If you live in a northern European climate, yet dream of palm-lined tropical gardens, then you may be interested to know that there are a number of palm species available that are hardy enough to survive those temperate region, sub-zero winter temperatures.
A couple of species such as Cordyline australis (yes, I am aware that Cordyline australis is not a true palm, but it has palm-effect and its resilience has been thoroughly tested over the years) and Trachycarpus have proven themselves to be as tough as old boots. In fact in the milder regions, such as the south of England, no winter protection is required.
While Jubaea chilensis (the Chilean wine palm), Rhapidophyllum hystrix (the needle palm), Sabal minor (the dwarf palmetto) and Trithrinax campestris (the Caranday palm) are all often cited as being hardy and tolerant to temperatures of down to between −12°C and −15°C they often struggle to recover from cold damage in the colder summers of northern European. They should only be considered growing if their cultural requirements can be adequately met.
Top five hardy palms
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It has large fan-shaped leaves and it both tolerant of clay soils and partial shade. It is a little on the large side for a garden specimen reaching between 12–20 m in height. It is best planted in a sheltered position as the leaves may be damaged by high winds in cold, northerly sites. It can withstands temperatures of -15°C although the greatest recorded cold tolerance for Trachycarpus fortunei is −27.5°C. This was experienced by four specimens in Plovdiv, Bulgaria during a severe cold spell on 6 January 1993. Be aware that young plants are less hardy, and can be damaged by temperature of −8°C or below.
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It is a shrub-like clumping palm, with several stems growing from a single base. It is suitable for heavier clay soils and partial shade. The variety Chamaerops humilis argentea is indigenous to the Atlas Mountains in Morocco and has attractive silvery-blue leaves.
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Native to the islands of New Zealand Cordyline australis has long narrow, sword-shaped leaves on a widely branched, stout truck. Mature specimens can tolerate temperatures down as low as -12°C but will suffer stem and foliage damage. Younger specimens will need to be protected if temperatures are expected to drop below -5°C.
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As its common name suggests it is native to the Canary Islands found off of the north-west African coast. It is relatively fast-growing feather palm which can be expected to reach between 10–20 m in height, although rare specimens have been reported as tall as 40 m. It will require a sunny, sheltered and well-drained position but will struggle in all but the mildest areas of the UK. In truth it is far better suited to humid subtropical and Mediterranean climates.
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Native to Brazil, it will grow to approximately 7 m tall with a bulbous trunk crowned by large, graceful, blue-green fronds. In the UK it tends to have a lower height of between 4-5 m. The name Jelly Palm relates to the edible fruit. The flesh is fibrous, sweet and reminiscent of apricots and is used to make sweet jellies and jams.
For related articles click onto the following links:
HARDY PALM TREES FOR GROWING IN COLD CLIMATES
HOW TO GROW CORDYLINE AUSTRALIS
HOW TO GROW YUCCA GLORIOSA 'VARIEGATA'