Palms for Cold Weather

Palms for cold weather are fitting for areas in temperate planting zones. Even if you get occasional freezing temperature dips, you can have a touch of the tropics in your garden!

Have you ever dismissed the idea because of your colder climate? Does it surprise you to learn that not all palm trees absolutely require a tropical climate? Maybe not!

Some palms can handle cold weather. For a time. The trick is to know which palms they are! And what their limits are.

Before diving into options for your garden, it's important to be aware of planting zones. They define the climatic conditions of your area, for choosing plants that can do well. If you don't know your exact area's zone, Discover Your Planting Zone Now>

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Cold hardy palm trees can withstand temperatures below 32oF/0oC for brief periods. Some can survive in temperatures as low as 10 to 15oF (-12.2 to -9.4 Celsius) Cold-hardy palms are typically adaptable. Their resilience means growing them in USDA hardiness zones 7 to 9 is doable. And with care, (like giving them a winter coat 😉) perhaps lower!

Older Couple in their yard is worrying about their palm tree in cold weatherWorrying About Their Palm When Faced With Frosty Temps

We've seen palms growing in coastal Norway, in northern Germany & up in the U.S.'s Northeast: New Jersey! Certainly must be palm species for cold weather.

See These Species of Palms for Cold Weather

There are a variety of cold hardy palm trees. Let's figure out which would be happy in your yard!

5 of the Best Cold Hardy Palms

Windmill Palm (Trachycarpus fortunei)

This species, suited for cold weather, is one of the most common types of cold-hardy palms. That's because it probably originated in cold mountain regions of China.

It's a favorite among palm aficionados in cooler climates. Preferring nippy Mediterranean climes with full sun & without continuous wind. It has distinctive windmill-shaped fronds. It's best in Zones 7b-11, but has survived well is some 7a microclimates.

This palm can handle temperatures down to -10F (-23C)!

Needle Palm (Rhapidophyllum hystrix)

Another fabulous species to consider when you need a palm for cold weather areas. Palm horticulturists laud it as one of the hardiest palms out there. Even in Zones 5 & 6. But not at all worrisome up to Zone 10. It can shrug off temperatures hitting -5oF to -20oF (-21C to -29C). It's a surprise really, as they're originally from the southeastern states of the U.S.

It's a species that survives drought & some neglect. Needs placement where there's a good amount of daily shade. Regular watering is best though, as one of its endemic areas is swamps. But flexible for soil.

Is it the perfect fit for your cooler area?

European Fan Palm (Chamaerops humilis)

Any list of cold hardy palm trees needs completion with this sturdy plant.  This clumping (almost always & the most cold hardy) palm tree is native to Mediterranean regions. So another common name is the Mediterranean Fan Palm.

A versatile species, it can survive a range of challenging environmental conditions, from extreme cold to drought. Ensure the soil is well-draining in a sunny home. Don't surround it with dense flora that cuts air circulation. Tolerating temps as low as 15°F/-9°C, particularly in drier climes.

Dwarf Palmetto (Sabal minor)

Also called Bush Palmetto & Swamp palmetto. It does fine in Zones 6-11. Even has been grown in Zone 5. Most grow in a clumping manner, keeping trunks underground. They're even used as groundcover. It likes moist soil & shady times for much of the day.

California Fan Palm (Washingtonia filifera)

Typically best for Growing Zones 7-8. It's known to survive short-term temps as low as -11oF/-24oC! But likely damage would need to be assessed.

Not so worrisome with a drop to 20oF/-7oC.

It's believed it can better tolerate low temps in a drier clime. As such, it's drought tolerant. A Mediterranean climate is ideal. These are among the famed Palm on the Streets of LA. So note how this tall palm would fit into your own landscape. 

Artistic painting showing Washingtonia filifera palms on a desert hillside.Art Depiction of California Palm Trees Growing on a Hillside.

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Cold Hardy Palms That Withstand a Bit Less Cold

More options exist if your climatic conditions are a bit less harsh. Excellent choices for those living in slightly milder, but still cold winter areas.

Pindo Palm (Butia capitata)

The species is renowned for its unique silvery-blue fronds and sweet fruit. There are many hybrid Butias out there, and they're all palms for cold weather.

Known as the most hardy pinnate palm. For Zones 8-11 it prefers drier climates. So it is drought tolerant, though does better with regular water. With that, it can withstand temperature lows of -10F/-23C.

Pygmy Date Palm (Phoenix roebelinii)

This small-sized palm does well in Zones 10-11. It's been tried in 9b with some success, especially when using cold protective measures. It can temporarily tolerate temperatures just below freezing.

It appears gorgeously attractive when planted in threes.

Brazilian Needle Palm (Trithrinax Brasiliensis)

Its striking trunk may be acting like an overcoat against the chill! 🤔As it wears a fibrous weave with intermittent pointy spines. Growing slowly to reach only about 35 feet (11.7m) up.

It prefers drier climates like that of its native Brazilian savannahs. Which takes it to Zones 8-11. You can try it with more humid areas, but then the lowest is in Zone 9. It can't tolerate low temps for long, though.

Palm Damage in Cold Weather

Whichever palm for cold weather you decide upon, there are consequences if the temperature dips too low. Especially when it lasts for days. We know of fully tropical palms that were injured when temps dipped to 50oF/10oC.

There's never an exact temperature cut-off, but other circumstances besides temperature contribute to a palm's freeze survival - or NOT!

  • Overall, the younger the palm, the more susceptible to frost it will be. Seedling sized palms are most vulnerable. Good idea to protect them on cold winter nights, if less than 4 years old.
  1. It takes 3 years for a growing palm to be established. Then it's more hardy in multiple aspects.
  • Some Palm Tree Parts withstand freezing temps easier than other parts. The areas most sensitive to cold are root tips, flowers & leaf bases. Old fronds take the cold much better than newer ones.
  1. The most cold-hardy palm areas are the protected meristem (heart) & frond petioles.
  • Wind & its strength, and excessive freeze duration lessen a palm's cold hardiness. Pre-conditioning for cold could help. Advanced water stress & proper fertilization may also help.

Palm frost injury has a "differential diagnosis" implication (speaking in medical terms 🤯). You'd observe blackish squooshy frond areas, red blotches, and/or yellow smudges. When temps dip further below freezing, petioles, rachis, meristem & trunk can suffer.

See more Info on Palm Freeze Damage.

Ideas to Use Palms for Cold Weather Landscapes

Why not pair these palms with the right companions? Like complementing them with other shrubs and trees that provide wind protection. To help them through cold nights. For instance:

  • Henry Hicks Sweet Bay Magnolia - The Magnolia virginiana var. Australis 'Henry Hicks' is often recommended. Which tolerates planting in Zones 5-9. Can grow to 60ft./18m, making a beautiful, uncomplicated wind-break.
  • Mediterranean Heather - Scientifically Erica carnea. Does well in Zones as low as 6. Also 5, if using winter protection. It's an evergreen mounding shrub. Plant with organic mulching in acidic soil. Needs good drainage & a sunlit spot.

Plants like these give you a contrasting texture or color to brighten up a winter's day. They might even add more value to your home, with these landscape aesthetics.

Remember, it’s not enough to select a cold-hardy species when planning your tropical paradise. You want the right plant (palm) for cold weather planted in the right place. Ensuring your palms & other plants have proper soil, the right watering plan, and sunlight conditions they require.

Palms for Cold Weather Takeaways

Don't let your cool climate hold you back from creating your tropical oasis. There is a range of cold-hardy palm trees that can thrive and flourish in non-tropical climates.

With the right research, care, and maintenance, you could soon be enjoying your little slice of paradise, right in your garden or backyard. By using palms for cold weather tolerance. Here’s to making your tropical dream a reality!

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