By: Liz Baessler
When you think palm trees, you tend to think heat. Whether they’re lining the streets of Los Angeles or populating desert islands, palms hold a place in our consciousness as hot weather plants. And it’s true, most varieties are tropical and sub-tropical and can’t tolerate freezing temperatures. But some other palm varieties are actually very hardy and can withstand temperatures well below zero F. Keep reading to learn more about hardy palm trees, particularly palm trees that grow in zone 7.
Needle Palm – This is the most cold hardy palm around, and a great choice for any new cold weather palm grower. It’s been reported to be hardy down to -10 F. (-23 C.). It does best with full sun and protection from wind, though.
Windmill Palm – This is the hardiest of the trunked palm varieties. It has a very good survival rate in zone 7, withstanding temperatures down to -5 F. (-20 C.) with some leaf damage starting at 5 F. (-15 C.).
Sago Palm – Hardy down to 5 F. (-15 C.), this is the cold hardiest of the cycads. It needs some protection to make it through the winter in the cooler parts of zone 7.
Cabbage Palm – This palm can survive temperatures down to 0 F. (-18 C.), though it starts to suffer some leaf damage around 10 F. (-12 C.).
While these trees should all survive reliably in zone 7, it’s not unusual for them to suffer some frost damage, especially if exposed to bitter winds. As a rule, they’ll fare much better if given some protection in winter.
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The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova
Nothing gives a landscape that tropical feel quite like a palm tree. But they can be tricky to grow in borderline climates that experience occasional freezing weather. Fortunately, some palm 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 10–12. In the United States, this means they grow well in only the hottest, most humid areas, such as southern Florida.
No palm can survive in regions where the ground is frozen solid for weeks or months at a time, but a surprising number of palm species can tolerate occasional snow and temperatures as low as 20 degrees—and, sometimes, even lower.
Here are 11 hardy palms that can withstand cold winter weather.
Palm trees can be divided into two categories: those with palmate leaves or pinnate leaves. (Technically, there's also a third category, a cross between the first two, known as costapalmate leaves.) 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. Such leaves are often described as "fan-shaped." A pinnate leaf palm has individual leaflets branching out on both sides of a common axis. The structure resembles a feather. (Pinna is Latin for "feather.")