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 areas of the UK, France and the Netherlands and can be found growing in the US along the northern coasts and into British Columbia, Canada.
The ideal climate for growing windmill palm trees is in milder temperate areas as they do not thrive well 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 that has been known to keep the palm cooler in the summer and act as an insulator during the winter. The fiber has also been used to make rope, hats and brooms.
They are slow growing and will reach heights anywhere between 10 and 40 feet, although 10 to 20 feet is most common.
Windmill palms are known to be dioecious, meaning they will need a male and female tree to produce fruit.
Where Will It Grow?
The windmill palm grows in USDA hardiness zones 7 through 11 and is known to withstand temperatures down to 10 F. It is 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 or excessive winds can be a problem as the fronds aren’t as stiff as some species and can get beat up pretty good.
The windmill palm will grow in many types of soil as long as it provides excellent drainage, as 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 in a patio setup.
Who Are They For?
Due to it’s more compact size, windmill palms are perfect for landscaping around swimming pools, entryways and decks. They are also perfect for planting along streets and driveways to give that extra tropical look to your property.
Windmill palms are also fairly easy to care for, so if you aren’t someone that likes growing high maintenance plants then this palm will be a great fit.
Windmill palms are also very worry free in the sense that they don’t have too many problems with pests and diseases. On rare occasions these palms might get spider mites or palm aphids and can develop root rot, but as long as the tree is in well draining soil, root rot shouldn’t be an issue.
Making sure windmill palms are planted in a warm area of the garden and away from strong winds will provide the most success at making sure these palms 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 zones 7 and below, some winter protection will be needed during severe cold bouts. The most popular ways to protect palms during the winter is to wrap the trunk in burlap, cover the base with hay or bark dust and even wrapping the tree with Christmas lights. If using the Christmas light method, be sure to use the older style C9’s or C7’s, as these give off a decent amount of heat. Not only that, but it will add a very festive look to your yard during the winter months!
Of course, there’s always the option of growing it as a container specimen and bringing it indoors for the winter, but 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!
If you have any questions or suggestions, feel free to comment below!