When we say a palm is hardy in our area, we mean that it is capable of surviving our normal winters, but will probably require some protection.  Of the palms listed below, some are more likely to survive than others, the best chances given to the Windmill, Needle, and Dwarf Palmetto palms.  The others will need a very sheltered location and our milder winters.  Most of the hardy palms do not make good houseplants.  Plant in full- to part-sun, in a well-drained location with wind protection.  For winter, an anti-desiccant sprayed on the leaves may help, as well as a good layer of mulch to protect the roots.

We had a beautiful Windmill Palm (Trachycarpus fortunei) planted near the entrance to our greenhouse.  It was returned by a customer who felt it was diseased, as it had lost a couple of fronds.  The first year we protected it with a windbreak of burlap, but then, finding this too much trouble, we let it take its chances, and, eight years later, this six-foot specimen has finally succumbed to this last hard winter (should’a protected it!)  Native to colder mountainous regions of China, the Trachycarpus is considered hardy in USDA zones 7b-11.  Solitary palms, Windmills have large fan-shaped leaves, green above and greyish beneath.

The Needle Palm (Rhapidophyllum hystrix) is native to south-eastern United States.  Freely suckering, it is usually found in a clump of very spiny, fibered trunks.  It prefers a slightly alkaline soil, and slowly grows to three feet or more in height.   This palm is listed as hardy in zones 5b-11.

Hardy in zones 7b-11, are the Pindo Palm (Butia capitata) and the European Fan Palm (Chamaerops humilis).   The Butia is also called “Jelly Palm”, and is native to South America.  Its recurving silver to blue-green fronds make it an especially attractive specimen, and you may find them gracing sidewalks in places like Charleston, NC or Savannah, GA.  The European Fan Palm (Chamaerops humilis) is another Mediterranean palm, which makes a pretty container plant, although it would have to come inside for the winter unless planted in the ground.  The frond is a fan of stiff, grey-green narrow leaf segments.  Naturally a clump-grower, it will develop a single trunk when containerized.

Another U.S. native is the Saw Palmetto (Serenoa repens) growing in swampy areas of South Carolina and Florida, and found growing under the trees along 95 south from southern North Carolina through South Carolina and Georgia into Florida. The species name indicates is creeping habit and it forms wide heavy masses that can serve as winter food for cattle and as cover for native wildlife from bears to birds.  Hardy to zones 7a-11, do not confuse the Saw Palmetto with the Sabal palmetto, which tends to form a single thick trunk, and is not quite as hardy.  This palm is the state tree of South Carolina and is an attractive landscape plant in its native areas.  The Dwarf Palmetto (Sabal minor), is used as an under-planting to taller palms, and, while very hardy, is mostly trunk-less.

And finally, although not a true palm, the Sago Palm (Cycas revoluta) is considered hardy to zones 7b-11 with protection.  It requires lots of sun to keep its glossy foliage and short thick trunk.  The Sago also makes an attractive houseplant.  Cycads, as many of you know, were around during the Jurassic period and, thankfully, managed to survive the herbivorous dinosaurs!  
Posted: 5/27/2015 by Margot | with 0 comment(s)
Filed under: MargotGunn, TheGreatIndoors
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