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Needle Palm Tree

Cold hardy Needle palm tree in the landscape

The Needle Palm Tree, scientific name Rhapidophyllum hystrix or Rhapidophylum hystrix, is one of the cold hardiest palm trees that can tolerate cold down to -5F. It is a great palm for landscape in USDA zones 5-11. This palm can be grown in states like Alaska, Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and more.

Needle Palm Tree Info


Scientific name: Rhapidophyllum hystrix or Rhapidophylum hystrix

Common names: The Needle Palm is also known as Porcupine Palm.

Family: Arecaceae

Origin: It is native to the southeastern United States.

Appearance: It doesn’t form a trunk, instead has stems growing very tightly together from a single base. Stems are slender, about 6-7 inches in diameter.

Leaves are palmate, or fan-shaped, deep green color, about 2ft long and 4ft wide. About 10-13 leaves grow on smooth petioles 2-3ft long, covered with fiber and numerous sharp needle-like spines produced between the leaves. Fiber husk protects the palm from cold winter weather conditions. Spines grow to about 3-4 inches long, very slender, range in color from dark brown to black. They protect the stem growing point from browsing animals. Each leaf has about 10-16 leaflets 18 inches long and 2 inches wide, with square tips.

Flowers/Fruits: In spring or early summer, the Needle Palm produces small yellow to brownish flowers that grow in clusters at the top of the short inflorescence. The Needle Palm is dioecious, male and female flowers are born on separate plants. Flowers are followed by fleshy drupes. Fruits are oblong, fuzzy, reddish-brown, about 1 inch in diameter. They grow close to the petiole surrounded by fiber and sharp needles.

Growth Rate: Slow: Rhapidophyllum hystrix is a small shrubby fan palm that can grow up to 5-10 ft tall and 1-5ft wide.

Outdoor/Indoor Use: Both.

Cold Tolerance: Needle Palm is extremely hardy and can tolerate cold down to -15F. It is great for growing in USDA Zones 5b (-15 to -10 F) to 11 (above 40 F).

Light Req: Partial shade to Full sun.

Water Req: Moderate. The Needle Palm needs moderate watering but is very tough in drought conditions after establishing.

Maintenance: Easy. To prevent nutritional deficiency, apply good quality palm fertilizer that has continuous release formula twice a year during the growing season.

Propagation: Propagated by seeds.

Top 15 Benefits Of The Needle Palm Tree

The Needle Palm Tree, native to the southeastern United States, possesses several beneficial properties that make it an attractive choice for many landscape designs:

  1. Cold-Resistant: Able to withstand temperatures as low as -20 degrees Fahrenheit.

  2. Drought-Tolerant: Requires little water, making it ideal for xeriscaping.

  3. Shade-Tolerant: Grows in various light conditions, including full shade.

  4. Pollution-Tolerant: Withstands urban pollution and road salts.

  5. Compact Size: Ideal for small spaces due to its manageable size.

  6. Low-Maintenance: Requires minimal pruning and care.

  7. Evergreen: Retains its vibrant green color throughout the year.

  8. Pest-Resistant: Resists most common plant pests.

  9. Wind-Resistant: Stands up well to strong winds.

  10. Ornamental Value: Attractive fan-shaped fronds enhance the aesthetics of any space.

  11. Long-Lived: Can live for many decades, ensuring lasting charm.

  12. Soil Versatility: Can be grown in various soil types, including clay, loam, and sand.

  13. Wildlife Attractant: Seeds and foliage can provide food for various bird species.

  14. Erosion Control: Helps in preventing soil erosion because of its dense root system.

  15. Recyclable: Dead fronds can be composted into nutrient-rich soil.

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