Palm Tree Types

Palm Trees belong to Palmae family also known as Arecaceae. Palms are among the best known and extensively cultivated plant families. There are around 202 currently known genera and 2,500 different palm tree species in the world, most of which are restricted to tropical, subtropical, and warm temperate climates.

Palm Trees usually are described by it’s appearance and cold tolerance. They can be separated into few major types depending on their trunk, leaf structure, growth rate, size, and cold tolerance. Aside from these basic segregations, palms also differ in salt and drought tolerance, leaf color, fruit and flower production.

Palm Cold Tolerance

Windmill Palm TreeSouthern Palm Tree Type. Southern palm trees like warm tropical weather and can’t tolerate cold lower than 32-35F. They are perfect for landscapes in USDA Zones 9b-11. Well established palms can tolerate low temperatures for a short period of time but will get damaged if the cold temperatures last for more than one day. Better established palm can withstand/tolerate lower temperatures.

A lot of people think that palm trees can grow only in warm climates like Florida and don’t realize that you can also grow palm trees in other 40 states.

Northern Palm Tree Type. Northern palm trees, also called cold hardy palms, can tolerate low temperatures down to 10-15F. There are also very cold hardy palms that can survive even lower temperatures. The Windmill Palm can tolerate cold down to 5F, the Saw Palmetto Palm can tolerate cold down to 0F. The Needle Palm is one of the most cold hardiest palms that can tolerate cold down to -5F. If you live in the USDA zones 7a-8b, you should be able to find a palm tree cold hardy enough to grow in your area. Here is a list of most popular cold hardy palm trees.

Palm Growth Rate and Size

European Fan Palm TreePalm trees growth rate and size vary. Palm trees like European Fan Palm, Pygmy Date Palm Tree, and Lady Palm Tree, slowly grow up to 10ft tall with a spread of 5ft wide. These palms are considered to be small palm trees, also known as dwarf palm trees. They are perfect for small landscapes and can be used as a focal point or under larger trees.

Fast growing palms like King Palm, Carpentaria Palm and Queen Palm can very quickly get to 40-50ft tall. Some palm trees, like Royal Palm, can grow up to 100ft tall with a spread of 50ft wide. How tall and how fast palm tree grows also dependence on the environment. Palm trees like humid warm weather and will grow faster in tropical climates like FL than in South Carolina. You can speed up palm’s growth rate by applying fertilizer.

Palm Tree Trunk

Lipstick Palm TreeSome palms have solitary trunk others multi-trunk.

Multi-trunk Palm Tree Type. Multi-trunk palms usually are small shrubby plants, like Needle Palm and Lady Palm, that have multiple stems growing right from the ground.

Solitary Palm Tree Type. Single trunk palms can be also broken down into two types those that have a smooth trunk covered with old leaf scars and those that have trunk covered with old leaf bases in a criss-cross pattern. Some of the single trunk palms have a beautiful cownshaft at the top of the trunk. Crownshaft is a leaf base formation that is created by the overlapping of the fronds. It is usually green but sometimes can be a different color like purple in Mount Lewis King Palm or bright orange in Lipstick Palm.

Palm Tree Fronds

Palm leaves can have two main leaf structures, pinnate and palmate.

Pygmy Date Palm TreePinnate Palm Tree Type. Pinnate are feathery fronds shaped like birds feathers. Separate leaflets extend from the central leaf stem’s side. Some popular palms that have pinnate type leaves are Areca Palm, Bottle Palm and Pygmy Date Palm.

Palmate Palm Tree Type. Palmate are fan shaped fronds that stretched out from a central point like fingers. They are usually supported by long stems that are covered with sharp spines. Some popular palms with palmate shaped fronds are Bismarck Palm, Chinese Fan Palm, Mexican Fan Palm, and Windmill Palm. Small fan palms are great for creating a striking focal point in your landscape.

Palm tree types listed above belong to basic groups that can be narrowed down into smaller subgroups based on other criteria like salt, drought, and wind tolerance, fruit and flower production, and light requirements. You should consider these main factors when buying a palm tree for your garden. Choosing right palm for your environment will ensure a healthy and beautiful growth.

~Susan Brian

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  1. Peter says

    Hi, I find your articles very educational. Some pictures, especially the ones sprinkled throughout the article, don’t show up though possibly because of broken links. I tried different browsers but that didn’t make any difference.

    Thank you,


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