In most parts of the country, the mere mention of living in Florida conjures up images of warm breezes, sunny beaches, and palm trees. But not all palms can grow in all parts of the state; many of them are restricted to the southern reaches of the peninsula because of their low cold tolerance. So what’s a northern Florida homeowner to do?
There are a number of palms – some popular and some underutilized – that are suitable for hardiness zones across the entire state. Common palms used in many residential landscapes include the Washington palm (Washingtonia robusta), cabbage palm (Sabal palmetto), dwarf palmetto (Sabal minor) and saw palmetto (Serenoa repens).
The next 3 posts will be a series with descriptions of some other, less well-known palms that will tolerate the colder temperatures of central and north Florida.
Pindo palm (Butia capitata) – With striking blue-green, feather-like fronds, pindo palm is commonly used as a specimen plant in the landscape. Because of its high drought resistance, it is also regularly used in medians and parking lot islands. This plant is also known as the jelly palm for its edible fruit. Although the fruit color and taste differ from plant to plant, the best quality pindo fruits are very sweet with a pineapple/banana flavor. The fruit is used to make a very tasty jelly.
European fan palm (Chamaerops humilis) – Suitable as a container-grown or landscape specimen, the European fan palm usually grows in clusters, rather than with a single trunk. Native to the Mediterranean region, from the coast to over 3000 feet in elevation, this slow-growing palm does best in full sun. The palmate leaves vary in color and can be green, blue-green or silvery green. This variation makes for an interesting focal point in the home landscape. Dead fronds will remain on the plant, but can be pruned away to reveal a mat of dark fibers around the trunk. Be wary of the many fierce orange spines along each petiole, though.