Scattered reports of palm trees growing in Northern areas of the United States and Canada have been known for many years. Semi-truck loads of windmill palm trees have been unloaded and successfully grown in Canada and the Northeast beginning in the year 2000. These windmill palm trees, Trachycarpus fortunei, provide many resorts and homeowners with a tropical look for their pools or patios. Needle palms, although very rare and available only in short supply, tolerate below zero temperatures of the north. Dwarf palmetto palm trees, Sabal minor, and Dwarf saw palmetto palm trees, Serenoa repens, demonstrate cold hardy qualities and are especially desirable as hedges, borders, and as a privacy block.

Windmill Palm Trees – Trachycarpus fortunei

The most cold hardy palm tree is the windmill palm tree, Trachycarpus fortunei, a palm tree that is found growing as far north as Canada. The cold hardy quality is especially historically notable of the windmill palm trees, where the trees are lined around Lake Lucerne, Switzerland leading up to the city walls. Extensive plantings of windmill palm trees, Trachycarpus fortunei have been known for years in southern resort areas such as the Cloister at Sea Island, Georgia, where the entrance to the hotel greets guests with thin, graceful trunks of windmill palms. Tall windmill palm trees also can be seen at the Retreat Plantation Golf Course on St. Simons Island, Georgia at the club house entrance. TyTy Nursery began selling windmill palm trees a decade ago as small trees and recently have successfully transported large windmill palm trees by semi-trucks for planting in such northern cold states as Michigan, Illinois, Minnesota, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and many others. These large windmill palm trees appear to have survived temperatures of below zero and heavy snow and ice storms. It is now possible for Northern states to plant with a tropical garden look around their pool or patio. Windmill palm trees have a great future in the United States as an outstanding tree with a tropical exotic appearance, and a palm tree that survives severe cold temperatures and snows of the north.

Needle Palm Trees – Rhapidophyllum hystrix

Many palm trees have been tested for their quality of cold hardy survival, and the needle palm, Rhapidophyllum histrix, rates high on the list. The needle palm tree was tested years ago at the Brooklyn, New York, Botanical Gardens, and the palm was found to grow well and remain green after snow and ice storms fell during the winter. One quality that the needle palm tree features is slow growth that produces waxy leaf coverings that protect the growing tissue from fast freezing temperatures. The needle palm tree, Rhapidophyllum histrix, produces long needle projections at the base of each palm leaf. This needle is stiff and ominous to man and beast and is responsible for the descriptive name: needle palm tree. The needle palm tree tends to grow in clumps, producing small offset needle palm trees at the base, however, seeds are commonly produced which are scattered around the base of the needle palm tree. The seed of the needle palm tree sprout slowly to grow into small plants. Large needle palm trees can grow for hundreds of years in age, but are rarely found as a native palm tree in forests, because collectors have dug them for landscapes. Even though some needle palm trees have been documented to be 15 feet tall, the trees are rare and expensive in large mature sizes.