Palm trees are a popular choice for landscaping in warm climates but can also be grown in cooler regions if you opt for a hardy species that can withstand cold temperatures. There are a wide selection of palm trees available that can be grown in nearly any climate in the world. Most palms are native species of tropical and subtropical regions but several varieties are found in regions such as New Zealand, the Eastern American coast from Florida to New York and in several regions in Asia, including Taiwan. If you are considering using palm trees indoors as part of your décor or as part of your landscaping theme, there are some basics that you should know before choosing the species of palm that are right for your personal needs and climate.
Image by DonnaGrayson
Palm Tree in front of the Hollywood Post Office on Selma Ave, in Hollywood, CA
Types of Palm Trees
You will find that there are well over two dozen different types of palm trees. Some of the most popular types of palms include the Washington, Areca, Bismarck, Bottle, Coconut and Windmill varieties. The Areca palm, also called the Butterfly palm, is a taller tree that has long, arching leaves and a smooth trunk. This type of tree is ideal for warm, tropical locations that have plenty of sun year round. The bottle palm is characterized by the bottle shaped trunk and is a much smaller tree than the Areca variety. Bottle palms typically have a rough, grey trunk. Since the bottle palm is quite small it can be grown indoors. The bottle palm is best when grown in temperatures that are above freezing around the year.
The Windmill palm is one of the best options for those living in climates with cooler winter temperatures. The Windmill variety is grown along the east coast of the United States and can be grown both indoors and out. The leaves on the Windmill palm features a sharp, thorny point and the tree has a textured, rough trunk that is usually light brown in color.
Another favorite is the dwarf palmetto, a variety of palm that is quite small and that can withstand temperatures down to -15 degrees Celsius. Commonly found in the Southeastern United States, the hardy dwarf palmetto can be grown nearly anywhere in the lower forty-eight states. The dwarf palmetto has leaves with a sharp, spiny tip and a stalk that is typically under five feet high.
The Royal and Queen palm trees are both varieties that prefer a warm climate. Royal palms are found in Cuba, and in the United States, Florida and California. The gray trunk of the Royal palm is scarred from leaf growth as the tree grows. The Queen Palm, like the Royal palm, is a tall tree that is best for the outdoors. Both varieties have deep green leaves and an impressive height that makes both the Queen and Royal palm trees perfect for lining drives and for commercial use, such as landscaping for businesses, in warmer regions.
The Rhapis palm is an ideal option for indoor décor. This palm is typically under two meters tall and grows quite slowly when compared with some varieties of palm tree. The Rhapis also has smooth leaves, unlike many of the other palms that feature a sharp or thorny spike along fronds. The Rhapis palm is native to Asia and can withstand temperatures of -5 degree Celsius. This type of palm also grows best in partial shade, making it the perfect option when you need to brighten a corner in your home.
The Golden palm is another excellent option for the indoors or as a screening plant around pools and patios. The Golden palm has soft, smooth leaves and is fairly short but tends to expand in width the longer it grows. The Golden palm is also resistant to drought. If you tend to forget to water indoor plants or live in a region with lower rainfall amounts, this palm is the perfect choice. While the Golden palm does grow quite tall it is very slow growing and is easy to grow in containers.
The Fishtail palm is a unique species of palm tree that has leaves that are fan shaped and smooth to the touch. This dark green palm tree can be grown in warm regions and grows best with plenty of water. In addition to finding the right species of palm trees for your region, you will want to know more about where palm trees can grow with little, no or extensive maintenance.
Where Palm Trees Can Grow
Most varieties of palm thrive in warm, tropical climates. Some varieties are more hardy and can withstand cold better than others. For instance, the dwarf palmetto is ideal if you want a tropical look but experience cold winters in your region. The Queen, Royal, Areca and Bottle palm trees tend to grow best in temperatures that range from fifteen degrees Celsius and up, while the Windmill palm can be grown in slightly cooler climates.
Your hardiness zone or local climate and how you plan on using the plant are all important to consider when choosing palm trees. The United States, for example, is divided into twelve different hardiness zones. If you live outside the United States, you will want to consider you local average rainfall and cold weather temperatures before deciding on the type of palm trees that will work best for your property. Nearly all palm tree varieties prefer to have plenty of water and may need to be watered up to three times a week after transplanting. Although palm trees grow best when watered often, there are several varieties that can survive drought conditions after reaching maturity.
Palm trees that will be kept indoors are less susceptible to temperature fluctuations in your local region but may need to be placed in a sunny area of the home for at least a portion of the day to grow properly. Look for a variety of palm tree that grows well in full or partial shade and that won’t grow too tall for your home to ensure the tree survives indoors.
In addition to the climate and temperature, you will want to know more about the soil conditions and water preferences of the palms that you want to include in your landscaping or interior décor. For example, the Bottle palm survives best areas with full or partial shade and prefers soil that is moist but drained properly. Working with a landscaper may be the best way to choose the right palm trees for your region if you live in a particularly cold or dry environment.
Some species of palm trees, such as the Golden palm, will need to be protected during cold weather. You may be able to simply cover your smaller palm trees with a protective barrier during colder weather. Some experts advice moving newly transplanted palm trees inside if they are in a container, while other advise placing the palms under a porch or deck when the temperature cools. The hardiness of your particular species can guide you on what to do if the temperatures drop below the acceptable temperature for your palms.
Best Sources for Palm Trees
Purchasing palm trees is an investment that will increase the beauty of your property or home instantly. Palm trees can be purchased online, provided you know what to look for in a quality tree. The best option is to buy directly from a vendor that has images available of the specific tree that you will be purchasing, rather than stock images of the species. Look for the overall color and size plant that is appealing to you when purchasing.
Remember that most healthy palm trees have deep, vibrant green leaves and light colored, often scarred, trunks. You will typically purchase a smaller sized palm tree when buying online. Purchasing a smaller sized tree is ideal because the plant will be easier to ship and easier to transplant into a container or your lawn upon arrival.
You may be able to buy directly from a nursery if you are looking for palm trees online. A nursery is an excellent choice if you would like to talk to a person who is familiar with the regions where specific palm trees will grow or if you have questions about how to care for or transplant a palm tree after it arrives. Working with a reliable, reputable website is always recommended when making an online purchase.
Care and Maintenance
Like other plants, palm trees require some special care when being transplanted and grown in non-native regions of the world. For instance, you will want to know how to fertilize your trees for optimum growth. You should always use a fertilizer that is specifically designed for your species of palm trees rather than opting for a commercial type fertilizer that is used for vegetable gardens. You should also follow the manufacturer’s instructions for applying the fertilizer.
Too much fertilizer is bad for both the tree and the environment in your local area. The best option is to use a time released fertilizer that is designed specifically for palm trees. This option will allow you to fertilize your palm trees just once or twice a year, rather than monthly. You should never place fertilizer directly on the roots or trunk of your palm trees. Instead, place the fertilizer a couple of feet away from the trunk and allow it to naturally be absorbed into the ground to deliver nutrients to your tree.
You will need to know how to water your palm tree based on the specific variety that you have planted. Some palm trees prefer to be watered a few times a week, while others prefer drier conditions. You should know the scientific and common name for the species of palm that you have to ensure you can find accurate directions for watering. In general, palm trees like well-drained soil that is damp. You can reduce watering by adding a layer of mulch around your palm trees and ensuring the soil is loose where the palms are planted. The mulch will help keep the ground moist without delivering too much water to the trees.
If you need to transplant a palm tree, make sure that you have prepared the soil. Peat moss is an ideal growing medium for palm trees and is relatively affordable. You will want to make sure that you have an area that is large enough for the root system prepared and then spend some time watching over the plant after transplanting to ensure it has enough shade and water. With some care, your palm trees can be transplanted with little trouble.
Typically, smaller sized palm trees need to be shaded for at least part of the day. When a palm tree is exposed to too much sun, the result can be damaged, dry leaves. If you begin noticing the leaves of a palm tree turning brown or yellow, the problem may be too much sun. Use a large covering to shade your trees during the hottest part of the day if your plants need shade. It is important to never remove or over-prune your palm trees if you notice dead, yellowing leaves.
Palm trees can use the dead leaves for food and to help withstand seasonal storms. Leaving the yellow leaves is particularly important if you live in a region where hurricanes are known to occur. The dead leaves will help protect the tree and can even help it survive some of the worst hurricanes. With the proper care, you can have healthy, vibrant palm trees that will last for many generations to come.