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Hardy Palms

By Rosa Mundi.

Most of us tend to think of Palms as some how associated with camels and exotic dessert places where the date palm comes from. But, surprising as it may sound there are palms, that are happy in the English climate, especially around the Southern coastal areas.

What is a palm? "Palm" is a term commonly used to describe a plant which carries a cluster of large leaves at the top of an unbranched stem or trunk, Sometimes ,this is known as a crown or head.
A true Palm is actually from the Palmae family (alternatively, Arecaceae). This family has over 200 genera a and about 2800 species, which mostly grow in the warmer areas of the world. They are most abundant in tropical Asia, America and a few in tropical Africa. The majority of palms are happiest in warm, wet conditions. But, there are a few that have evolved to cope with very dry areas, and these are the ones that can stand a certain amount of frost.
Should you have sufficient glasshouse, or conservatory space you can also keep some more tender palms over the winter in containers. Then after danger of frost has past plant these out into a tropical bed, or keep them on the patio in pleasing containers. I'll cover those later on in this article.
So returning to the truly hardy palms, the first thing to consider, once you have established that the palm will survive in your local climate, is placement. By this I mean, as with any potentially large tree or shrub, you need to take in to account how big the palm will end up growing to. So planting up close to your house, or at the front of the border as it will block out the view of other plants behind it. So now we come on to picking a variety, what follows is a list of those that will survive winter temperatures of about -5°C.

Brahea armata Mexican Blue Palm
This one will ultimately grow to 40ft (slowly) with the top spread to 6-8 feet. The leaves are silvery blue, almost white, with conspicuous creamy flowers. It is normally hardy to about 18°F, and will tolerate drought, heat and, wind.

Butia Pindo Palm
This palm is somewhat hardier than the last one and will stand average temperatures of 15°F. This is also slow growing to 10-20 feet with a heavy trunk, patterned with the stubs of the old leaves. So keep these to the same length for the best effect. It has feathery, gray green arching leaves, with very small flowers and yellow /red edible fruits. It prefers sun, or light shade and average water, so a good one for the garden.

Chamaerops Mediterranean Fan Palm
Hardy to 6°F, this is most likely the hardiest palm. Grows slowly to about 20 feet tall, with bluish green leaves. Drought and wind resistant, but it is a good idea to feed and water it in summer to give it a boost.

Jubaea Chinese Wine Palm
This is a Palm with a fat trunk patterned with scars of leaf bases. The leaves are 6-12 feet long and are feathery. The Palm is slow growing to 50 or 60 feet, and hardy to about 20°F. It will need regular watering during very dry summers (should we have one!) until it is well established.

Livingstona australis
Slow-growing Palm to about 40-50 feet, with dark green leaves 3-5 feet wide. It has clean, slender trunk with attractive/ interesting leaf scars. This also makes a good potted plant, when young.

Phoenix canariensis - Canary Island Date Palm
This is a large heavy trunked plant growing to 60feet, with a 50-foot spread composed of many great arching graceful fronds. This Date Palm grows slowly until it has fully formed the trunk, and then it speeds a little. It will grow very happily in a pot for many years, with a similar appearance to a pineapple. Hardy down to 20°F, but if subject to severe frost damage, it will take some time to develop a new foliage head.

Rhapidophyllum Needle Palm
This is a hardy palm growing slowly to about 5 feet, and forming a fan shape. It has 3-4 foot dark green leaves, with a silvery under side. This palm is well provided with strong black spines, so could be used for an unusual and interesting, impenetrable hedge. Unlike many other palms, it will tolerate a damp, though not constantly wet, soil and is hardy to 10°F.
Sabal palmetto - Cabbage Palm
It is slow growing to about 20 feet, with big green leaves of 5-8 feet and a globular shaped head. Hardy to about 20°F.

Sabal minor
This is a leafy green palm usually trunkless, but sometimes with a trunk to 6 feet. The old leaves fold at the base, and hang down, giving the appearance of a folded umbrella.

Trachycarpus fortunei - The Windmill Palm
This very hardy palm will grow moderately fast to 30 feet. With a dark trunk, thicker at the top than the bottom and covered with dense hairy looking fiber. The toothed leaves are 3 foot across on 1.5 feet stalks. It will respond well to feeding and watering but is not greedy. In strong winds this palm can become a little untidy and will be hardy to 10°F.

Washingtonia filifera - California Fan Palm
Although coming from California it will obviously stand drought, it will also be very happy with moist well-drained soil. It is a fast grower to 60 feet, with long stalked leaves, which stand well apart in an open crown. As the leaves mature, they bend down to form a kind of petticoat tapering towards the trunk. It is hardy to 18°F and also as a young plant, makes a very good pot specimen.







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