Garden Guide: Everything to know about growing a palm tree

Who says you have to live in the tropics to have a palm tree? Alex shares a list of palms that are easy to grow for many years in our four-season climate.

Alex Calamia

Sep 27, 2023, 11:50 AM

Updated 297 days ago


What would a tropical vacation be without palm trees? That’s why every year millions of palm trees are trucked north to local nurseries so gardeners can enjoy them for a few months during the summer. Most of them are left out to die when winter comes, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
Here are a few of the best palm trees to grow for gardeners who want to keep them for years to come.

Why grow palm trees?

They do great in containers!
Palm trees are actually not trees. They’re more closely related to grasses! Their roots aren’t as invasive as tree roots which means they make fantastic container plants for many years. Unfortunately, unlike trees which have endless branches, palm trees only have one growing point.  If this is damaged too deeply, the tree will die. This makes them very susceptible to cold damage.

They’re pet friendly

Most palm trees are non-toxic which makes them a pet-friendly plant. Buyers should be aware that many plants sold with the word “palm” in their name are not related to palms and could be toxic.
Sago palms for example are one of the most dangerous plants for pet owners. Although they look similar to palm trees, they are not closely related.

They turn heads!

Everyone knows what these plants look like, but you won’t find many growing in our climate. This plant will definitely set a garden apart from the rest of the neighborhood. They look great surrounded by other flowers as the centerpiece in a container garden. 
Here are a few palms that I’ve tested in my garden and can survive for many years with just a little extra care.

Chinese Fan Palm (Livistona chinensis)

This is the most common palm with “fan” shaped leaves that are available locally. They have sharp spines near the trunk, but these are tucked away from view and don’t extend very far out. Chinese fan palms are one of the most affordable palms available, and it can do well in shade or indoors. This palm can also survive brief freezes. I have even left it outside during early and late season snowstorms!

Windmill palm (Trachycarpus fortunei)

This is one of the most cold tolerant palm in the world. It has gorgeous “fan” shaped fronds. When the breeze blows it looks like a moving fan blade, which is how the Windmill palm gets its name. This is an easy container plant, and can survive temperatures down to 20°F. My container-grown Windmill Palms go into my cool garage when I forecast temperatures below freezing for more than a few hours. However, I have had success keeping these alive all year long as landscape trees in the ground. Significant damage occurs to my landscape windmill palms when temperatures drop below 10F.
Watch the video below for a longer version of this segment:

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