are any of the species of palm
(Arecaceae) that are able to withstand colder
temperatures and thrive in places not typically considered in the
natural range for palms. Several are native to higher elevations in
and can tolerate hard freezes with little
or no damage. Many of these species can be cultivated at high
latitudes, and in places that regularly see snow
The hardiest species are found in the genera
, and Trachycarpus
Members of these and other genera are sometimes grown in areas
where they are not truly hardy, overwintering with the aid of
various kinds of artificial protection.
The minimum temperature a palm can sustain depends on a variety of
factors, such as humidity, size and age of the palm, daytime high
temperatures, or the length of time the temperature is at the
minimum. -5 for several days will do far more damage to a palm than
an overnight low of say -8 for an hour or so.
The fan palms (Arecaceae tribe
; palms with fan-shaped leaves
include all of the hardiest palms.
- Trachycarpus palms (Trachycarpus fortunei, T. takil) - the best known
cold-hardy palms, these tough species are native to the Himalaya and east to
central China, where
although not growing so far north (to about 31°N) as the Needle
Palm, they do grow at high altitudes where temperatures are
cool. The Chusan
Palm (T. fortunei) is hardy to −27.5 °C, survived by
four specimens planted in Plovdiv, Bulgaria during a
severe cold spell on 6 January 1993. It is also tolerant of
low summer temperatures (15 °C) in oceanic climates. This enables it to be
cultivated further north than any other palm, with mature trees
successful as far north as 58°N in northern Scotland.
specimens can also be found in most parts of England, the
Vancouver region of Canada, around
Tokyo in Japan, and
Trachycarpus fortunei is also being
grown experimentally in Tórshavn on the Faroe Islands (62°N), with young plants growing well so far
(Højgaard et al., 1989). A tree of T. fortunei has been
growing at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden in New York
City since the 1980s, albeit protected by a plastic wrap
during the coldest months. There are also a plethora of mature T.
fortunei growing unprotected in downtown Washington
D.C. and surrounding areas. Most notably 15' tall
tree in front of the National Air and Space Museum, since 2001.
- Mediterranean Fan Palm
(Chamaerops humilis) - The only palm native to southern
Europe, and very drought-tolerant. Hardy to
−12 °C, but does prefer hot summers. Despite the fact that this
palm is less hardy than many palms listed here, it has the
northernmost native habitat because of the mild Mediterranean
climate. It is found in abundance across most of southwestern
Europe and northwestern Africa. It is a very slow-growing plant.
- Needle Palm
(Rhapidophyllum hystrix) - This clustering and usually
trunkless palm is native north to South Carolina in the United States. It is considered hardy to USDA Hardiness Zone 6 and can be
cultivated without protection as far
north as the New York
City metro area, including the lower Hudson Valley and Connecticut. With some protection, it is possible to grow
one to the north in New
England. They have proven hardy in the Tennessee
valley region and up into the Ohio Valley and Mid-West areas with
hot summers. During the winter, it can tolerate temperatures as low
as −23 °C. The needle palm is very slow growing and rarely reaches
heights of over 1 metre. There are documented specimens that have
been growing in White County, Tennessee, since the early part of
the 1960s, as well as United States National
Arboretum in the Asia Valley section, in Washington
D.C., that are at 3 m in height.
- Mazari Palm
(Nannorrhops richtiana) - This palm, native to the dry,
mountainous terrains of Afghanistan and surrounding regions, is also thought to be
extremely cold hardy (perhaps to about −20 °C), though also
requiring hot summers and dry soils. However, due to its
limited availability in cultivation, not much is known about this
palm. Mazari Palm is not easy to grow, perfect drainage and full
sun are required for this palm to survive. This palm will not
tolerate wet freezes.
- Saw Palmetto
(Serenoa repens) - Native to Florida, this bushy palm is hardy to about −15 °C.
bushy palm grows in abundance within wetlands and subtropical grasslands of central and
northern Florida. Extract from Saw Palmetto is often used to
treat problems with the prostate.
- Sabal palms
(palmettos; 13 species) - These palms are native to the
southeastern United States, Central
America, and the Caribbean. The Dwarf
Palmetto (S. minor) is the hardiest species in the
genus. The cultivar 'McCurtain' is
considered the hardiest, to USDA zone 6, like the needle palm. It
can tolerate short periods of temperatures as low as −22 °C. A
southern Arkansas cultivar may be just as hardy and grows larger
than the McCurtain palm.
One of the possible reasons that the dwarf palmetto is so hardy is
that it forms a subterranean
trunk, and in the coldest of climates grows very slowly, rarely
producing much of a noticeable trunk (but in warmer climates can
attain up to 3 m of above-ground trunk). The Cabbage Palmetto
the state tree
Florida and South Carolina, is very common on the southeast coast
of the United States. The species is considered hardy to USDA Hardiness Zone
8, and may survive
short periods of temperatures as low as −14 °C. A number of Cabbage
Palmettos grow in the North Atlanta area (zone 7a), and are now
common in Virginia
Beach, (Zone 8).
The Mexican Palmetto
a close relative of the Cabbage Palmetto, native to southern Texas
and northern Mexico. It looks like a more robust version of the
Cabbage Palmetto, with a larger trunk, although they may be
difficult to tell apart. Cold hardy to about −9 °C, and grown
throughout Texas in cities such as San Antonio, Austin, and even
Another trunking Sabal to try in Zone 8a and warmer is Sabal
uresana, its cold hardiness is similar to Sabal palmetto. Typical
Sabal uresana has blue fronds although a green leafed form exists
and is supposedly even more cold hardy.
- Trithrinax campestris - It is
native from northern Argentina, from lowlands to the mountains of
Córdoba and Sierras de San
Luis, trees growing at altitudes withstand teperatures at least
−15 °C. It also can suppourt fire.
- Washingtonia palms (Washingtonia filifera, W. robusta) - These palms are
native to southern California and northwest Mexico, growing as
high as 30 m in their native habitat. California Washingtonia (W.
filifera) is hardy to −12 °C; it prefers a dry Mediterranean climate, and will not
grow taller than 12–15 m in a humid area. It is sometimes grown in
containers or planted as short-term specimens in areas where it is
not hardy. Mexican
Washingtonia (W. robusta) is somewhat less hardy,
native to northern Mexico and
southernmost California. It has a more robust trunk and stiffer
leaves than W. filifera, and is hardy to −10 °C.
been grown in Houston,
Florida and New Orleans, Louisiana. Washingtonia robusta, even though somewhat
less hardy, may be a better choice for US South-East because it is
more tolerant of high humidity.
- Rhapis excelsa is hardy
to about −7 °C.
Few palms with pinnate leaves tolerate much frost. They belong to
several tribes of the Arecaceae, with the species listed here
belonging to Tribe Areceae
), Tribe Cocoeae
) and Tribe Phoeniceae
Jubaea chilensis in France
- Chilean Wine Palm
(Jubaea chilensis) - A contender for the hardiest
pinnate-leaved palm, it is hardy to about −12 °C and has been
cultivated successfully as far north as London in England.
does not perform well in hot, humid climates but has proven hardier
than Butia capitata in cooler, maritime climates in such
places as Great
Britain and the Pacific
Northwest. Chilean Wine palms have a very small native
range, grow very slowly, and thus it is exceptionally rare to find
fully grown examples outside of Chile.
- Butia Palm or Jelly Palm / Pindo Palm
(Butia capitata) - With Jubaea, possibly the
hardiest known pinnate-leaved palm.
also hardy to −12 °C, and has been experimentally cultivated in
Jersey and Washington, and is commonly planted from southeastern Virginia, south all along the Atlantic coast. It thrives in humid subtropical
climates. This tree is commonly known as the "jelly palm" because
of the sticky, edible, date like fruit it produces, which is used
in many South American countries to
microspadix and Chamaedorea radicalis are the
hardiest known species in the genus Chamaedorea. Both species come from Mexico
and are considered stem hardy to about −11 °C, although they will
lose their leaves at temperatures below about −6 °C.
- Canary Island Date Palm
(Phoenix canariensis) - This species is hardy to about −8
°C, and is grown as far north as the south of England (50°N),
producing viable seed (In Southsea, Hampshire). This palm is one of
the most commonly grown palms in the world. Well adapted to low
humidity and little watering, this palm is used as an ornamental in
both Mediterranean climates and desert climates. In more humid
climates, these trees will often be seen with sword ferns sprouting just beneath the
- Cretan Date Palm
(Phoenix theophrastii) - Another species of Phoenix which may show similar frost
tolerance, native to Crete and southwest Turkey, but has not been
- Date Palm (Phoenix
dactylifera) - This relative of the Canary Island date palm,
and producer of the edible date, is also hardy to about −10 °C, but
does not tolerate very wet areas. This palm is one of the staple
plants of the Middle East for its
versatility and edible fruit.
- Queen Palm (Syagrus
romanzoffiana) - Hardy to about −8 °C. Probably the most
tropical, coconut looking palm for subtropical areas, this palm is
native to central and eastern South
America. Formerly named Cocos plumosa, it greatly
resembles the coconut (cocos), it has
graceful, flowing plumose fronds. Very fast growing and invasive, this palm
is often treated as a weed in much of Florida.
- Mule Palm (XButyagrus) -
Hardy to about -10 °C (14 °F). Man made hybrid between the Butia
palm and Queen palm. One of the hardiest feather palms. Combines
the hardiness of the Butia palm with the fast growing, tropical
fronds of the queen palm. Mature specimens are quite rare due to
the difficulty in producing this palm.
Hardy Palm Monikers
Some plants used in “hardy subtropical” landscaping that are
commonly referred to as “palms”, but truly are not in the Arecaceae
family, include the following:musa basjoo
, hardy types of bamboo
occasionally the sumac Rhus typhina
This is not an all inclusive list and is subjective.
They Really Are Hardy!
With protection, some of the more hardy species may be kept in
areas as cold as USDA zone four. Great candidates for this are
(Windmill Palm), rhapidophyllum
(Needle Palm), and sabal
(Dwarf Palmetto). Palms can be protected by having a
temporary greenhouse erected around them, being wrapped in burlap,
or even being kept inside a box and warmed with lights. Do not be
afraid to experiment and try to keep cold hardy palms in your area,
even if your area is cold. With good protection, a palm can survive
in a much colder environment than it could without any at
References and external links
- Phoenix caneriensis, hardy to about −8 °C Zone 9a
with snow, in Baltimore, MarylandImage:Rhapidophyllum
MarylandImage:Chamaerops humilis (Zingaro)015.jpg|Chamaerops
Image:Butia capitata2.jpg|Butia Capitata
FranceImage:O'Donnell Gardens - St. Kilda.jpg|Phoenix
In Melbourne, AustraliaImage:Phoenix
Cultivated in Florida