If you live in Kentucky and you love palm trees, I have some good news for you!
Palm trees are heat-loving trees adapted to tropical and subtropical climates, so most palms will not survive the temperate Kentucky hardiness zones.
However, some cold-hardy palms will survive in the southwestern corner of KY in USDA Zone 7a. And for the rest of Kentucky, the gorgeous Needle Palm, a clumping palm that is cold-hardy down to USDA Zone 5, is the one for you!
Let’s look at some palm trees you can grow in Kentucky!
5 Palm Trees That Will Grow Well in Kentucky
1. Needle Palm – Rhapidophyllum hystrix
Needle Palm is a gorgeous clumping palm with several closely spaced short stems growing together to produce a mass of glossy, deep green, deeply divided fan-like leaves.
These pretty palms will grow anywhere in Kentucky because they are probably the most cold-tolerant palms in the world, easily surviving strong freezes down to -5 °F. They can survive colder temperatures, with damage, if the following summer is hot enough for them to recover.
Needle Palm prefers moist, organic, mildly acidic soil, a perfect match for that gorgeous KY soil. Although it prefers partial shade, it will tolerate full sun and heat.
Though cold-hardy, Needle Palm would perform best in a location protected from winter winds and mulched to protect it from the cold.
Needle Palm is vulnerable and imperiled in its natural habitat, so please purchase nursery-grown stock from a reputable seller.
You can also learn how to identify Needle Palm.
Other Common Names: Porcupine Palm
USDA Growing Zones: 5 – 11
Average Size at Maturity: 8 – 10 ft tall, 8 – 10 ft spread
Flowering / Fruiting Season: Flowers emerge in late spring or early summer but often remain hidden beneath the leaves; inedible fruits ripen in late summer or early fall
Available at: Fast-Growing-Trees
2. Dwarf Palmetto Palm – Sabal minor
Dwarf Palmetto Palm is a trunkless or short-trunked fan palm native throughout the southeastern USA, north to North Carolina.
For a palm tree, the Dwarf Palmetto Palm is quite hardy, tolerating drought, frost, and moderate freezing. While it prefers full sun to light shade and moist, organic soils, not hard to find in KY, it will tolerate sand, clay, acidic, alkaline, and poorly drained soils.
Although more cold-hardy than most palms, Dwarf Palmetto Palm can only be successfully grown in the southwestern corner of KY, where it should be mulched and planted in a protected location to shelter it from winter winds.
Zone pushers in USDA Zone 6b willing to risk it, you know who you are, could try a sheltered location, right beside the house perhaps, and wrap them in burlap during particularly harsh cold spells.
For more information, check out how to identify Dwarf Palmetto Palm.
Other Common Names: Dwarf Palmetto, Bush Palmetto
USDA Growing Zones: 7 – 10
Average Size at Maturity: 2 – 7 ft tall, 2 – 5 ft spread
Flowering / Fruiting Season: Flowers bloom in May; edible fruits ripen in late summer.
3. Windmill Palm – Trachycarpus fortunei
The Windmill Palm is another cold-hardy palm that can successfully grow in southwestern Kentucky, particularly if grown in a protected location and mulched in the winter to protect it from the cold.
These hardy palms can survive short periods of freezing down to 5F. If it gets much colder, or the freezing is prolonged, you should wrap your palm in burlap to protect it further.
Windmill Palms are single-stemmed fan palms that can grow as a large shrub or as tall as 66 ft in warmer climates. However, in KY, they will likely remain as large shrubs.
These beautiful palms have rough, fibrous trunks and fan-like leaves that spread out like a windmill, a beautiful accent tree for any garden.
Windmill Palms can easily grow in moderately fertile, well-drained soil in full sun to part shade.
For more information, check how to identify the Windmill Palm.
Other Common Names: Chinese Windmill Palm, Chusan Palm, and Nepalese Fan Palm.
USDA Growing Zones: 7 – 11
Average Size at Maturity: 8 – 15 ft tall*, 4 – 6 ft spread *size estimate for KY
Flowering / Fruiting Season: Flowers bloom from June to August; inedible fruits ripen in mid-fall
4. Mediterranean Dwarf Palm – Chamaerops humilis
The Mediterranean Dwarf Palm is a beautiful short-stemmed palm with blue-green to silver-green fan-like leaves.
These are another cold-hardy palm that will survive the winters of southwestern Kentucky. Just like the other palms, plant them in a protected location and mulch them in the winter to protect them from the cold.
Mediterranean Dwarf Palms are tough palms, so you zone pushers in Zone 6b willing to risk it could plant it next to the house, mulch it, and use burlap as necessary.
Old leaves should also remain on the plant at least until after the winter ends but can be left on permanently as an extra layer of protection against those Kentucky winters.
Mediterranean Dwarf Palms tolerate various soils, including poor and dry soils. They are quite drought-tolerant once they are established and are suitable for xeriscape gardens.
You can also learn how to identify the Mediterranean Dwarf Palm.
Other Common Names: European Fan Palm, Mediterranean Fan Palm.
USDA Growing Zones: 7 – 11
Average Size at Maturity: 6 – 15 ft tall, 6 – 10 ft spread
Flowering / Fruiting Season: Flowers from April to May; inedible fruits ripen in early fall.
5. Sago Palm – Cycas revoluta
The Sago Palm resembles a dwarf palm tree with a symmetric rosette of glossy green feather-like leaves, but they’re actually slow-growing ancient gymnosperms that evolved from a now-extinct line of seed ferns.
These ancient gymnosperms aren’t cold-hardy enough to leave outside during the frosty Kentucky winters. However, since they grow slowly, they grow very well in pots. They can be grown outdoors in the summer and then brought indoors before the nights get too chilly, where they make a lovely houseplant.
You should plant your Sago Palm in a suitable-sized pot with good quality, organic, well-drained potting soil. You can put the pot on castors so it’s easy to move around. In summer, place it outdoors in partial shade, and when brought indoors, place it in a bright sunny window or provide it with supplemental full-spectrum lighting.
For more information, you can learn how to identify the Sago Palm.
Other Common Names: Japanese Sago Palm, King Sago Palm, and Sago Cycad.
USDA Growing Zones: 8 – 11 outdoors or 4 – 8 patio
Average Size at Maturity: 1.6 – 7 ft (to 10 ft) tall, 1.6 – 5 ft spread
Flowering / Fruiting Season: Once mature, cones only appear every 3 – 4 years from April – June.
Available at: Fast-Growing-Trees
Table Comparing Palm Trees in Kentucky
Here’s a detailed table comparing Palm trees in Kentucky, their unique features, USDA growing zones, average sizes at maturity, and flowering details.
|Palm Tree Variety||Key Features||USDA Growing Zones||Average Size at Maturity||Flowering / Fruiting Season|
|Needle Palm (Rhapidophyllum hystrix)||Clumping palm with deep green, fan-like leaves, extremely cold-tolerant, prefers moist, organic, mildly acidic soil||5 – 11||8 – 10 ft tall, 8 – 10 ft spread||Flowers late spring/early summer; inedible fruits late summer/early fall|
|Dwarf Palmetto Palm (Sabal minor)||Trunkless or short-trunked, fan palm, cold-hardy, tolerates various soil types including sandy and clay, prefers full sun to light shade||7 – 10||2 – 7 ft tall, 2 – 5 ft spread||Flowers in May; edible fruits ripen in late summer|
|Windmill Palm (Trachycarpus fortunei)||Single-stemmed fan palm, cold-hardy, rough fibrous trunk, can survive short freezing periods, prefers well-drained soil in full sun to part shade||7 – 11||8 – 15 ft tall*, 4 – 6 ft spread *size estimate for KY||Flowers June-August; inedible fruits ripen in mid-fall|
|Mediterranean Dwarf Palm (Chamaerops humilis)||Short-stemmed with blue-green to silver-green fan-like leaves, cold-hardy, tolerates various soils including poor and dry, drought-tolerant||7 – 11||6 – 15 ft tall, 6 – 10 ft spread||Flowers Apr-May; inedible fruits ripen in early fall|
|Sago Palm (Cycas revoluta)||Slow-growing, resembles a dwarf palm tree, not actually a palm but a gymnosperm, suitable as a potted plant to be moved indoors in winter||8 – 11 outdoors or 4 – 8 patio||1.6 – 7 ft (up to 10 ft) tall, 1.6 – 5 ft spread||Cones appear every 3 – 4 years from Apr-Jun|
Yes, You Can Grow Palm Trees in Kentucky
Kentucky’s temperate climate with cold winters means that most palm trees would never survive outdoors. However, as you have seen, some cold-hardy palm trees will survive in KY, mostly in the southwestern corner, where they would benefit from a protected location.
The very cold-hardy Needle Palm, however, will do well outdoors anywhere in KY.
You can also grow a number of other palms outdoors in large pots and bring them inside in the winter, as suggested for the Sago Palm above.
Either way, you can enjoy palm trees in your Kentucky yard.
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Lyrae grew up in the forests of BC, Canada, where she got a BSc. in Environmental Sciences.
Her whole life, she has loved studying plants, from the tiniest flowers to the most massive trees.
She is currently researching native plants of North America and spends her time traveling, hiking, documenting, and writing.
When not researching, she is homeschooling her brilliant autistic son, who travels with her and benefits from a unique hands-on education about the environment around him.