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Palms for Central Florida

Why Palms for the Central Florida landscape?
The real question here might be, “Why not palms for the Central Florida landscape?” Palms provide a geographic aesthetic that separates Floridian gardening and landscaping from much of the rest of the country. These emblematic and evergreen cousins of grass are what people up north dream about while shoveling snow from their frigid driveways bereft of life. Embracing palms in the landscape is largely an aesthetic decision that flavors the landscape in a tropical veneer. Although Central Florida is technically in the subtropics and subject to freezes, palms play an important role in landscape design and management. Palms grow more vertically relative to many trees and therefore can be used along tighter areas throughout the landscape and property borders. Due to favorable biomechanics, most are also fairly to highly resistant to hurricane force winds.

Mind the Cold
There are certain limitations to consider when selecting palm trees. The pallet of available palms is wider in Central Florida relative to most of the Southeastern United States – the rest of the Southeast is largely limited to the most cold hardy of palms. However, the palm diversity of mid-Florida is still limited relative to the smorgasbord of available palms in the tropical stronghold of Southern Florida. Of course, there is a biological explanation. Most of the palms that are suited to Central Florida do not have exposed, green crownshafts – this feature is quite noticeable on certain palms that are regularly used in South Florida, like royal palms (Roystonea regia) and foxtail palms (Wodyetia bifurcata). Instead, the buds of the cold-hardy palms are usually enclosed other parts of the crown and supported foliage – consequently, this leads to superior protection from direct cold air exposure.

Mind the Pests
Like most plants, palms are not without their biological vulnerabilities. Important diseases to consider in Central Florida are Lethal Bronzing Disease (LBD), butt rot (Ganoderma), fusarium wilt, bud rot (Phytophthora palmivora) and trunk rot (Thielaviopsis). Additionally, various insects like the palm weevil (Rhynchophorus cruentatus) can impact palm tree health, but overall, insect threats in Central Florida tend to be more aesthetic and a concern for palms already in decline. By and large, the greatest biological threat to palms in Central Florida is from LBD. However, severity of the disease often depends on species and condition of the palm prior to infection. There has been documentation of over 16 species of palms being infected by LBD – however, date palms (i.e., palms within the genus of Phoenix) tend to be particularly susceptible.

Varying Supplies
Unique to this factsheet is the inclusion of information on the availability of outlined palms as plant material. Different species of plants fall in and out of favor for landscaping purposes, but this sheet covers some of the more common palm species that are both suited to Central Florida’s USDA Hardiness Zone of 9B and some context of availability from local nurseries.

 

Species Common Name(s) Image(s) Height x Width (ft) Growth Habit Salt Tolerance Trade Availability Native Range Notes
Acoelorrhaphe wrightii Paurotis palm, Everglades palm

Credit: UF/IFAS; G. Hasing

 

 

20 x 20 Clumping Moderate Salt Tolerance Low-Moderate Trade Availability Central America, Caribbean Basin, Colombia, and S Florida Native
Allagoptera arenaria Seashore palm

 

5 x 8 Clumping High Salt Tolerance Low-Moderate Trade Availability Eastern Brazil Widely cultivated in South America; has edible fruit
× Butiagrus nabonnandii Mule palm  

25 x 20 Single stem Low Salt Tolerance Moderate Trade Availability NA Hybrid between Syagrus romanzoffiana and Butia capitata
Beccariophoenix alfredii High plateau coconut palm; hardy coconut palm

Credit: KATHERINE WAGNER-REISS, CC-BY-SA-4.0

 

 

50 x 25 Single stem Moderate-High Salt Tolerance Low (but increasing in popularity) Trade Availability Madagascar Relatively new to cultivation in Florida; appearance is close to coconut palm but is more cold tolerant and suitable for Central Florida
Bismarckia nobilis Bismarck palm

Credit: Alejandro Bayer, CC-BY-SA-2.0

 

 

30 x 20 Single stem Moderate Salt Tolerance High Trade Availability Madagascar Blue leave variety is more common; less wind-tolerant than most palms
Butia capitata Pindo palm, jelly palm

Credit: Kenraiz, CC-BY-SA-3.0

 

 

15 x 12 Single stem Low Salt Tolerance High Trade Availability Brazil Slow growing; has edible fruit; same species as “Butia odorata
Chamaerops humilis European fan palm

Credit: JMK, CC-BY-SA-3.0

 

 

15 x 20 Clumping Moderate Salt Tolerance Moderate Trade Availability Mediterreanean Basin Very cold hardy; spiny petioles
Copernicia alba Caranday palm, wax palm

Credit: Falconaumanni, CC-BY-SA-3.0

 

 

35 x 12 Single stem Moderate Salt Tolerance Low Trade Availability South America Spiny petioles
Livistona australis Australian cabbage palm

Credit: J. E. Davis, UF/IFAS

 

 

40 x 12 Single stem Low Salt Tolerance Low Trade Availability Eastern Australia Spiny petioles
Livistona chinensis Chinese fan palm

Credit: UF/IFAS; G. Hasing

 

 

30 x 12 Single stem Low Salt Tolerance High Trade Availability SE Asia Has drooping leaflet tips
Livistona decipiens Ribbon palm, ribbon fan palm

Credit: T.K. Broschat, UF/IFAS

 

30 x 12 Single stem Low Salt Tolerance Moderate Trade Availability Eastern Australia Same species as “Livistona decora
Livistona saribus Taraw palm

Credit: Kenraiz, CC-BY-SA-4.0

 

 

35 x 15 Single stem Moderate Salt Tolerance Low Trade Availability SE Asia Two varieties – green petiole variety is more cold tolerant than the red petiole variety
Phoenix canariensis Canary Island date palm, pineapple palm

Credit: UF/IFAS, G. Hasing

 

 

40 x 25 Single stem Low Salt Tolerance High Trade Availability Canary Islands Susceptible to lethal bronzing
Phoenix dactylifera Date palm

Credit: Emőke Dénes, CC-BY-SA-4.0

 

 

50 x 25 Single stem High Salt Tolerance Moderate Trade Availability The Middle East Susceptible to lethal bronzing
Phoenix reclinata Senegal date palm, wild date palm

Credit: Georges Jansoone, CC-BY-SA-3.0

 

 

45 x 40 Clumping Moderate Salt Tolerance Moderate Trade Availability Tropical Africa, Arabain Peninsula, Madagascar, Comoro Islands Susceptible to lethal bronzing
Phoenix roebelenii Dwarf date palm, pygmy date palm, miniature date palm

Credit: Forest & Kim Starr, CC-BY-SA-3.0

 

 

12 x 7 Single stem, but often planted with other stems Moderate Salt Tolerance High Trade Availability SE Asia Susceptible to lethal bronzing; may have problems with cold hardiness in Northern Central Florida
Phoenix sylvestris Silver date palm, Indian date, wild date palm

Credit: UF/IFAS

 

 

40 x 25 Single stem Moderate Salt Tolerance High Trade Availability Most of India and adjacent countries Susceptible to lethal bronzing
Rhapidophyllum hystrix Needle palm

Credit: Homer Price, CC-BY-2.0

 

 

6 x 6 Clumping Moderate Salt Tolerance Moderate Trade Availability Coastal Plain of SE United States Spines on trunk; does best under shade; extremely cold hardy
Rhapis excelsa Lady palm

Credit: Forest & Kim Starr, CC-BY-SA-3.0

 

 

8 x 8 Clumping Low Salt Tolerance Moderate Trade Availability SE China and Vietnam Prefers shade
Sabal causiarum Puerto Rico palm, Puerto Rican hat palm

Credit: Guettarda, CC-BY-SA-3.0

 

 

50 x 16 Single stem Moderate Salt Tolerance Low Trade Availability Hispaniola, Puerto Rico, and the British Virgin Islands Very large trunk; very cold hardy
Sabal minor Dwarf palmetto

Credit: Kenraiz, CC-BY-SA-4.0

 

 

8 x 8 Single stem Moderate Salt Tolerance Low (specialty, can be found at some native nurseries) SE United States into Northern Mexico Rarely grows a trunk – looks for the cultivar ‘Louisiana’ if trunk is desired
Sabal palmetto Sabal palm, cabbage palm

Credit: UF/IFAS, G. Hasing

 

 

50 x 10 Single stem High Salt Tolerance High Trade Availability SE United States Native; very cold hardy; susceptible to lethal bronzing
Serenoa repens saw palmetto

Credit: UF/IFAS, J. Roberts

 

 

6 x 12 Clumping High Salt Tolerance High Trade Availability Coastal SE of the United States from LA to SC Native; blue cultivars also available
Syagrus romanzoffiana queen palm

Credit: UF/IFAS, G. Hasing

 

 

50 x 18 Single stem Moderate Salt Tolerance High Trade Availability Paraguay, N Argentina, SE Brazil, and N Uruguay Susceptible to fusarium wilt; less wind resistant than most species
Trachycarpus fortunei windmill palm

Credit: Citron, CC BY-SA 3.0

 

 

25 x 7 Single stem Low Salt Tolerance Low Trade Availability SE Asia Very cold tolerant
Trachycarpus martianus Khasla Hills palm

 

25 x 7 Single stem Low Salt Tolerance Low Trade Availability NE India and Central Nepal Similar to windmill palm
Washingtonia filifera  California fan palm

Credit: Forest & Kim Starr, CC-BY-SA-3.0

 

 

50 x 12 Single stem Low Salt Tolerance Low Trade Availability S California and adjacent areas of AZ and NE Mexico Poorly adapted to humid environments; susceptible to Fusarium wilt
Washingtonia robusta Mexican fan palm  

80 x 10 Single stem Moderate Salt Tolerance High Trade Availability W Mexico Susceptible to fusarium wilt

 

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