6 Types of Palm Trees That Grow in Virginia & Virginia Beach

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Written By Shannon Campbell

Off-Grid Gardener & Food Forager

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Home » Virginia » 6 Types of Palm Trees That Grow in Virginia & Virginia Beach

Virginia probably isn’t the first place you would think to find easy, breezy, heat-loving palm trees. While the state climate is humid, and summers here are hot, most palm trees tend to thrive in tropical conditions and USDA hardiness zones 9 and higher, whereas VA sits in zones 5-8.

But this isn’t always the case. Some varieties of palm trees will grow well in USDA zone 7 and even zone 6! Here are six Virginia palm trees that will thrive in some regions of VA, including Virginia Beach, the hottest city in the state.

6 Gorgeous Palm Trees You Can Plant in Virginia

1. Mediterranean Fan Palm (Chamaerops humilis)

Mediterranean Fan Palm
Images by Lyrae Willis, Own Work, for Tree Vitalize

One of the hardiest palms you can find in the US is the Mediterranean fan palm, also frequently sold as European fan palm, as it is the only palm tree native to Europe.

These tough Virginia evergreens can be grown as a multi-stemmed shrub or as a narrow tree with an irregular growth habit. Their enormous silvery-green leaves with long, thin leaflets will provide year-round color, texture, and ornamental value to your property.

The Mediterranean fan palm makes an excellent specimen tree, container plant, patio plant, or even as a border along walkways. In spring they produce bright yellow flowers followed by small fruits in fall that provide food for local wildlife.

These low-maintenance palms are not only cold hardy but also resistant to pests, disease, and drought (once fully established). They are highly adaptable to different soil types and pH levels, just ensure they have evenly moist, well-draining soil with plenty of sun exposure.

Other Common Names: European Fan Palm

Growing Zones: 7-11

Average Size at Maturity: 10-15 feet tall, with a 6-8 foot spread

Fruiting Season: Fall

Available at: Fast-Growing-Trees & Nature Hills

2. Sago Palm (Cycas revoluta)

Sago Palm
Image by Dinesh Valke via Flickr

VA gardeners who are planting a palm tree for the first time can hardly go wrong with the sago palm. This low-maintenance palm is relatively small and easy to manage but adds plenty of dynamic appeal to your garden.

It has light-green feathery, frond-like foliage and a shaggy trunk. It should be noted that while the sago palm is treated like a palm in landscape gardening, it is technically an ornamental cycad.

While the sago palm grows best in zones 9-11, it can be grown outdoors in regions as cold as growing zone 7. For regions of VA that fall below zone 7, sago works well as an indoor container plant. Keep in mind that the sago is exceptionally slow-growing – it will take several years for it to reach as little as 2 feet tall.

Plant your sago in rich, sandy, well-draining soil with a neutral to slightly acidic pH. Plant them in a location with a good balance of shade and indirect sunlight.

Other Common Names: King Sago, Japanese Sago, Cycad

Growing Zones: 7-12

Average Size at Maturity: 3-10 feet tall, with a similar spread

Fruiting Season: Early to Mid Fall

Available at: Fast-Growing-Trees

3. Needle Palm (Rhapidophyllum hystrix)

Needle Palm
Image by Homer Edward Price via Flickr

Next, we have the needle palm, which is not only native to the southeastern US but may just be the hardiest palm tree that grows in the United States, able to grow as low as zone 6.

This is excellent news for VA gardeners, as it is able to grow throughout the majority of the state. It grows wild in floodplains, swamps, and other waterlogged areas of the southeast, according to the NC State University Extension.

The needle palm is a very short and dense-growing palm – it rarely grows taller than 6 feet and tends to grow wider than its height. Its large glossy palm leaves and thin needle-like leaflets form a spreading fan shape that adds textural interest to its surroundings.

Plant your needle palm in rich, moist, well-draining soil with access to either full sun or partial shade. Be careful of where you plant them – the sharp spines of the leaves can cause harm to people and animals.

Other Common Names: Porcupine Palm, Blue Palmetto

Growing Zones: 6-10

Average Size at Maturity: 3-6 feet tall, with a 4-8 foot spread

Fruiting Season: Fall

Available at: Fast-Growing-Trees

4. Pindo Palm (Butia capitata)

Pindo Palm
Image by Megan Hansen via Flickr

A larger South American native that will make more of a statement on your property, the pindo palm is a striking evergreen that is best known for its elegantly curved, feathery foliage and yellow fruit.

These fibrous summer fruits can be used to produce edible jelly, which is why this plant is often referred to as the ‘jelly’ palm.

The pindo palm makes an excellent specimen, though it should be planted far from walking paths as dropping fruits can make a mess in summer.

This cold hardy palm is very easy to grow and maintain – it has no issues with pests and disease and is tolerant of drought and salt. Just remember to fertilize it regularly and prune any dead or damaged fronds to keep it looking neat, as they take some time to fall naturally.

Plant your pindo palm in organic, well-draining soil with exposure to full sun or partial shade.

Other Common Names: Jelly Palm, Brazilian Butia Palm, South American Jelly Palm, Yatay Palm

Growing Zones: 7-11

Average Size at Maturity: 18-20 feet tall, with a 14-16 foot spread

Fruiting Season: Mid to Late Summer

Available at: Fast-Growing-Trees & Nature Hills

5. Chinese Windmill Palm (Trachycarpus fortunei)

Chinese Windmill Palm
Image by Torquay Palms via Flickr

Another hardy palm is the Chinese windmill palm, which can grow as far east as New York State. This palm is easy to grow and adds an exotic element to the average VA garden, with its stout and shaggy trunk, dark-green fan-shaped leaves (which can reach up to 3 feet long!), and pale yellow spring flowers that grow in long panicles.

This Chinese native has a history of use in making rope, clothing, and other crafted items. In western landscaping, it is most often planted as an ornamental specimen, or used to flank home entrances and driveways. It grows well as a container plant too.

Plant your windmill palm in a sheltered location with wind and frost protection, as well as exposure to plenty of sunlight. It prefers fertile, well-draining soil, and is fairly tolerant to drought and resistant to major pest and disease issues.

Other Common Names: Windmill Palm, Chinese Fan Palm, Hemp Palm, Chusan Palm, Fortunes Palm, Nepalese Fan Palm

Growing Zones: 7-11

Average Size at Maturity: 8-10 feet tall, with a 4-6 foot spread

Fruiting Season: Summer

Available at: Fast-Growing-Trees & Nature Hills

6. Cabbage Palm (Sabal Palmetto)

Sabal palmetto (cabbage palm trees)
Image by James St. John via Flickr

Found growing wild through the southernmost parts of the US and some parts of Central America, the cabbage palm is a heat-loving plant that can survive and thrive even in more temperate areas. It is hardy to zone 7 and grows best near coastal plains and marshlands.

The cabbage palm is tall and elegant, with a narrow trunk and a round, symmetrical canopy made of clusters of fine, grey-green to yellow-green leaves. It produces pale-yellow flowers and black fruits, both of which attract and sustain local wildlife.

Young leaf buds, or ‘palm hearts’ are also edible, and sometimes used in salads. The cabbage palm is largely ornamental and most often grown as an individual specimen or in groupings along streets and boulevards.

Plant your cabbage palm in a location with rich, moist soil with a neutral to alkaline pH and full sun exposure. These palms can grow well in both well-draining and poorly-draining soil.

Other Common Names: Sabal Palmetto, Cabbage Palmetto, Palmetto, Sabal Palm, Blue Palmetto, Common Palmetto, Swamp Cabbage, Garfield’s Tree, Carolina Palmetto

Growing Zones: 7-11

Average Size at Maturity: 20-30 feet tall, with a 10-15 foot spread

Fruiting Season: Fall

Add Some Tropical Flavor To Your VA Property

Unfortunately, VA gardeners in the northwest and southwest (much of which falls under zones 5 and 6) won’t have as much opportunity to grow palms in their backyard – but growing beautiful palms indoors is always an option!

Gardeners in the rest of the state can enjoy these glamorous palms all year round. And if these six palm trees aren’t enough, take a look at some of these beautiful flowering trees that grow well in the VA climate.

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Shannon Campbell

Off-Grid Gardener & Food Forager

Shannon has always loved looking after trees and plants since as long as she can remember. She grew up gardening with her family in their off-grid home and looking after her neighbor's plant nursery. As a child she also participated in native tree replanting, and as an adult has volunteered in reforestation programs in northern Vietnam. Today, she puts her horticultural efforts into tending her vegetable and herb gardens, and learning about homesteading and permaculture. When she’s not reading, writing, and gardening, she’ll be out fishing and foraging for edible flora and fungi in the countryside around her home.

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