North Carolina Palm Trees

Charlotte, North Carolina. Photo by Flickr.

You can grow palm trees in the warm areas of North Carolina. North Carolina has a humid subtropical climate with short mild winters and warm humid summers. Average January temperatures range from 46-56°F (7-13°C).

Average July temperatures range from 83-90°F (28-32°C). North Carolina is threatened by hurricanes and tropical storms during summer and early fall. On average it gets about 5 inches (130 mm) of snow a year across the state.

The warmest temperature ever recorded was 110°F (43°C) and the lowest was –34°F (–37°C).  North Carolina USDA hardiness zones range from 5b to 8b.

Of course I would not try to grow palm trees in Zone 5b, but Zones 8a and 8b would be warm enough. Honestly, with good winter protection and microclimate you can even grow palms in Zone 7.

North Carolina USDA Zones

North Carolina USDA Zones
North Carolina USDA Zones

Palm Trees That Grow In North Carolina

Here I put together a list of 13 cold hardy palms that can grow in warm areas of North Carolina. All these palms will survive cold temperatures of Zone 8a down to 10 F. If the freezing weather is accompanied by cold winds, they could benefit from some winter protection.

To avoid freeze damage, I always recommend using at least some of the cold protection techniques. Most of them are very easy to implement and don’t cost much. I like to use heavy mulching, heavy watering, Christmas lights and etc.

1. California Fan Palm Tree (Washingtonia filifera)

California Fan Palm (Washingtonia filifera).
California Fan Palm (Washingtonia filifera). Photo by Wiki Commons.

The California Fan Palm Tree, scientific name Washingtonia filifera, is one of the most popular palms because of it’s durability and beautiful appearance. It has high drought tolerance, adapts to wide range for soils, and can withstand cold temperatures down to 10F. Great for USDA Zones 8a -11 (10 to 15 F).

2. Cabbage Palm Tree (Sabal palmetto)

Cabbage Palm (Sabal palmetto).
Cabbage Palm (Sabal palmetto). Photo by Flickr.

The Cabbage Palm Tree, scientific name Sabal palmetto, is one of the cold hardiest palms. This slow growing palm has gain popularity due to its durability and ability to tolerate a wide range of soil and weather conditions. It can withstand cold down to 10F making it perfect for USDA Zones 8a (10 -15 F) to – 11 (above 40 F).

3. Canary Date Palm Tree (Phoenix canariensis)

Canary Date Palm (Phoenix canariensis)
Canary Date Palm (Phoenix canariensis). Photo by Flickr.

The Canary Date Palm Tree, scientific name Phoenix canariensis, is easily recognized through its crown of leaves and trunk characteristics. This slow growing palm is highly adaptable to wide range of soil conditions and can withstand cold down to 15F. With some additional winter protection you can grow it in Zone 8a. Great for USDA Zones 8b (15 – 20 F) to 11 (above 40 F).

4. True Date Palm Tree (Phoenix dactylifera)

True Date Palm Tree (Phoenix dactylifera). Photo by Flickr.

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 15F. Great for USDA Zones 8b (15 to 20 F) to 11 (above 40 F).

5. European Fan Palm Tree (Chamaerops humilis)

European Fan Palm (Chamaerops humilis). Photo by Flickr.

The European Fan Palm Tree (Chamaerops humilis) has recently become very popular due to its durability and cold hardiness that makes it perfect for landscape in USDA Zones 8a (10F – 15F) to 11 (above 40 F).

6. Mazari Palm Tree (Nannorrhops ritchiana)

Mazari Palm Tree (Nannorrhops ritchiana).
Mazari Palm Tree (Nannorrhops ritchiana). Photo by Flickr.

The Mazari Palm Tree, scientific name Nannorrhops ritchiana, is a rare palm that lately has been gaining popularity due to its striking appearance and durability. It easily adapts to different soils, can tolerate drought and cold down to 10F. Great for landscapes in USDA Zones 8a (10 – 15 F) to 11 (above 40 F).

7. Mexican Fan Palm Tree (Washingtonia robusta)

Mexican Fan Palm Tree (Washingtonia robusta).
Mexican Fan Palm Tree (Washingtonia robusta). Photo by Flickr.

The Mexican Fan Palm Tree, scientific name Washingtonia robusta, is very popular indoor and outdoor palm because of its striking appearance and ability to adapt to wide range of conditions. It can tolerate cold down to 10 F making it perfect for landscapes USDA Zones 8a (10 to 15 F) to 11 (above 40 F).

8. Needle Palm Tree (Rhapidophyllum hystrix)

Needle Palm Tree (Rhapidophyllum hystrix).
Needle Palm Tree (Rhapidophyllum hystrix). Photo by Flickr.

The Needle Palm Tree, scientific name Rhapidophyllum hystrix or Rhapidophylum hystrix, is one of the most cold hardiest palm trees that can tolerate cold down to 10F and even known to withstand freezing weather down to -5F. It is a great palm for landscape in USDA Zones 8a (10 to 15 F) to 10b (35 to 40F).

9. Pindo Palm Tree (Butia capitata)

Pindo Palm Tree (Butia capitata). Photo by Flickr.

The Pindo Palm Tree, scientific name Butia capitata or Butia odorata, is a stunning palm that will make a perfect focal point in any landscape. It produces edible fruits that are used to make tasty jelly. Great for USDA Zones 8a (10 – 15 F) to 10b (35 – 40 F).

10. Saw Palmetto Palm Tree (Serenoa repens)

Saw Palmetto Palm Tree (Serenoa repens). Photo by Flickr.

The Saw Palmetto Palm Tree (Serenoa repens), is one of the most popular palm trees that can be used as a screening plant, focal point or as a filler for planting bed. Just like all other palm trees above it’s drought tolerant, widely adaptable and cold tolerant. Great for landscapes in USDA Zones 8a (10 – 15 F) to 11 (above 40 F).

11. Sago Palm Tree (Cycas revoluta)

Sago Palm Tree (Cycas revoluta).
Sago Palm Tree (Cycas revoluta). Photo by Flickr.

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 15F, but is also known to withstand 10F without permanent damage. Great for USDA Zones 8b (15 to 20 F) to 11 (above 40 F).

12 Sylvester Date Palm Tree (Phoenix sylvestris)

Sylvester Date Palm Tree (Phoenix sylvestris). Photo by Flickr.

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 15F. Great for USDA Zones 8b (15 to 20 F) to 11 (above 40 F).

13. Windmill Palm Tree (Trachycarpus fortunei)

Windmill Palm Tree (Trachycarpus fortunei).
Windmill Palm Tree (Trachycarpus fortunei). Photo by Flickr.

The Windmill Palm Tree, scientific name Trachycarpus fortunei, is one of the most popular palms because of its cold hardiness and durability. It can tolerate drought and low temperatures down to 10F. Great for USDA Zones 8a (10 – 15 F) to 11 (above 40 F).

Major Cities in North Carolina

Asheville – Hardiness Zone 7a
Charlotte – Hardiness Zone 7b
Durham – Hardiness Zone 7b
Fayetteville – Hardiness Zone 7b
Greensboro – Hardiness Zone 7a
Greenville – Hardiness Zone 7b
Raleigh – Hardiness Zone 7b
Wilmington – Hardiness Zone 8a
Winston-Salem – Hardiness Zone 7a

Conclusion

As you can see from a list above, there are a lot of beautiful palm trees that can withstand cold temperatures of North Carolina. Most of them are slow growing, drought tolerant, and can adapt to wide ranges of soils.

While these palms are cold hardy to Zone 8, with some winter protection you can even plant them in Zone 7 creating a stunning tropical garden.

Of course, allow your palm to get established before exposing it to cold weather. Acclimatization can help to speed up the process. According to University of Florida, it takes 3 years for the palm tree to get fully established.

10 thoughts on “North Carolina Palm Trees”

  1. I live in Boonville North Carolina and I was wondering if I can plant a sago palm tree in my yard will it survive

  2. How fast do chinese windmill palms grow? Also ok its not a palm tree but can spanish moss grow in zone 7b in NC?

  3. I’m sorry. This is the most accurate, well layed out page of information I have found for what type palm to plant in what zone in North Carolina. As a fellow North Carolinian I am embarrassed by the 3 queation/statements made above…..rediculous. Stop the laziness folkes and read the information. Thank you…I now know exactly which three palms we will be adding to our yard in Wilmington.

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