Although most palms can be found in warm climates, it is a misconception that palms grow only in tropical and subtropical regions. Most people don’t realize that palm trees can grow not only in Florida, but also in other 40 states.
While most palms can tolerate cold only to 40°F, there are hundreds types of cold hardy palms that can easily withstand 20°F (-7°C) freeze and surprisingly even cold temperatures below 0°F (-18°C). Some of the cold tolerant palms can grow in places like Texas, California, Georgia, Virginia, and much further north.
Keep in mind, that palm needs to be fully established before being able to tolerate such cold weather. It takes palm tree full three seasons to get fully established. It’s important to know that palm tree age also plays a key role in cold hardiness because there is a huge difference between juvenile and mature plants.
As palms mature, they develop extensive root system and harder trunks that are much hardier therefore can withstand colder temperatures.
Top 20 Popular Cold Hardy Palm Trees
Here is a list of 20 most popular cold hardy palms that can be grown in Zones 9 – 11 without any cold protection. With some winter protection and use of your garden’s microclimates you can even grow them in zone 8 and even 7.
All these palms are durable, easy to grow and are very adaptable to different soil conditions. All the data about cold hardiness of each type of palm came from my own experience, reports from other palm enthusiasts, and multiple research of Miami University.
1. Bismarck Palm Tree (Bismarckia nobilis)
The Bismarck Palm Tree, scientific name Bismarckia nobilis, is native to the island of Madagascar. Not the most cold hardy palm on this list, it’s durable and can tolerate high winds and heat. The silver-green fan shaped leaves add a dramatic effect to any landscape.
Bismarckia nobilis is low maintenance and easy to grow. This palm is cold hardy and can tolerate cold temperatures down to 25°F (-4°C) and is perfect for USDA zones 9b-11.
2. Blue Hesper Palm Tree (Brahea armata)
The Blue Hesper Palm, also known as Brahea armata, is native to Baja California and can be found in dryer and colder climates of South America. It is a drought-tolerant palm with brownish trunk and striking silvery-blue foliage. This palm is new to cultivation in the US so it’s expensive and can be hard to find.
Unlike many other palms that do prefer cold dry winters, this species can actually tolerate cold wet winters. This slow growing palm adapts to wide range of soils and can tolerate cold down to 25°F (-4°C) but it has also been reported to survive 15°F (-9°C). Anything below 15°F (-9°C) will cause foliage damage. Great of areas USDA zones 9b-11.
3. Cabbage Palm Tree (Sabal palmetto)
The Cabbage Palm, scientific name Sabal palmetto, is native to extreme southern coastal North Carolina southwand through Florida, the Caribbean, and Gulf of Mexico coast.
This palm is very durable and will tolerate a wide variety of soil and weather. It is fully adapted throughout Zones 8 and 9, and can even be found in some areas of Zone 7.
This slow growing palm can tolerate drought as well as cold down to 10-15°F (-12 to -9°C) when mature enough. While any temperature below 10°F (-12°C) will cause leave damage the trunk of the established palm can actually survive 0°F (-18°C). The USDA Zones 8a-11 is perfect for this palm.
4. Canary Date Palm Tree (Phoenix canariensis)
The Canary Date Palm, scientific name Phoenix canariensis, is native to Canary Islands and North Africa. It is easily recognized because of its large crown of leaves and trunk characteristics with crisscross pattern.
This slow growing palm is highly adaptable to wide range of soil conditions and can withstand cold down to 15°F (-9°C). With some additional winter protection you can grow it in Zone 8a. Great for USDA Zones 8b – 11.
5. California Fan Palm Tree (Washingtonia filifera)
The California Fan Palm, also known as Washingtonia filifera, is native to North America. It is very widely grown as an ornamental landscape tree in Arizona, Mexico and California. It can tolerate considerable cold in dry climate, but is not as good tolerating cold under wet conditions.
This palm tree can tolerate drought as well as cold down to 15-20°F (-9 to -7°C) when mature enough. It gets much more cold tolerant as it becomes more established. Old specimens can be found growing in Zone 7a Oklahoma City and Zone 6b Tulsa with some minimal winter protection. So, you can definitely grow it in USDA Zones 8a-11.
6. Chinese Fan Palm Tree (Livistona chinensis)
The Chinese Fan Palm, also called Livistona chinensis, is native to China and southern Japan. This moderate growing palm is a cold hardy palm that can tolerate drought as well as cold down to 20-25°F (-7 to -4°C) when mature enough. Any temperatures below 20°F (-7°C) will cause damage to the leaves and anything below 15°F (-9°C) will cause complete defoliation.
Livistona chinensis is widely grown in Arizona, Texas and California. It is perfect for landscape in USDA zones 9a-11. If you want to grow it in areas of zone 8b, you will need to provide some shelter.
However, if you don’t mind the loss of the foliage, you can actually grow this shrub in zone 6 and 7 as a die-back perennial. Every winter it will be killed to the ground only to regrow when the warm weather comes back. How cool is that?
7. Dwarf Palmetto (Sabal minor)
Dwarf Palmetto, also known as Sabal minor, is one of the small species of palm that is native to northeastern Mexico and southeastern and south-central US. It is very cold tolerant palm that can withstand temperatures near 0°F (−18°C), and is also known to survive short periods of −5°F (−21°C) temperatures. It is perfect for landscape in USDA zones 7b-10a.
8. European Fan Palm Tree (Chamaerops humilis)
The European Fan Palm is also known as Mediterranean Palm. This slow growing palm is native to northern Africa and the Mediterranean region of Europe. This palm is very attractive, bushy, evergreen that is extremely tough.
The European Fan Palm can tolerate cold down to 5-10°F (-15 to -12°C) with defoliation occurring at about 15°F (-9°C). It is also known to survive 3°F (-16°C) without permanent damage but I wouldn’t plant it anywhere with temperatures below 5°F (-15°C). It is perfect for landscape in USDA zones 7b-11.
9. Lady Palm Tree (Rhapis excelsa)
The Lady Palm Tree, scientific name Rhapis excelsa, is very popular indoor and outdoor palm because of its easy maintenance and cold hardiness. This native to Southeast area of China is very slow growing shrubby evergreen that can tolerate low temperatures down to 15°F (-9°C). Great for landscape in USDA zones 8b-11.
10. Mexican Fan Palm Tree (Washingtonia robusta)
The Mexican Fan Palm, scientific name Washingtonia robusta, is native to desert regions of Mexico. Just like California Fan Palm, it tolerates cold in dry climate much better than cold in wet climate, but is nowhere as robust as California Fan Palm.
The Mexican Fan Palm is cold hardy palm that can tolerate cold down to 15-20°F (-9 to -7°C) when mature enough, although it is known to survive 0°F (-18C) if mummy wrapped and heavily mulched.
This moderate growing palm is perfect for landscape in USDA zones 8b-11. If you are trying to grow Mexican Fan Palm outside its normal zone 8b, make sure it has been planted in full sun and has great drainage.
11. Mazari Palm Tree (Nannorrhops ritchiana)
The Mazari Palm Tree, scientific name Nannorrhops ritchiana, is native to to Afghanistan and Pakistan. It is a rare palm that lately has been gaining popularity due to its striking appearance and durability. While it’s hard to find, Mazari Palm is almost as cold hardy as Needle Palm.
It easily adapts to different soils, can tolerate drought and cold down to 10°F (-12°C). In the cold deserts of the Middle East, Mazari Palm is known to survive temperatures below 0°F (-18°C).
However, it seems to be tolerating cold much better in dry conditions than in wet. This extremely slow growing palm is great for landscapes in USDA Zones 8a – 11.
12. Needle Palm Tree (Rhapidophyllum hystrix)
The Needle Palm, scientific name Rhapidophyllum hystrix, is native to the coastal plain of the southeastern United States. It is the MOST cold-hardy palm in the world in climates with warm to hot summers. You can easily find pictures of Needle Palm covered with snow.
Well established Needle palm can easily tolerate cold down to -5°F (-21°C) without any protection. The lowest temperature it is known to survive is actually -24°F (-31°C) in Knoxville, Tennessee in 1985. Believe it or not, this palm can survive cold winter in northern Ohio, Michigan, New England and other places with similar climate.
An established Needle Palm, the one that has been in the ground for 3 years, should be able to tolerate conditions of zone 6a without any damage and survive in zone 5b with some leaf burn. This slow growing palm is perfect for landscape in USDA zones 5b-11.
13. Paurotis Palm Tree (Acoelorrhaphe wrightii)
The Paurotis Palm Tree, scientific name Acoelorrhaphe wrightii, is native to southern Florida. This slow growing palm is very durable and adapts to different types of soil. It can tolerate low temperatures down to 25°F (-4°C) but is also known to withstand 20°F (-7°C). Great for USDA zones 9b-11.
14. Pindo Palm Tree (Butia capitata)
The Pindo Palm, also known as Jelly Palm, is native to Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay. It is the most cold-hardy palm with feather-shaped leaves that is available on today’s market.
This palm is easy to grow, but it requires some maintenance to keep it nice appearance. It’s hardy palm that can tolerate down to 5-10°F (-15 to -12°C), with a leaf damage at about 15°F (-9°C). It can survive 0°F (-18°C) for a short period of time, but all of the foliage will be lost.
This very slow growing palm is perfect for landscape in USDA zones 7b-11. Any area outside zone 7b will require winter protection.
15. Texas Sabal Palm Tree (Sabal mexicana)
The Texas Sabal Palm, scientific name Sabal mexicana or Sabal texana, is native to extreme southern Texas and northern Mexico down through Central America. It looks similar to the popular Sabal palmetto, except it has larger foliage and more massive trunk.
Just like Sabal palmetto, it can withstand freezing temperatures down to 10°F (-12°C), but is also known to survive 1°F (-17°C) when mature enough. I think temperatures below 5°F (-15°C) will destroy most of the leaf tissue.
This palm can be used in USDA Zones 8a -11 without any protection and in Zone 7b with winter protection.
16. Saw Palmetto Palm Tree (Serenoa repens)
The Saw Palmetto Palm is also known as Sabal Palm. It is native to Florida and grows all over southeastern United States. The Saw Palmetto Palm is a very cold hardy palm that can tolerate cold down to 0-5°F (-18 to -15°C). This slow growing palm is perfect for landscape in USDA zones 7a-11.
17. Sago Palm Tree (Cycas revoluta)
The Sago Palm, scientific name Cycas revoluta is not a real palm but a cycad. This slow growing palm is very cold hardy and can tolerate cold down to 15°F (-9°C), but is also known to withstand 10°F without permanent damage. Great for USDA Zones 8b – 11.
18. Sylvester Date Palm Tree (Phoenix sylvestris)
The Sylvester Date Palm Tree, scientific name Phoenix sylvestris, is one of the most popular palm trees in the world used in luxury homes, hotels and golf courses. It’s slow growing, widely adaptable, easy to maintain and can tolerate cold down to 15°F (-9°C). Great for USDA Zones 8b – 11.
19. True Date Palm Tree (Phoenix dactylifera)
The True Date Palm Tree, scientific name Phoenix dactylifera, is one of the most recognizable palm trees in world because of it’s tasty fruits ‘dates’. This slow growing palm is drought tolerant, adapts to wide range of soils and can withstand cold down to 15°F (-9°C). Great for USDA Zones 8b – 11.
20. Windmill Palm Tree (Trachycarpus fortunei)
The Windmill Palm, scientific name Trachycarpus fortuneiis, is native to northern parts of India, Myanmar (Burma), Thailand, Nepal, and southern China. It can be found growing in mountainous terrain above 6650 ft in elevation.
So, it is used to cold temperatures below freezing and regular heavy snow. While Needle Palms and Dwarf Palmettos need hot summers to recover and gain strength before next winter, Windmill Palm prefers cooler summers which makes it perfect cool climates of the Pacific Northwest.
The Windmill Palm is a very cold hardy palm that can tolerate cold down to 5-10°F (-15 to -12°C), but lowest temperatures that it can survive without any protection is about -10°F (-23°C). It will get leaf damage at about 10°F (-12°C). This slow growing palm is perfect for landscape in USDA zones 7b-11.
Factors Affecting Palm Cold Tolerance
Have you wondered why some gardeners in northern regions can grow palms successfully while others that live in the same location can’t? There are a few factors that can play a key role in palm survival.
- Maturity. As I have mentioned above, the age of the tree is very important. Mature palms have thicker trunks, more extensive root system and more leaves that offer better cold protection to the tree.
- Microclimate. This is a relatively small area about few yards or even smaller, that has a slightly different climate from a general climate of a region. You can create one on your property by using a buildings, fences, rocks or patios. Planting palm under a taller tree, behind a windbreak or a sheltered courtyard will protect it from chilly winter winds that can cause considerable damage.
- Acclimatization. If your palm has been raised in a greenhouse, it will need to be acclimatized to your area to withstand cold weather. Acclimatization include not only low temperature but also low moisture availability, sunshine, high winds, and other variables. You should provide your new palm with some cold protection till it is fully acclimatized.
- Health. The healthier the palm the better it will be able to deal with cold. So it is important to provide palm with abundant water, nutrients and sunshine during growing season to keep it in top shape.
Palm Tree Cold Protection
By using some simple cold protection techniques, you can push palm’s hardiness zone by one or even one and a half USDA zones! With more advanced measures it is possible to move it two full zones.
You can start palm winter protection in the late fall or early winter after it gets noticeably cold. Some cold weather is good for you palm because it will start the process of dormancy and will make it more cold hardy.
So don’t start too early. The goal is to protect leaves, stems, and the most important part of the palm the bud which is a heart of the palm tree. Here is a few easy things you can do:
- Heavy mulching. One of the easiest measures is to apply 4-12 in. of mulch. This will prevent ground from deep freezing thus protecting the roots and the lower portion of the trunk.
- Heavy watering. Water the palm with lukewarm water to warm up the ground a little, thus helping to increase water uptake.
- Antidesiccant spray. This spray creates a waxy layer that prevents a water loss from the tree’s foliage. It does gradually wash off with rains, so you will need to replay it.
- Snow. Surprisingly a few inches of snow offers a great cold protection with the temperatures as much as 30F warmer under it than the air. Of course heavy snows can cause damage.
- Christmas lights. Putting some Christmas lights around the trunk of the tree is another simple idea that can add 2-3F of warmth.
As you can see, there are many different types of palm trees that can grow in subtropical and temperate climates. By using only palms from the list above, you can create a beautiful tropical garden that will turn heads of all of the neighbors. And with some use of the microclimate on your property, and cold protection the sky is the limit.
Keep in mind, palms are individuals, and thus even within the same species or variety there are some variation in cold tolerance.
- 10 Ways To Protect Palm Trees From Winter Freeze, Cold, and Frost
- How to Save Cold Damaged Palm Tree
- Importance of Microclimate When Choosing Cold Hardy Palms
- Top 5 Factors Affecting Cold Hardy Palm Tree Growth