While Virginia state is not the best place for growing palm tree, there are some cold hardy palms that can actually survive there.
Virginia has a mild humid coastal climate with hot humid summers and cold snowy winters. The average July temperature is about 78°F (26°C) while the average January temperature is around 36°F (2°C).
Virginia gets threatened from tropical cyclones, hurricanes, tornadoes, and winter storms. Annual snowfall ranges from 8-15 in (20-38 cm).
The warmest temperature ever recorded was 110°F (43°C) and the lowest was –30°F (–34°C). Virginia USDA hardiness zones average from 5a to 8a.
Virginia USDA Plant Hardiness Zones
Where Do Palm Trees Grow In Virginia
In the warmer areas of VA, you can find many cold hardy palms like Needle palm, Cabbage palm, Dwarf Palmetto palm, Pindo palm, Mediterranean Fan palm, Mexican Fan palm, Windmill palm, and even California Fan palm.
Most palms along the immediate coast are not in the best shape. They have about 50% survival rate because of the strong winter winds.
If you visit Virginia Beach, you will see that most of the palms look like they have sustained heavy winter damage. Palms like Queen palm and Pygmy Date palm, which are only cold hardy to zone 9b, will most likely not survive even one single winter in Virginia Beach.
Many hotels close to the beach will plant warmth loving palms (like coconut palm) every year for the tourist season knowing it will not survive the winter. Some plant tropical plants in the pots and haul them in and out of greenhouses.
While most palms in Virginia Beach have been planted, there are also some that are growing naturally.
Palms at private residences have much better chances of thriving if provided with winter protection and planted in the microclimate. Microclimate is an area with slightly different temperatures than the rest of the climate.
Planting palms in a place protected from strong winter winds on the south sides of the buildings and away from the beach front, will decrease exposure to the cold winds dramatically improving survival rate during cold winter months.
The first three years after planting are the most important in palm tree establishment. Therefore, even the most cold tolerant palms should be protected when young.
If you want to grow palms in VA without any winter protection, be prepared for them to look good only a small percentage of the year.
10 Palm Trees That Grow in Virginia
You can grow palm trees in the warmer areas starting with zone 7b and higher. You’ll need to buy cold hardy palms that can tolerate cold down to 5F. Here are some palm trees that can grow in Virginia:
1. Cabbage Palm Tree (Sabal palmetto)
The Cabbage Palm Tree, scientific name Sabal palmetto, is one of the cold hardiest palms. It’s one of the most popular palms in Virginia due to its durability and ability to tolerate a wide range of weather conditions and soil.
It can withstand cold down to 10F when mature enough making it perfect for USDA Zones 8a (10 -15 F) to – 11 (above 40 F).
2. Pindo Palm Tree (Butia capitata)
The Pindo Palm Tree, scientific name Butia capitata or Butia odorata, is a stunning palm with graceful fronds that makes a perfect focal point. It’s known for producing edible fruits that are used to make tasty jelly.
This very cold hardy palm can tolerate cold down to 5-10°F and even survive 0°F when mature enough. Great for USDA Zones 8a (10 – 15 F) to 10b (35 – 40 F).
3. Windmill Palm Tree (Trachycarpus fortunei)
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.
Temperatures lower than 10F will cause leaf damage. Being native to China, it is used to low temperatures and regular snow. Grows best in USDA Zones 8a (10 – 15 F) to 11 (above 40 F).
4. Needle Palm Tree (Rhapidophyllum hystrix)
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 without any potection.
Not surprisingly, it can be found growing in Virginia state. With some winter protection you can probably in zone 7. However, it grows best in USDA Zones 8a (10 to 15 F) to 10b (35 to 40F).
5. Saw Palmetto Palm (Serenoa repens)
Saw Palmetto, scientific name Serenoa repens, is native to coastal areas of the Southeast including South Carolina. It’s one of the most popular palm trees that can be used as a screening plant, focal point or as a filler for planting bed.
This dense weedy plant is drought tolerant, widely adaptable and cold tolerant. Great for landscapes in USDA Zones 8a (10 – 15 F) to 11 (above 40 F).
6. European Fan Palm Tree (Chamaerops humilis)
The European Fan Palm is also known as Mediterranean Palm. This slow growing palm is native to the Mediterranean region of Europe and northern Africa. This palm is very attractive, bushy, evergreen that is extremely tough.
It can tolerate cold down to 5-10°F but is known to survive 3°F (-16°C) without permanent damage when mature enough. It will lose all of its leaves if the temperature drops lower than 16F. It is perfect for landscape in USDA zones 7b-11. With some winter protection you can grow it in zone 7 in Virginia.
7. Dwarf Palmetto Palm (Sabal minor)
Dwarf Palmetto, scientific name Sabal minor, is native to southeastern United States. Often confused with saw palmetto, dwarf palmetto is a clumping plant with a trunk that is either very short or below the ground.
This palm can tolerate cold down to 20F but is known to survive exposure to -5F and even -10F when mature enough. While it does best in USDA Zones 7 (0F – 5F) to 10b (35 – 40 F), you can try growing it in zone 6 in with some serious winter protection.
But, I think it will be hard to grow it anywhere past Richmond, VA.
8. California Fan Palm Tree (Washingtonia filifera)
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 easily adapts to wide range for soils, and can withstand cold temperatures down to 10F. It can be grown in warmer areas of Virginia as long as it protected from strong cold winds. It does best in USDA Zones 8a -11 (10 to 15 F).
9. Mexican Fan Palm Tree (Washingtonia robusta)
The Mexican Fan Palm Tree, scientific name Washingtonia robusta, is very popular 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). You can grow it in the warmer areas of Virginia state preferably away from beach front.
10. Miniature Chusan Palm Tree (Trachycarpus wagnerianus)
The Miniature Chusan Palm Tree, scientific name Trachycarpus wagnerianus, is native to China where it can be found covered with snow. It’s a very durable and cold hardy palm that can withstand cold temperatures down to 10F which makes it perfect for landscape in USDA zones 8-10b.
It could do very well in the warmer area of Virginia state away from the windy locations. If you want to grow it anywhere in zone 7, be prepared to provide it with winter protection otherwise it will not survive.
Major Cities in Virginia
Alexandria – Hardiness Zone 7b
Arlington – Hardiness Zone 7a
Chesapeake – Hardiness Zone 8a
Hampton – Hardiness Zone 7b
Harrisonburg – Hardiness Zone 6a
Midlothian – Hardiness Zone 7a
Newport News – Hardiness Zone 7b
Norfolk – Hardiness Zone 8a
Portsmouth – Hardiness Zone 8a
Richmond – Hardiness Zone 7a
Roanoke – Hardiness Zone 7a
Stafford – Hardiness Zone 6b
Virginia Beach – Hardiness Zone 8a