palm trees that will survive in winter

There’s nothing quite like a palm tree to give the landscape or a hardscape area an instant atmosphere of a tropical wonderland. Their exotic beauty and fronds gently flowing in the breeze bring the feeling of relaxing at a swanky beach resort. However, those living in Atlanta and its surrounding areas may feel that palms only survive in more southern subtropical locations of the country and can’t take the area’s blast of freezing temperatures during winter.

It might be surprising to know that you have a wealth of selections available that take the area’s winters without skipping a beat. We at Atlanta Palms carry the best of the best when it comes to cold-hardy palms that won’t turn into shrinking violets withering and dying when Old Man Winter sends his annual calling card. 

As when adding any new tree to your landscape, it’s best to get to know the new addition and its likes and dislikes when it comes to their preferred growing conditions. This includes the lowest temperatures the tree will withstand. Educating yourself to the specific palm’s needs and cold-hardiness guarantees a healthy and happy tree for years to come. 

Atlanta Palms is here to assist in making sure you select the very best palm that will make that tropical wonderland a reality. Continue reading because we cover details about palms that will and won’t survive winter in Atlanta, as well as considerations about the weather. 

Palms that will Survive Atlanta Winters

Although most people think palm trees only thrive in a warm, sunkissed, ocean location, this isn’t true. Quite a few varieties grow well in areas experiencing cold winters. Below are the best cold-hardy palm trees that won’t be bothered by winters in the Atlanta area. Best of all, you won’t have to search to the ends of the earth to obtain one because Atlanta Palms carries outstanding specimens of each. 

Palms Ranked by Cold Hardiness

Below are cold-hardy palms ranked from the top to bottom for cold hardiness and the lowest temperatures each tolerates. However, they’ll also survive brief dips of temperatures a bit lower.

  1. Needle Palm (Rhapidophyllum hystrix)
    needle palm tree
    This multi-trunked palm with deeply divided green and silvery fronds doesn’t flinch in the area’s winters. Best of all, it’s a Georgia native. Needle palms are tops when it comes to cold hardiness tolerating temperatures as low as -5℉.

  2. Dwarf Palmetto (Sabal minor)
    dwarf palmetto palm tree
    This hardy palm with fan-shaped, glossy-green fronds is another Georgia native that thrives in the area’s conditions, including winter. Dwarf Palmettos withstand temperatures down to 0℉ and brief dips to -5℉.

  3. Pindo Palm (Butia capitata)
    pindo palm tree
    Of all the palms sporting feathery fronds, Pindo Palms rank as withstanding the lowest temperatures. The palm tolerates winter lows to 5℉, as well as brief temperature dips several degrees lower. 

  4. Windmill Palm (Trachycarpus fortunei)
    windmill palm tree
    Cold-hardy and showy palm with its green fan-shaped fronds resembling a windmill. Windmill Palms tolerate winter lows to 10℉ and brief dips into the single digits. 

  5. Green Saw Palmetto (Serenoa repens)
    green saw palmetto palm tree

    Green Saw Palmettos are Georgia natives that are durable and cold-hardy low-growing palms. They tolerate winter lows of 10℉ and brief dips to 0℉.
     
  6. Silver Saw Palmetto (Serenoa repens)
    silver saw palmetto palm tree
    The same great fan-shaped looks and hardy habit as its cousin the Green Saw Palmetto but slightly less cold-hardy. Silver Saw Palmetto withstands winter lows to 10℉ and brief dips several degrees lower. 

  7. Sabal Palm (Sabal palmetto)
    sabal palm tree
    This showy, cold-hardy, and stately fan-shaped fronded palm is a Georgia native, meaning it thrives in the area’s weather conditions. Sabal Palms withstand winter lows of 15℉, as well as brief dips a bit lower. 

  8. Mule Palm (X Butiagrus nabonnandii)
    mule palm tree
    Mule Palm is another cold-hardy palm sporting attractive arching feathery fronds. The palm withstands winter temperatures down to 20℉ and brief drops down to 10℉.

  9. European Fan Palm (Chamaerops humilis)
    european palm tree
    European Fan Palms are cold-hardy showy palms that earned the “Award for Garden Merit” due to their overall hardiness. The palm tolerates winter lows of 20℉ and brief dips down to 15℉.

  10. Coontie Palm (Zamia pumila)
    cootie palm tree
    Coontie Palms are native to Georgia and although a cold-hardy cycad, it produces palm-like feathery foliage. It withstands winter lows of 20℉ and brief dips down to 15℉.

Weathering Fickle Weather Conditions

Unexpected weather events happen that you can’t control and surprise even the most seasoned meteorologist. When severe, even the most cold-hardy plants can take a hit or be killed by extreme and unexpected conditions. 

Take winter storm, Uri, in 2021 that blanketed large portions of the United States in cold freezing temperatures, ice, and snow, finishing off its damaging trek towards the Atlantic with killer tornados, which impacted northern Georgia with destruction.

Although Georgia, including Atlanta, experiences warmer winter conditions than more northern locations, freak weather events do happen. For example, the “Superstorm of 1993” had meteorologists and residents scratching their heads it was so unexpectedly bad. The blizzard struck dropping up to 20 inches of snow in some locations after a previous sun-filled day of 75℉. It holds the historical honor of being the largest blizzard to ever hit the state and was nicknames a “snowcane.” 

Fortunately, extreme winter conditions like that of Uri and the Superstorm of 1993 aren’t a usual occurrence. Records show that winter temperatures throughout the Atlanta area have been warming over the past few years compared to earlier dates. The winter low for the area in 2020 was 22℉ and the average low for the past decade was above 15℉. 

This warming trend is great news for your cold-hardy palms, but even with average winter temperatures warmer than previous years, unexpected weather events happen, bringing temperatures and harsh winter conditions that aren’t the norm that can kill plants.

Tips for Cold Protection

There are various steps you can take when it comes to protecting your cold-hardy palms during an especially cold winter or brief dips of freezing or below-freezing temperatures. 

  • Water the soil around the palm’s rootball deeply the day before cold temperatures are expected. This helps insulate the root system keeping it warm. 
  • Add a thick layer of organic mulch over the planting site, as it helps keep the roots warm and insulated. 
  • If grown in a pot, bring it into a warm and protected location until the freezing conditions leave the area. 
  • Cover the palm tree in blankets, burlap, or a sheet.
  • String holiday lights throughout the canopy to help keep it warm. 

If your cold-hardy palm looks like it suffered damage from the too cold conditions, wait until the weather warms in spring before pruning it off. Many times areas that look dead spring back to life and open cuts leave the palm susceptible to more winter damage when pruned off too soon.

Palms that Won’t Survive Atlanta Winters

The fact is more palm varieties won’t survive outdoors in an Atlanta winter than those that will. This is another reason why it’s a good practice to familiarize yourself with a desired palm’s preferred conditions including its cold hardiness before making that purchase. 

Unfortunately, some unscrupulous vendors are more concerned with making a few bucks than telling you the specific palm won’t survive the area’s winters, even with Atlanta’s current warming trend. 

We at Atlanta Palms consider these palms annuals, as they might not survive outdoors through winter but make fabulous displays of exotic and tropical splendor during the warmer months. Annual palms are great choices to give any area instant tropical appeal. 

Below are palms that we considered carrying but ultimately passed on for fear our customers would be burned too easily by a cold winter weather event. Our customers are our number one priority and we’d rather market true cold-hardy palm varieties that we are sure can withstand normal winter conditions. 

Do Not Plant These Palms Trees in Atlanta Area:

  • Medjool
  • Washingtonian
  • King Sago
  • Sylvester (this palm tree should be double avoided in the Atlanta area due to the high susceptibility to disease that is rampaging Florida) 

Atlanta Palms Annual Palms

Atlanta Palms has a great selection of annual palms and though they won’t survive an Atlanta winter, their stunning looks and size, growing in 15-gallon and 30-gallon containers, make them easy to place in your yard or business. They are guaranteed to enhance a tropical atmosphere in any location with their striking exotic appeal during the warmer months of the year.

Annual palms are great additions used to add instant green warmth and a tropical and island vibe to your outdoor spaces, business, or special event. Think of them as offering maximum presence at a highly affordable yearly cost. Best of all, you’ll only have to water them. 

The annual palms we presently carry are: 

Whatever type of palm you decide on, whether a cold-hardy or annual variety, Atlanta Palms is here to assist you in getting the best palm for your particular needs and situation. We’ll treat you just like we would treat our best friend or family member. We’re just trying to spread a little palm tree love throughout the area one tree at a time. After all, palm trees rock.