Updated: Apr 4, 2022
If you happen to live in a cool atmosphere and are considering growing cold hardy palm trees in your area, you are not the only one. Numerous plant specialists from northern zones are eager to have their very own palm tree oasis in their yard. The uplifting news is, hardy palm trees can be grown in basically anyplace. Many individuals don't know that palm trees can actually be grown in about 40 states, all states if you don't mind adding some winter protection. Some of the cold hardiest palm trees can even withstand temperatures below 0 degrees F!
The key to developing and sustaining cold hardy palm trees effectively is to first find out what hardiness zone you are in so you can figure out which palm trees have the best chance of survival with the least amount of winter protection needed if any. We will touch more on this below.
Your Hardiness Zone
To begin with, decide your current zone. Finding out your zone will enable you to pick the perfect palm tree for your particular climate. Palm trees can grow in the summer months in all 50 states, but it is the winter months that we have to worry about.
There are a total of 10 USDA Zones. Every hardiness zone is a topographically characterized zone and has a particular class of plants that can develop there based on the lowest temperatures that your area sees during the winter months. A lot has changed in the past 20 years and the USA has been getting warmer and warmer. While that is probably not a great thing, in the long run, it does help people in colder states have palm trees, so there is that. Presently, an ever-increasing number of palms can be developed in northern atmospheres than in previous years.
In spite of the fact that the USDA Hardiness Zone map is an incredible and useful map, remember, it doesn't take into consideration any other factors besides the annual average low temperature. So keep that in mind when choosing the best palm tree for your year-round climate.
Cold Tolerances of The Palm Species
The obvious challenge with owning palms in a colder atmosphere is that the majority of palm trees need and thrive on a warm and muggy climate. There are palms that are native to colder areas, like the windmill palm tree which is known to be seen in the mountains of Asia, however that is one of the few that can truly withstand cold temperatures.
I put together a list of the top cold hardy palm trees in the USA. Each tree has its own unique characteristics which makes them special. Most of these trees were chosen based on their cold hardiness, ease of care, and typical cost. Enjoy!
10 Of The Top Cold Hardy Palm Trees
Cabbage Palm Tree 8a-11
California Fan Palm Tree 8a-11
Chinese Fan Palm Tree 8a-11
European Fan Palm Tree 7b-11
Mexican Fan Palm Tree 8b-11
Needle Palm Tree 5b-11
Pindo Palm Tree 7b-11
Sago Palm Tree 7b-11
Saw Palmetto Palm Tree 7a-11
Windmill Palm Tree 7b-11
How Cold Does It Get In Your Area
Another imperative thing to know is how cold it actually gets during the seasons coldest nights. Install an outdoor thermometer so you can monitor your actual temperature, and always stayed tuned to the local forecast. Indeed, even tropical regions like Miami and Southern California get abnormally chilly winter time temperatures from time to time.
If you live on the edge of a zone, take into consideration that you might experience temperatures hotter or colder than what the one chart specifies and plan accordingly!
Palm Tree Acclimatization
So step one was getting to know your minimum low temperatures. That was just one of the initial steps. Next is very important to the longevity and health of your palm tree. Your palm should be acclimatized before being planted into the ground. Place your new palm tree, still in the pot, in the exact location in which you plan to plant it. Doing so will give the tree time to adjust to new light conditions before being planted which will help reduce stress. It is also important to know where your palm came from and how it was grown. Was it ever exposed to chilly temperatures? Or only used to a lot of heat day and night? Was it grown in full sun? Shade? These are questions you should ask before buying your palms.
Microclimate, for example, would be if you lived in zone 8 on the chart, but the area exactly where you planted your palm tree actually never got quite cold enough to qualify for zone 8 temperatures. If you planted your palm tree say really close to your house, which shielded the palm from cold at night, the temperatures in that exact area would be slightly warmer than say in the middle of your yard. That is a microclimate. So do your best to find the "warm spot" in your area of planting.
Palm Tree Cold Protection
So what should you do if you know a cold front is coming and you have time to prepare? Dig the tree up and move somewhere warmer... Kidding! You do have options to protect the tree. Some popular and proven methods are, wrapping the tree in xmas lights that get warm, wrapping the tree with layers of burlap, adding 6 inches of mulch around the roots, buying a frost blanket to throw on the trees, or even buying a special spray from your local store that will help keep the minimum temperatures a bit warmer.