Types of Palm Trees

Sarah Logie — Jan 07, 2022

When we think of palm trees, we might think they’re all the same or at least similar. But that’s not even close to the truth! There’s actually over 2,600 palm tree species - and not all of them grow on warm, sunny beaches. Believe it or not, some of these palms like cold temperatures and temperate places.

Some of what we think of as palm trees aren’t even palms at all! Cycads, for example, look very similar to palms with their thick trunks and green leaves, but this family of plants isn’t closely related to palms. Instead, they’re a closer relative to gingko trees.

Already surprised by some of these tidbits? Keep reading to get the scoop on all things palms!

Palm Tree Facts & Features

Size

We may be most familiar with taller palms lining beaches or roads, but not all palms are tall and not all are considered trees. In fact, it’s actually a misnomer to call all palms “trees.” Some are better classified as shrubs, while others have more of a climbing habit, like vines.

Compact varieties often reach only 6 to 9 feet in height, and palms grown indoors or in containers can be even smaller than their outdoor counterparts. At the same time, some species of palms are counted among the tallest tree species in the world. The Wax Palm, for instance, can grow up to 200 feet tall!

Hardiness

And not all palms are warm-weather plants, despite the common misconception. Some species tolerate cold temperatures, and a few types even thrive in temperatures down to negative degrees Fahrenheit, as well as in snow and ice conditions.

Leaves

The best way to determine if a plant is a palm is by looking at its leaves. Palm leaves are typically thin fronds either in a feather or fan-like formation. Cycads, on the other hand, have stiffer leaves that emerge from a central stalk.

Trunks

Another way to identify a palm is by examining its trunk. Taller palms have slender trunks that are smooth, grayish-brown or ringed, while dwarf trees have rotund, short trunks. Though the single-trunked palm is what we usually think of, some shorter varieties do have multiple trunks that grow together. And some palm varieties don’t have trunks at all.

So, let’s take a look at some common palm varieties below to learn more!

Types of Palm Trees

Areca Palm Tree

The Areca Palm grows further north than other palms because it does well in containers and in low light. If you live in a colder place, you can plant your palm in a pot and move it indoors when temperatures drop.

Planted in the ground, the Areca Palm grows taller, but in containers, it only reaches six to nine feet tall. What’s more, this small palm sprouts white flowers and ornamental fruits called betel nuts.

Areca Palm Tree

Windmill Palm Tree

Noteworthy for its hardiness, the Windmill Palm Tree can be planted outdoors in places that reach temperatures of 10 degrees in the wintertime! When planted outside or in a container, this attractive palm, with its fan-like fronds, reaches 10 to 20 feet in height.

The Windmill Palm is also very easy to grow. Plus, it’s drought tolerant and disease resistant, and you don’t need to spray it with chemicals for it to thrive.

Windmill Palm Tree

Majesty Palm Tree

The Majesty Palm Tree has tall fan-like fronds that grow directly from the soil. It’s also one of the lowest-maintenance palms you can find, as it needs neither pruning nor fertilizing. When planted in a container, the Majesty Palm only reaches heights of 8 to 10 feet; planted outdoors, it’ll grow 20 feet high.

In addition to its attractiveness, the Majesty Palm is also able to grow in partial sun conditions, as well as in clay and wet soils.

Majesty Palm Tree

Needle Palm Tree

The Needle Palm Tree is known for its sharp leaves and shrub-like growing habit. Each frond grows in a rounded way, building one off of the other. It’ll reach 3 to 9 feet in height and width.

The Needle Palm thrives in climates no one would call tropical! It can withstand temperatures down to 10 degrees and can grow happily in either sun or shade. It’s also pest and disease resistant, so it requires very little care from you.

Needle Palm Tree

European Fan Palm Tree

Unlike many palms, the European Fan Palm Tree produces clustered trunks that then sprout dramatic, two-foot circular “fan” fronds. These multicolored fronds range in hues from green to blue to gray and yellow, adding diversity to any landscape.

The European Fan Palm adds a tropical flair to any yard, but don’t let its looks fool you. It’s also tremendously cold tolerant, thriving in temperatures down to -20 degrees! What’s more is that it’s drought resistant, making it an all around hardy variety.

European Fan Palm Tree

Coconut Palm Tree

One of the key benefits of a palm tree is, of course, growing your own coconuts! Even if you grow the Coconut Palm Tree in a container, it’ll produce creamy-fleshed coconuts in a short time. Plus, when pot-grown, this palm will only reach 5 to 10 feet in height, so it fits almost anywhere in your home.

This variety actually arrives growing out of a coconut, which sits on top of its container for a unique, tropical look! Eventually, this palm will produce ringed, gray bark and beautiful, bright green fronds. In warmer months, you can move your Coconut Palm Tree outdoors where it’ll show off its wind, heat, and drought resistance.

Coconut Palm Tree

Fishtail Palm Tree

The Fishtail Palm is known for its upward-growing stalks with loosely spaced, bright green leaves. The leaves are truly unique in that they’re wider at the tip than the base, clearly resembling fishtails.

The Fishtail Palm is also an ideal container plant. Though it prefers temperatures over 55 degrees, it can withstand a few periods of frost. Still, you may want to move your palm indoors during the colder season, so it can reach its full potential.

Fishtail Palm Tree

Sago Palm Tree

Because of its thin, closely-spaced leaves and upright growing habit, the Sago Palm Tree is technically a cycad, not a palm. Still, it adds a tropical flair to your home with elegant, breezy, island-inspired attributes. Plus, it thrives in a container and needs to be watered no more than a cactus! Some gardeners even like to move their Sago Palms inside during the colder and warmer seasons as home decor.

Sago Palm Tree

Cardboard Palm Tree

A cycad rather than a true palm, the unique Cardboard Palm Tree flaunts small, vivid green, rounded leaves that have a spreading habit in nature. Plant this palm in a container or in the ground, depending on the look you’re after. If you do choose to plant it in the ground, it’ll look more like a shrub rather than a tree due to its spreading habit. All you have to do to keep this variety happy is water it and situate it in a bright spot for it to thrive - it’s as easy as that!

Cardboard Palm Tree

Bottle Palm Tree

Like its name suggests, the trunk of a Bottle Palm is shaped like a rum bottle with prominent rings. The palm then sprouts four to six dramatic, feather-shaped fronds for a compact variety that’s perfect for smaller spaced gardens. Unlike some palms, the Bottle Palm doesn’t do well in below-freezing temperatures. It also needs regular watering and mulching to thrive.

Bottle Palm Tree

Lady Palm Tree

We often think of palm trees as sun lovers, but that’s not the case with the Lady Palm! Though it does appreciate full sun, this palm will still thrive in low light and shady areas. Whether you plant it indoors in a container or outdoors, the Lady Palm’s lush, fan-shaped fronds and multiple trunks make it a standout. Plus, its drought and heat tolerance mean that it doesn’t require constant attention.

Lady Palm Tree

Queen Palm Tree

The Queen Palm Tree earned its name for its height, regal fronds, and small orange fruit. If you’re seeking the quintessential beachside palm, this is it! You can also pot this variety in a container and grow it indoors if you don’t live in a year-round sunny locale. One of the tallest palms on this list, this one reaches 50 feet at maturity when planted outside to create quite the spectacle!

Queen Palm

Christmas Palm Tree

If you look up “palm tree” in an encyclopedia, this is the plant you’re going to find. The Christmas Palm is the quintessential palm in shape and appearance, offering tropical, beachy visions. It sprouts two or more trunks, and its arching fronds are wide enough to provide shade. But this palm won’t take up tons of room, as it only grows 10 to 25 feet tall and 5 to 10 feet wide, so you can plant it into a container or into the ground!

Christmas Palm

Ponytail Palm Tree

If Dr. Seuss drew a palm tree, the Ponytail Palm would be it! This multi-trunked gem replaces more common fronds with clumps of ultra-thin green tendrils. Also known as the “‘Elephant Foot Palm,” this tree is in the shape of an elephant’s foot and its trunk is covered with gray bark.

Size-wise, however, the Ponytail Palm can grow quite large, depending on where it’s planted. In-ground, it can reach 30 feet or more in height, but when planted in a container, it’ll stay more compact, only reaching about 6-8 feet tall.

Ponytail Palm

Pygmy Date Palm Tree

A miniature palm, the Pygmy Date is praised for its small size - reaching only 6-7 feet tall in a container or 7-12 feet tall when planted outside. This short tree sports a squat, rough trunk that sprouts slender leaflets. In warmer climates, the Pygmy Date Palm even produces small, creamy white flowers and fruit for added interest. Plant this variety in a container to decorate your porch or entryway and welcome guests to the tropics!

Pygmy Date Palm

Sylvester Palm Tree

One of the unique, fruit-producing palms on this list, the Sylvester Palm Tree produces dark purple to black dates! Enjoy the tree’s symmetrically-circular fronds that are a beautiful, silvery, blue-green, along with its rough, diamond-patterned trunk, and sweet, delicious dates plucked straight from the tree. An all around stunning and unique variety, you can’t go wrong planting the Sylvester Palm!

Sylvester Palm

Pindo Palm Tree

The hardy Pindo Palm doesn’t mind frigid temperatures! Plus, its squat, bristly trunk produces inward curving fronds and, in warmer places, amber-colored fruit. In fact, Pindo dates are prized for jam and jelly-making.

If you’re considering planting the Pindo Palm in your yard, it can grow to a height of 20 feet and a width of 15 feet. Since it can withstand cold temperatures, most gardeners plant the Pindo outside in-ground, though it does like containers, as well.

Pindo Palm

The Diversity of Palm Trees

As you can see, palm trees are much more diverse than you may have assumed! Many varieties will surprise you with their unique characteristics and abilities. Some can thrive in cold climates and less than tropical conditions, while others are quite small in size or not even trees at all. No matter the palm you choose, these varieties are sure to make your yard or home feel bright and sunny! Who says you need sand and waves to enjoy an island vacation?

Keep scrolling to view the helpful breakdown of all varieties mentioned above, including sizing, zones, sunlight requirements and more, so you can pick the right variety for your yard or home.

And don’t forget to shop our full Palm Tree Collection for more inspiration!

Palm Tree

Botanical Name

Mature Height
(in feet)

Mature Width
(in feet)

Growing Zones

Sun

Key Features

Areca Palm Tree

Dypsis lutescens

4-5 Indoors

15-30 Outdoors

3-5 Indoors

5-15 Outdoors

4-11 patio

10-11 outdoors

Full-partial

Clumping, vase shape; low- maintenance

Windmill Palm Tree

Trachycarpus fortunei

20-40

6-15

7-10 outdoors

Full-partial

Extremely cold-hardy

Majesty Palm Tree

Ravenea rivularis

8-10 Indoors


10-20 Outdoors

4-5 Indoors

10-18 Outdoors

4-11 patio

9-11 outdoors

Partial

Does well in wet and clay soils

Needle Palm Tree

Rhapidophyllum hystrix

3-9

3-8

7-10 outdoors

Full-partial

Very hardy and compact, mounding shape

European Fan Palm Tree

Chamaerops humilis

4-8 Indoors

8-10 Outdoors

6-8 Indoors

6-10 Outdoors

4-11 patio

8-11 outdoors

Full-partial

Fan-like leaves and compact size

Coconut Palm Tree

Cocos nucifera 'Green Malayan'

5-10 Indoors

20-40 Outdoors

5-10 Indoors

10-15 Outdoors

4-9 patio

10-11 outdoors

Full

Single, curved trunk and produces coconuts

Fishtail Palm Tree

Caryota mitis

6-10 Indoors

20-25 Outdoors

4-5 ft Indoors

10-15 Outdoors

4-11 patio

9-11 outdoors

Full-Partial

Unusual leaves look like fishtails

Sago Palm Tree

Cycas revoluta

4-6 Indoors

6-10 Outdoors

3-5 Indoors

6-10 Outdoors

4-11 patio

8-11 outdoors

Full-Partial

Dense, thick leaves and bush-like shape

Cardboard Palm Tree

Cycad zamia furfuracea

2-3 Indoors

2-5 Outdoors

3-4 Indoors

5-8 Outdoors

4-11 patio

9-11 outdoors

Full-Partial

Thick, textured leaves with drought tolerance and deer resistance

Bottle Palm Tree

Hyophorbe lagenicaulis

5-7 Indoors

10-20 Outdoors

6-8 Indoors

10-15 Outdoors

4-11 patio

10-11 outdoors

Full

Coarse leaves and unique, bottle-shaped trunk

Lady Palm Tree

Rhapis Excelsa

5-7 Indoors

6-15 Outdoors

1-5 Indoors

5-10 Outdoors

4-11 patio

9-11 outdoors

Partial-shade

Thrives in low light and containers

Queen Palm

Syagrus romanzoffiana

20-50

5-10

4-11 patio

9-11 outdoors

Full Sun

Wide canopy, perfect for shade

Christmas Palm

Adonidia merrillii

8-10 Indoors


10-25 Outdoors

4-8 Indoors

5-10 Outdoors

4-11 patio

10-11 outdoors

Full Sun

Full canopy and clumping style

Ponytail Palm

Beaucarnea recurvata

6-8 Indoors

3-5 Indoors

4-11 patio

10-11 outdoors

Full Sun

Slender, curving fronds

Pygmy Date Palm

Phoenix roebelenii

6-7 Indoors

7-12 Outdoors

3-5 Indoors

3-5 Outdoors

4-11 patio

10-11 outdoors

Full-partial

Compact and container friendly

Sylvester Palm

Phoenix sylvestris

10-15

8-15

4-11 patio

8-11 outdoors

Full Sun

Produces sweet dates; pineapple-like trunk

Pindo Palm

Butia capitata

15-20

10-15

8-11 outdoors

Full Sun

Cold-hardy; produces delicious fruit

 

 

Sarah Logie

As Content Strategist at FastGrowingTrees.com, Sarah is smitten with words and a fanatic for flowers, particularly cut florals and house plants. With a love for curating compelling content, she also enjoys furthering her plant knowledge along the way! A few of her favorite flowers include hibiscus, hydrangeas, peonies and dahlias.

Sarah’s fondness for plants was cultivated through many childhood trips to Longwood Gardens in southeastern Pennsylvania, as well as through her first job out of college at a floral event design company. In her free time, catch her snapping photos of anything and everything, day-dreaming about interior decor, and enjoying the outdoors any chance she gets.

Questions? Contact Sarah at information@fastgrowingtrees.com.

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