet.
Some varieties of the Dwarf Palmetto have much larger fan fronds than others with some getting up to 6 feet in width.
Not all Sabal Minor palms have huge fronds.
There are varieties such as the Sabal Minor “McCurtain” that have smaller fronds giving anyone wanting to grow this palm a variety of appearances to choose from.
Zone Tolerance: 6b-11
Serenoa Repens – Saw Palmetto
Another palm native to the Southeast U.S., the Serenoa Repens or Saw Palmetto is an ideal pick for zones 8-11.
They are very cold hardy tolerating temperatures down to approximately 10 degrees Fahrenheit and sometimes in the high single digits if sheltered under taller trees or an overhang.
There is also a silver form similar in look and structure known as the Silver Saw Palmetto. Grow them side by side for an awesome color contrast to your landscape!
Saw Palmettos prefers hot, humid conditions and aren’t ideal for excessively dry climates.
They are relatively maintenance-free and will just need the occasional pruning of old fronds to keep them tidy.
Saw Palmetto can also handle a variety of soil types and is ideal for full sun or part sun locations.
They will need frequent watering when young but will become more drought-tolerant once established.
These palms will not get very tall, maxing out at a height of about 5-10 ft.
Like the Needle palm, they are a clumping tree and can get 10-15 ft wide, so for smaller yards these would be best for planting along the edge of your yard near a fence or along the outskirts of your property.
Saw palmetto have palmate fronds about 3-4 feet wide on sharply toothed petioles.
Zone Tolerance: 8a-11, possibly lower
Trachycarpus Fortunei – Windmill Palm
Native to southern and central China, the Trachycarpus Fortunei or Windmill palm is one of the most popular picks for cooler damper climates.
They are cold hardy in zone 7 and higher taking temperatures well into the low single digits Fahrenheit once mature.
The Windmill palm has been a popular choice for areas where summers are cool with moderate moisture making them unique since many palms need high heat during the summer months to thrive and get the most out of their growth rate.
Their ease of care and tolerance to moderate snowfall have made this an incredibly popular and versatile palm for many areas except for extreme tropical and excessively dry climates.
The Windmill palm adapts to a variety of soil types and prefers part to full sun.
Windmill palms are the tallest trunking palm on the list getting to approximately 30-40 feet in height.
Due to their small crown and frond size, these palms are perfect for anyone who wants a tree that will get to a decent height without taking up too much room in your yard.
Zone Tolerance: 7a-11
Check out my full article on the Windmill Palm HERE