Planting palms is a great way to give yourself that “on vacation” feeling every time you step out into your garden. You may not be able to grow Coconut Palms or line your driveway with Royal Palms, but your garden can still have tropical flair year round with the right palm trees ensconced in the right places.
WARNING: Palms have their own language, and it would drive you nuts if we used every palmy term in parenthetic references.
Let’s talk about palms that can tolerate the winter cold we usually get here around Atlanta. The palms most likely to thrive in the ground in our area are (drumroll, please):
Mediterranean (European) Fan Palm – It’s the only palm native to Europe. It has fan (or palmate) shaped leaves (fronds) arranged symmetrically atop a single or multiple shaggy trunk(s) (stem). The shag effect is created by the remains of the frond sheaths that are still attached to the trunk after the fronds have died. The Mediterranean Fan Palm can tolerate winter temperatures down to the 5-15°F (-15 to -9°C) range. It grows about 15 feet tall, slowly, and can tolerate partial shade, drought, and a variety of soil types. If you don’t want to trim off the frond sheaths, this palm will take on a shrubby look.
Needle Palm – So called because of the black needles that grow along its trunk. Yet another slow grower, the highly desirable Needle Palm ultimately reaches a height of 8 feet and wide. It can tolerate temperatures just below 0°F (-18°C), a wide range of wet or dry soils once established, and prefers partial to full shade. This palm is endangered, so be sure to purchase Needle Palms from reputable sources only.
Pindo Palm – Native to several regions of eastern South America, the Pindo Palm, aka Jelly Palm, with feather leaves, is just about the best thing to provide a truly tropical look for your yard. The Pindo Palm isn’t fussy about soil, light, or moisture. It can take the cold, down into the 5-10°F (-15 to -12°C) range. This palm, true to its nickname, produces edible fruit that can be made into jam or eaten right from the tree. The fruits are yellow in color, of complex sweet/tart flavors. With its leaves reaching 5 – 10’ in length and an ultimate height of 12-15 feet, give it some room to grow and you will be rewarded. With its great looks and edible fruit, how could you not want this palm in your yard?
Windmill Palm – Another great palm is the Windmill Palm with its fan shaped leaves and slender, hairy trunk towering (again, slowly) at 10-20 feet over your garden creating quite the tropical accent. This palm can withstand single digit temperatures and is well suited to our Georgia climate. The Windmill Palm is native to China, tolerates various soils well, is moderately drought tolerant, and prefers partial shade.
All apologies to Graham Nash for messing about with the title of his classic solo album, “Songs for Beginners”.
http://www.sunpalmtrees.com/ – a website for lovers of palms.
http://gardeningsolutions.ifas.ufl.edu/ – “Gardening in a Minute” article about Needle Palms.
http://eunops.org/content/glossary-palm-terms#P – a glossary of palm related terminology.