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.
Here are some picks to check out if you are limited on garden space.
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.
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., although regular watering in these drier areas will keep it looking its best.
They also do quite well in cooler Mediterranean climates and can handle a decent amount of moisture in these cooler conditions.
Mediterranean Fan palms are small to medium-sized, getting up to 20 feet in height when mature, but averages 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 that stay quite small.
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 for palm enthusiasts due to their compact size, cold hardiness and unique prehistoric look.
They are native to southern Japan and cold hardy in zones 8b and above in sheltered conditions, however they make a popular potted specimen and can easily be brought into warmer areas in colder climates.
The Sago palm is fairly drought tolerant and quite popular from temperate to tropical regions. They prefer part to full sun and if grown indoors they will need a well lit area to thrive. They need well draining soil or rotting could occur. Sago palms are also sensitive to frost, so growing underneath taller trees or overhangs 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).
The Mazari palm prefers incredibly dry climates where they will get the most out of their cold tolerance. When it comes to moisture tolerance, the Mazari palm does not like 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 extreme 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, however the crown is quite small with about 4 foot wide crowns of palmate fronds, so they won’t take up much room similar to the 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 hardy.
They will do best in zones 9 and above tolerating temperatures into the low to mid 20s Fahrenheit, although they will have some leaf burn after reaching these temps. If you live in a colder climate, these palms make a great potted specimen for easy transport.
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. The most ideal areas for these palms are in temperate coastal climates. Feed often with a balanced palm fertilizer as these palms can get nutrient deficient if not given proper well draining soil.
Pygmy Dates are a slow to moderate growing palm reaching heights of 12-15 feet once mature and the bright green pinnate fronds reach approximately 2-3 feet in length. They are a perfect specimen for entryways, near patios and swimming pools.
Zone Tolerance: 9a-11, possibly lower
Rhapidophyllum Hystrix – Needle Palm
Probably 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.
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 be quite slow growing 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.
The Needle palm is a suckering palm with long sharp spines for protection from small animals. They will get up to 6 feet in height and 6 to 8 feet width making them a great choice for growing along property lines or as underbrush in the landscape.
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 of 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, however there are varieties such as the “McCurtain” that have smaller fronds providing more variety with size.
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.
There is also a silver form similar in look and structure known as the Silver Saw Palmetto.
Saw Palmetto prefers hot, humid conditions and isn’t ideal for excessively dry climates. They are relatively maintenance free and will just need the occasional pruning of old fronds. Saw Palmetto can also withstand a variety of soil types and are 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 variety and can get approximately 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 that get 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 Mediterranean climates. They are cold hardy in zone 7 and above taking temperatures well into the low single digits Fahrenheit once established.
The Windmill palm has been a popular choice for areas where summers are cool with moderate moisture making them quite unique since many palms need high heat during the summer months to thrive.
Their ease of care and tolerance to moderate snowfall make this an incredibly versatile palm for many areas except for extreme tropical and excessively dry climates. The Windmill palm can handle a variety of soil types and prefer part to full sun.
Windmill palms are the tallest trunking palm on the list getting to approximately 30-40 feet in height, however due to their small crown and frond size, these palms are perfect for anyone who wants a specimen that will get to a moderate height without taking up too much room in the landscape.
Zone Tolerance: 7a-11
Check out my full article on the Windmill Palm HERE