11 Palm Trees That Tolerate Cold Weather

Date palm tree near beach and sanded pathway

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Nothing gives an outdoor space a tropical feel quite like landscaping with palm trees. But they can be tricky to grow in borderline climates that experience occasional freezing weather. Fortunately, some palm tree species do quite nicely in temperatures that hover around the freezing point and will even tolerate being blanketed with snow for short periods. Unfortunately, this does not include coconut palms (Cocos nucifera), which can't survive in any climate that gets even moderately cold for extended periods. Native to the western Pacific, coconut palms are only suited to USDA plant hardiness zones 10 and above. In the United States, this means they grow well in only the hottest, most humid areas, such as southern Florida.

Here are 11 hardy palms that can withstand cold winter weather.

Fun Facts

Palm trees can be divided into three categories: palmate, pinnate, and costapalmate leaves-a cross between the first two. A palmate leaf palm has lobes fanning out from a common point. The structure resembles an open hand, with fingers radiating out from the palm or "fan-shaped." A pinnate leaf palm, derived from the Latin pinna or feather, has individual leaflets branching out on both sides of a common axis. The structure resembles a feather. Pinna is Latin for "feather."

  • 01 of 11

    Lady Palm (Rhapis excelsa)

    Green fronds of the lady palm tree

    Eric in SF/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 4.0

    The lady palm, also known as the bamboo palm, is a smallish, shrubby evergreen palm with bamboo-like stems. This shade-loving species has dark-green, fan-shaped leaves and is very easy to grow. It can withstand temperatures down to 18 degrees F. It grows well as an indoor palm, a foundation plant, or in mixed shrub borders in shady locations.

    • Native Area: Southern China, Taiwan
    • USDA Growing Zones: 9a–11a
    • Height: 6–15 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Partial, Full
  • 02 of 11

    Puerto Rican Thatch Palm (Coccothrinax alta)

    Green fronds of the Puerto Rican thatch palm

    David J. Stang/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 4.0

    The Puerto Rican thatch palm, sometimes called the Barbados silver palm, is a palmate-leaved tree that can tolerate temperatures of 28–30 degrees F. if the cold temperatures are limited in duration. It does well in salt-wind conditions, making it a good choice for beachside landscaping.

    • Native Area: Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands
    • USDA Growing Zones: 9–11
    • Height: 12–25 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full
  • 03 of 11

    Date Palm (Phoenix dactylifera)

    Date palm trees in front of mountain

    The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

    This pinnate-leaved species is a classic palm tree with a tall trunk and arching, feather-like fronds. Female trees produce creamy yellow flowers followed by edible fruits. It's hardy down to 15 degrees F. The date palm is one of the oldest—and most important—cultivated palm trees. It's a frequent sight in urban landscapes, and there are also dwarf cultivars that make good indoor specimens.

    • Native Area: Unknown (probably Fertile Crescent region of the Middle East)
    • USDA Growing Zones: 8–11
    • Height: 50–80 feet (dwarf cultivars also available)
    • Sun Exposure: Full
  • 04 of 11

    Queen Palm (Syagrus romanzoffiana)

    Queen palm with green fronds

    marioguanandi/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

    The queen palm is a pinnate-leaved tree that will tolerate temperatures down to 20 degrees F. It has a smooth gray trunk topped with feathery fronds of dark green leaves that droop into an attractive canopy. It's a common street-side tree as well as a yard tree, though it requires frequent removal of dead leaves and acidic soil to avoid stunted leaves.

    • Native Area: South America
    • USDA Growing Zones: 9b–11b
    • Height: 25–50 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full
    Continue to 5 of 11 below.
  • 05 of 11

    Everglades Palm (Acoelorrhaphe wrightii)

    Green fronds of the Everglades palm

    Guettarda/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0

    The Everglades palm is a medium-sized tree that can survive temperatures as low as 20 degrees F. This species forms a cluster of slender trunks topped with tufts of fan-shaped leaves. The Everglades palm, also known as the Paurotis palm, is a good option for beach areas, as this plant tolerates salty spray and sandy soil.

    • Native Area: Central America, Mexico, Caribbean
    • USDA Growing Zones: 9–11
    • Height: 16–23 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full
  • 06 of 11

    California Fan Palm (Washingtonia filifera)

    California fan palm with green and brown fronds

    Bernard Gagnon/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0

    A popular landscape tree in the Southwest, the California fan palm has a moderate growth rate and survives temperatures as low as 15–20 degrees F., though young trees are more cold-sensitive. With regular trimming of old fronds, this species, also known as the desert fan palm, is among the most attractive of all palms.

    • Native Area: Southwestern U.S., Baja California
    • USDA Growing Zones: 9a–11
    • Height: 50–65 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full
  • 07 of 11

    Cabbage Palm (Sabal palmetto)

    A large cabbage palm with many green fronds

    H. Zell/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0

    Like all palms described as "palmettos," the cabbage palm is a great smaller tree, with a single trunk from which the large leaves emerge. It is hardy down to 10–15 degrees F. A costapalmate-leaved tree, with both palmate and pinnate leaves, this species is very strong and quite resistant to wind. It is the state tree of both South Carolina and Florida.

    • Native Area: Southeastern U.S.
    • USDA Growing Zones: 8b–11
    • Height: 30–50 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full, Partial
  • 08 of 11

    Chinese Fan Palm (Livistona chinensis)

    Bright green fronts of the Chinese fan palm

    Federica Fortunato / Getty Images.

    The Chinese fan palm has a single gray-brown trunk topped by a dense crown of fan-shaped leaves that droop downward in a fountain-like appearance; thus, it's also called the fountain palm. The leaves are very large, up to five feet across, ranging from bluish-green to olive green in color. This hardy palm tree, which will tolerate temperatures down to 20 degrees F, is very popular in the southern states and as far north as Oklahoma. Because of its moderate size, it can also be grown as a potted specimen.

    • Native Area: China, southern Japan
    • USDA Growing Zones: 9a–11
    • Height: 20–30 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full, Partial
    Continue to 9 of 11 below.
  • 09 of 11

    European Fan Palm (Chamaerops humilis)

    Group of European fan palm trees with green fronds

    tella_db / Getty Images

    This bushy evergreen palm is a very tough plant that can survive temperatures as low as five degrees F. The European fan palm grows as a clump of trunks that lean out from the center, topped with clusters of fan-shaped leaves. This is a slow-growing tree (no more than five inches a year), making it an excellent potted plant or "shrub" palm.

    • Native Area: Southern Europe, Mediterranean
    • USDA Growing Zones: 8b–11
    • Height: 10–15 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full, Partial
  • 10 of 11

    Mexican Fan Palm (Washingtonia robusta)

    Mexican fan palm with green fronds and decaying fronds

    H. Zell/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0

    Hardy down to 20 degrees F, the Mexican fan palm is a popular indoor and outdoor tree. It has a single trunk topped with arching, fan-shaped leaves that grow up to five feet long. Unless you trim this palm tree regularly, the dead leaves will form a characteristic "hula skirt" around the trunk. It has moderate drought tolerance but grows much faster when given adequate water.

    • Native Area: Desert regions of Mexico
    • USDA Growing Zones: 9a–11
    • Height: 40–60 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full
  • 11 of 11

    Saw Palmetto (Serenoa repens)

    Saw palmetto with green fronds

    Steve Nix/Wikimedia Commons

    The saw palmetto is one of the most cold-hardy of all palms, known to survive temperatures dipping down to zero. This is a short, shrubby plant that grows in a ground cover fashion with stems that sprout from underground rhizomes. The large palm-shaped leaves have saw-like teeth along the edges, lending the plant its common name.

    • Native Area: Florida
    • USDA Growing Zones: 8–11
    • Height: 3–6 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full, Partial

When you're faced with a brief cold snap that's unusual for your climate zone, you may be able to protect your palm trees until the crisis passes. Even the cold-hardy palm tree species described above may have trouble when the temperatures dip below 20 degrees. These tips may help.

  • Apply a freeze-protecting spray. A palm tree can often be protected from sudden freezes by spraying them with a product such as FreezePruf, an eco-friendly product that shields plants from ice crystal damage.
  • Keep the plant fertilized. A healthy, robust plant will be better able to survive periods of freezing weather.
  • Apply mulch. A thick layer of mulch around the base of a tree will protect its roots from permanent frost damage. If the roots survive, most trees will regain their health, even if many of the leaves are destroyed.
  • Cover small trees with sheets or blankets. Although this technique is not practical for large specimens, smaller palms can be covered with sheets, tarps, plastic, or blankets, which will trap ground warmth and prevent the tree from freezing. A small light bulb can be placed beneath the cover if the weather is expected to be quite cold or is expected to continue for several days. Be sure to remove the protective covers when temperatures return to normal.
Article Sources
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  1. The Coconut Palm in Florida. University of Florida Extension Service.