Palm trees make beautiful focal points or accents in your garden, and
there are a few dwarfs that cold climate gardeners in zones 5 and 6 can
grow. It's easy to combine these with other semi-tropicals in a garden
design. I find them beautiful in a tropical
garden design, Mediterranean
Terrace Garden or as part of a zen,
or Biblical Garden.
It can also be part of a Mary
Garden or Secret Garden
Retreat. You don't have to live in the tropics or in the
deep south to enjoy them, and dwarfs will fit in anywhere. Some enjoy
being potted up and spending summers outdoors on patios, terraces and in
It comes as no surprise that global warming means
temperatures are increasing across the country. This may promote better
results with semi-tropical gardening. It may come as a surprise to many
that some gardeners experiment with palms and other plants considered
"tropical" in their gardens in states such as New York, , NJ
and Ohio, among others. In fact, palms and other semi-tropical plants
grow with little or no protection easily. Gardeners who live in states
with harsher winters just need to add a little protection to cold hardy
palms to keep them in the ground all year round.
Mine will be potted and portable, so what the ground
does is of no real concern to me. I'll watch long-range evening
forecasts, and if blizzards arrive, my palms will keep sheltered for
that stretch of time. The real trick is remembering not to make your
potted plants too heavy to move or carry. Been there, and it's quite
tedious and unnecessary. I use a pot size that I know i can manage on my
own after it's filled with soil and plant. If i can't lift it full of
just soil, I know I don't be able to carry or lift it when it's planted.
You also don't want to make the plant too light. It might blow over, and
you might not see it do that in the dead of winter in time to rescue it.
All will be mulched at the beginning of the season, so there's really no
extra work for me.
Weather that affect even cold hardy palms and
semi-tropical plants most is wet, cold weather and once or twice
every winter (I'm in Zone 6b), we get that arctic blast with
temperatures that dip into the single digits and don’t rise much for
24+ hours. Most palms do fine down to 15-30° F. If an
arctic blast is probable, bring the plants into a sheltered area. If you
planted directly into the ground, which i wouldn't ever do in the
northern states, good luck and God Bless. Cover or wrap the plants for
the duration. Because of the shape of the fronds, that's not always an
easy task without doing damage. And don't forget you'll be freezing your
b'hind off while you're doing it.
If you decide to add some tropical feel to areas of
your garden, it's worthwhile investing in a good-sized plant. First of
all, most are slow-growing, secondly, it'll survive the winters easier.
Most hardy palms will do okay down to 5 degrees. Unless it's a teeny
little thing. Root damage could be an issue on baby plants.
Hardy Palm Trees
I am only just gtting starting with a few potted
ornamental palms to overwinter outside. The info given was given to
me. I can't swear to stated Zone 6 palm hardiness, until i've grown
them outdoor in pots, myself. Plants that i verify as hardy in my zone
are hardy to zone 6, and no argument there. I'm learning along with
you. And i remain skeptical until a winter or two passes and the
plants survive. I will purchase well-developed plants, to give them
the edge over spindly plantlings (my word for it). They will struggle
in the heat, struggle in drought, fight bugs and other awful
things. Generally, they need the TLC that i don't have time to give.
I'll stick with the plants that have been around the block and will
forgive some of my inattention.
My picks below are the ones I think are the safest
cold hardy specimens for zone 6 - that will thrive in my garden.
Always check the map. Plants are expensive, so until you know
for sure, give your little ones some winter protection and keep them
sheltered. In pots, it's no big thing to bring them indoors as
houseplants over the winter. They're quite decorative and undemanding.
You have the edge over gardeners who put their palm trees in the
ground. Portability has saved several of my trees and plants from
freezing to death during arctic blasts. Even if they're supposedly
cold hardy. Someone says cold hardy in this zone, I say, says
who...prove it. Check your hardiness zone map for the plants you'd
like, believe your neighbors who grow the same things, and if you
take the time to prepare your trees for winter, as you would your home
and your outdoor environs, and whether the plants allegedly need it or
not, you'll grow some beautiful specimens.
Palm Tree (Rhapidophyllum hystrix)
Hardiest Palm on Record.
Hardy in Zones 5-10
Windmill Palms (Trachycarpus fortunei, T. takil)
Considered one of the most cold hardy palms in the world.
The fan palms: (palms with fan-shaped leaves) include all of the
These tough species are native to eastern China, Myanmar, and the
Himalaya mountains where severe winter conditions occur.
Hardy to about −10 °F, they grow at high altitudes
where temperatures are cool. It is also tolerant of low summer
|Bismarck Palm (Bismarckia nobilis)
Native to Madagascar, this cold hardy palm is among the
most sought after palms, mainly due to its unique grey color and ability
to withstand temperatures down to 15 F. Hardy in zone 8b and above.
It is a very fast-growing palm, and can go from 3 to 15 feet in just
5 years in the right environment. During late spring the tree will
produce small, fragrant flowers. This tree can grow to 40 feet tall. So
keeping it potted will stunt that. This palm produces sharp thorns on
the frond stalks, so take proper precautions while pruning. And don't
put specimens where your pets can get hurt.
|Saw Palmetto (Serenoa repens)
This bushy palm is hardy to about 5 °F.
Palmettos can handle full sun to complete shade, growing slowly to a
typical height of 3 to 6 feet. Perfect for the home gardener, and in
This plant grows thick and dense, with no visible trunk, since the
base of the plant remains close to the ground.
|Caranday palm (Trithrinax campestris)
zone 8 and above
It is a very rustic palm that grows in arid, well-drained, rocky
soils. Its distinctive features are its compact shape, short green to
grayish foliage, and trunk fully hidden by dry dead branches (coat)
remaining from several previous seasons.
It is very resistant to drought, and 25-30 degree temperatures when
not in growing season, although it tends to shed its leaves in these
conditions. Not the hardiest, but i like compact and drought resistance.
In a pot, it can rotate in and out.
(Washingtonia filifera, W. robusta)
California Washingtonia (W. filifera) is hardy to 10 °F;
it prefers a dry Mediterranean climate.
It is often grown in containers.
|Date Palm (Phoenix dactylifera)
This relative of the Canary Island date palm, and
producer of the edible date, is also hardy to about 12 °F, but
does not tolerate very wet areas. Always check the USDA cold hardiness
map for the proper varieties for your area.
Dwarf date palm is relatively insensitive to cold, so
it can be kept in gardens , in a pot, or in a bucket without any
These trees can reach a height of 8 ft.
Palmetto (Sabal minor ‘McCurtain’)
Hardy in Zone 6b
This snow hardy palm hails from McCurtain County, Oklahoma.
‘McCurtain’ grows in Wichita, where it’s known to have survived
temperatures of -24°F.
It’s a good choice for winter gardeners in places like
Ohio, Pennsylvania and Delaware, who want some tropical ambience in
This variety ultimately grows to 6 feet and has a faster
growth rate than other dwarf palmettos.
A good combination of plants to grow in your tropical garden theme with
the palms in colder climates, are cold hardy varieties of yucca and
agave. Intersperse some non-hardies to fill in spaces and add interest,
like jade trees, and a hardy dwarf variety of clumping bamboo
(non-invasive, evergreen in my zone 6 garden). All grow indoors as
houseplants, so these non-cold hardy can be brought in before
When planting in a container, select a pot with drainage holes on
the bottom and one that's 2 to 3 times the size of the root ball,
leaving room for those roots to get established. While your tree is
growing up, it’s important that you water it frequently to help the
roots form. You should water your tree at least 2 to 3 times per week,
or more if you live in a drier climate. After the roots develop a
sturdy structure, you will only need to water an adult tree two times
The only time you should prune your tree is when the fronds are
discolored or broken. Palms get most of their energy from their fronds.
If you want to (I don't) cover every plant, there are
several ways of doing it. I'll just move my pots into a sheltered place
on my patio, or in the house, as houseplants until spring. If you do
move your plants, you might have to water them now and then, if they
don't get precipitation where you put them. If you grow in pots, there
are large plant protection bags with a drawstring. Put the bag on the
ground, move the pot and place it on top, then pull the bag over the pot
and soil, as far as it goes up, and tie it with the drawsting. If you
have a bag big enough, you can start from the top of the plant and pull
down.... they come in many sizes.
You can protect them with a heavy mulching, plant
protector bags, or lots of bubble wrap and leaves wrapped in burlap. On
the soil and up the trunk a bit. Don't cover the leaves on the plant. If
you're wrapping or mulching, do it on as much of the plant as you can,
considering it's shape and width. try not to lay the fabrics or plastic
tightly over the leaves. Wet plant leaves all winter will create a bit
of rot. Poke 4 ft. + plant stakes into the pot to keep the leaves from
getting scrunched and too wet. Cover with, and poke the burlap down into
the soil, with 6 inch landscape fabric pins. Snow cover with be heavy
enough on top of the pot that to keep the soil and roots protected. And
snow cover is really beneficial to the plants because it's an insulator.
You want a good snow cover in the garden all winter.
The palm could be be treated with an anti-desiccant
such as Wilt Pruf, which will help the plant hold water in freezing
conditions. The key to helping your palms in the winter is to keep them
as dry as possible (especially the crown, where damage may be fatal).
It would even be beneficial to water the plant with warm water after
long periods of dry or freezing weather. It used to be called an old
wive's tale, but the truth is that water is an insulator, and it gives
off heat, preventing most roots from freezing to death. They don't have
time - if there hasn't been much rain before a freeze, I water them. I
keep a close eye on things especially in spring. If a late hard frost is
coming after things begin to bud and grow, i make sure the plants have
had enough water to avoid being frozen, and i cover them for the day or
two until temps go back up above freezing.
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