When thinking of a palm tree, most imagine a tall, slender trunk with green fronds and coconuts. It is almost immediately to relate a palm to tropical weather, waving in a tropical breeze over a sandy beach. But what about a palm in cold weather? Most people would never imagine that they survive. While not all palms can handle the cold, there are species that have evolved to endure frigid temperatures.

Although the great majority of cold-hardy palm trees grow tall, there are several palms under six feet in USDA zones 7b-8. These palms are perfect to plant where the landscape requires shorter plants, or as companion plants to bigger species. Here, we will describe in detail the four best cold-hardy palms under six feet.

Dwarf Palmetto 

Sabal minor

Dwarf Palmetto, Sabal minor

The Dwarf Palmetto, also known as the Sabal minor, is one of the most elegant freeze-resistant and cold hardy palms under six feet. It has evergreen fan-like fronds coming out of a single base that grows into a trunk. It looks similar to a young Sabal Palmetto. In fact, this is where the Dwarf Palmetto/Sabal minor gets its name. The dwarf palmetto grows in any type of soil; it’s even been known to grow in marshes or arid, steep mountain areas. 

In terms of landscape design, the Dwarf Palmetto is the perfect palm to plant under a taller tree or palm, mimicking what occurs naturally in the wild. It is such a beautiful focal element, it thrives as a stand-alone palm. Dwarf Palmettos are not prone to diseases or pests, making them the perfect tropical addition to any garden! As a bonus, the Dwarf Palmetto’s flowers bloom every May and attract pollinators and birds. Mature Height: 3-5 ft in USDA zone 7a-8

  • Growth Zone: 7a-11
  • Minimum Temperature: 5° F with drops to 0°F
  • Mature Height: 3-5 ft in USDA zone 7a-8
  • Growth Rate: 5" per year
  • Sunlight: Full sun to partial shade

Needle Palm

Rapidophyllum hystrix

Needle Palm, Rapidophyllum hystrix

The Needle Palm is the most cold hardy palm in the world, having been recorded surviving temperatures as low as -5 F. It has fan-like fronds that end in a pointy needle-like leaf, hence its name. It grows like a shrub from a single base that stays close to the ground, never growing a trunk. This extremely slow-growing palm is great in the cold, but it needs hot summers to survive. 

The needle palm thrives in moist environments, which is why it is one of our go-to palms to plant near pools, hot tubs, and other bodies of water. It is also an excellent companion palm; it is so slow growing and hardy, and basically remains the size you bought it for years to come. It never grows a trunk, so it is perfect for mimicking a bush in the landscape, and also looks great under the canopy of larger palms or trees. While not the ideal standalone palm, it is one of the hardiest companion plants out there!  

  • Growth Zone: 6b-11
  • Minimum Temperature: 0°F with drops to -5° F
  • Mature Height: 4-6 ft in USDA zone 6b-8
  • Growth Rate: 5" per year
  • Sunlight: Full sun to partial shade

 

Green Saw Palmetto

Serenoa repens 

Green Saw Palmetto, Serenoa repens

Native to Florida, the Green Saw Palmetto is one of the cold-hardiest palms out there. It has large green palm-shaped leaves with saw edges. Although slow growing, it grows by expanding over the ground, meaning new leaves will appear next to the ones already planted. This makes the Green Saw Palmetto a great option for medium ground cover. 

The Green Saw Palmetto is great to plant under trees or palms to fill out the area. Green Saw Palmettos are also great container palms. Apart from their beauty in the landscape, Saw Palmettos are cultivated for their medicinal qualities. Saw Palmetto extract is known to prevent hair loss, promote prostate health, and even reduce inflammation. These palms are as easy as it gets; they are maintenance-free, pest free, and grow wherever they are planted! 

  • Growth Zone: 7b-11
  • Minimum Temperature: 10° F with drops to 5°F
  • Mature Height: 5-6 ft in USDA zone 7b-8
  • Growth Rate: 1" per year
  • Sunlight: Full sun to partial shade

 

Silver Saw Palmetto

Serenoa repens 

Silver Saw Palmetto - Serenoa repens

The Silver Saw Palmetto, a close relative of the Green Saw Palmetto, stuns any landscape with its silver fan-like fronds. They are extremely slow growing and have a longevity of 500-700 years! They are low maintenance and important to the environment, as they are pollinator friendly. The beautiful yellow and white flowers they produce are fragrant and highly attractive to bees and butterflies, which increases biodiversity and promotes a healthy yard.

 

 

  • Growth Zone: 7b-11
  • Minimum Temperature: 10° F with drops 5°F
  • Mature Height: 5-6 ft in USDA zone 7b-8
  • Growth Rate: 1" per year
  • Sunlight: Full sun to partial shade

Closing Thoughts on the Best Cold Hardy Palm Trees

Whether you plant palms by themselves or as companion plants to bigger palms, it is nice to know there are smaller versions of cold-hardy palms to accentuate your landscape. It is interesting to note that while all of our four cold hardy options have different physical characteristics, they all have the same basic features: extremely cold-hardy, easy to grow, pest resistant, slow growing, and great companion palms. These small palms will look amazing in every season against your landscape. When you buy palms, always buy from the cold-hardy palm experts: Atlanta Palms.