When it comes to cold hardy palms, the windmill palm (trachycarpus fortunei) is one of the most popular ones out there.
What makes them so sought after is their versatility to grow in a wide range of climate zones, low maintenance and their resistance to disease and pests.
Native to China and Japan, the windmill palm can withstand extremely cold temperatures. It is known to survive in the UK, France and the Netherlands and can be found growing in the US along the northern coasts and into British Columbia.
The ideal climate for growing windmill palm trees is in milder temperate areas as they do not thrive in hot tropical climates.
What Is It?
Windmill palms have a single, slender trunk with fan-shaped fronds. The trunk is covered with a hairy fiber known to keep the palm cooler in the summer and an insulator during the winter. Trunk fiber is used to make rope, hats and brooms.
They are slow growing and will reach heights anywhere between 10 and 40 feet. 10 to 20 feet is most common.
Windmill palms are dioecious, meaning they will need a male and female tree to produce fruit.
Where Will It Grow?
The windmill palm thrives best in zone 7+ and can withstand temperatures down into the single digits with no protection. They are incredibly frost tolerant and will even survive moderate snowfalls. Windmill palms do not thrive well in excessively hot regions.
This tree prefers partial shade, although they can withstand full sun as well. Strong winds can be a problem as the fronds aren’t as stiff as some species and can get beat up.
The windmill palm will grow in many soil types as long as it provides excellent drainage, These palms do not like soggy areas. The windmill palm also makes a great container plant if you are unable to grow one outdoors or if you want to include it on a patio.
Who Are They For?
Due to it’s more compact size, windmill palms are perfect for landscaping around swimming pools and decks. They are also perfect for planting along streets and driveways to give you that extra tropical look.
Windmill palms are also fairly easy to care for. If you are someone that doesn’t like growing high maintenance plants then this palm is a great choice.
The Windmill palm is also very worry free since they don’t have many pest and disease problems. On rare occasions these palms might get spider mites or palm aphids. They can develop root rot, but as long as the tree is in well draining soil, this shouldn’t be an issue.
Keeping Windmill palms planted in a warm area away from strong winds will provide the most success at making sure they look their best.
The Wrap Up
If you are an avid palm lover living in a colder climate, the windmill palm is an awesome choice. For those of you living in zone 7a and below, some winter protection may be needed during severe cold bouts.
The most popular ways to protect palms during the winter is to wrap the trunk in burlap. For extra protection, cover the base with hay or bark dust. Wrapping the tree with Christmas lights is also a popular practice. If using the Christmas light method, be sure to use the older style C9’s or C7’s, as these give off more heat. Not only that, but it will give your yard a festive look during the winter months!
There’s always the option of growing it as a container specimen and bringing it indoors for the winter. However, if you are really set on growing it in the ground and don’t live in a total icebox, the windmill palm should provide you with years of enjoyment!