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Palm trees can grow well in the warm regions of North Carolina. The state has a wet subtropical climate with warm humid summers and short mild winters. Average temperatures in January range from 7°C to 13°C (46-56°F).
In July, average temperatures range from 28°C to 32°C (83-90°F). North Carolina is usually under the threat of tropical storms and hurricanes during early fall and summer. On average, the state gets around 130mm (5 inches) of snow per year.
The highest temperature ever posted in the state was 43°C (110°F), while the lowest was –37°C (–34°F). The USDA hardiness zones in North Carolina range between 5B and 8B. The ideal zones to grow your palm trees would be 8A and 8B. But with a good microclimate and winter protection, palm trees can also grow well in zone 7.
Our Bottom Line Upfront: Palm trees can grow successfully in North Carolina’s warm areas. The state’s humid subtropical climate is characterized by warm humid summers and short mild winters.
Growing Palm Trees in North Carolina’s Climate
The climate of North Carolina ranges from the USDA hardiness zones of 5B-8B, with the majority of the state in the range of 7A to 8B. Due to its climate, the state is especially favorable for growing and caring for certain cold-hardy palm species.
The Windmill Palm can grow in cold climates, including zone 7B. This is a stunning, slow-growing palm tree that works best as an accent item on walkways. It’s been proven to grow up to 40 feet tall, although it usually reaches a maximum height of 25 feet.
The Windmill palm is hardy and cold-resistant enough to flourish in North Carolina’s climate, and it can even grow well further north in Canada. The Canary Island Date Palm or Canary Palm is treasured for its extreme hardiness and bold appearance. It thrives throughout most of the southern United States.
The palm tree has a large caliper and canopy, and usually grows up to 50-60 feet tall, although very slowly. The magnificent shaft looks like pineapple but needs manicuring to maintain a lovely appearance. The Canary Island Date Palm is perfectly suited to USDA hardiness zones in the range of 8B to 11 and can survive anything from the full sun to partial shade.
The Chinese Fan Palm, also known as the Fountain Palm, is another palm commonly found in South Florida, but it’s well suited to zones in the range of 8A-11. It grows a sprawling crown with light green fan-shaped leaves divided into around 75 segments.
The palm’s downward drooping fronds create an attractive fountain-like effect. While the Fountain Palm lies low when young, it’ll eventually grow to around 25 feet tall.
Palm Trees Love Moisture
All types of palm trees need water. In fact, lots and lots of it! No palm tree varieties will thrive without additional water, and potted palms adorning your home won’t survive without it. The exact amount of water required depends on the variety of palm tree, where it’s growing, as well as the size of a container when it comes to potted palms.
Moist soil is ideal for palms, which means you must water your palm trees several times every week. When planting a palm tree in your garden, be sure to water it daily throughout the first week. In the second week, you can water it every other day. In the third week onwards, you can water it twice or thrice a week.
Of course, if there’s consistent rain providing natural irrigation, you don’t have to water it. Remember, too much water isn’t ideal for a palm tree either.
How Much Water Do I Need?
Exactly how much water should I provide a palm tree with? As a general rule, this will depend on the size of the pot the palm is growing in. Whether it’s outdoors or indoors, a palm planted in a 15-gallon pot should be irrigated with 15 gallons of water.
Similarly, a palm planted in a 25-gallon pot should be irrigated with 25 gallons of water. However, the rule should simply act as a guideline and you can adjust it at any time to fit the circumstances. For instance, the palm tree may need a bit more water during hot weather.
Palms grown outdoors also thrive in moist soil. A palm grown in the garden should be adequately watered to maintain soil moisture. Keep an eye out for water stress signs, including browning on the edges of older leaves and slow growth.
In some palm species, signs of water stress include wilting or folding of the leaflets at around the midrib. Moreover, the trunk can collapse or hollow out.
If you’re unable to tell signs of water stress, invest in a soil probe or electronic soil moisture gauge. Push the soil probe into the ground close to the palm. If the soil probe takes out moist soil, you don’t have to water.
Essential Palm Watering Tips
Both soil and container-grown palms thrive with deep watering, which means you let the water slowly seep around the roots into the soil. This is a slow procedure. It can take one or two hours for 25 gallons to seep into the soil. Quickly spraying the soil top and leaves can leave much of the soil severely dry.
In the summer, the best time to water is late afternoon or early morning. When winter arrives, irrigate in the morning only. Irrigating in the morning means the soil will have moisture in the hot afternoons. Never water in the hot afternoons because your palm’s fronds may get burned.
Palm Tree Care Tips
Be sure to fertilize your palm trees twice or thrice a year. You can add some mulch around the bottom of the palms to keep weeds at bay. Never apply fertilizer on dry soil because it can make the soil moist and cause burns and eventual death of the plant. Don’t apply too much fertilizer as this may cause plant injury.
Best Palm Trees to Grow In North Carolina
There are warm regions in North Carolina that are suitable for growing a variety of palms, specifically cold hardy species. Here are palm trees that are best suited to North Carolina.
California Fan Palm
Known scientifically as Washingtonia filifera, the California Fan Palm is a popular palm tree grown in North Carolina due to its attractive look and durability. It adapts to a wide variety of soils, is highly drought-resistant, and can tolerate temperatures as low as 10°F. It’s perfect for USDA hardiness zones in the range of 8A to 11 (10°F-15°F to over 40°F).
Cabbage Palm Tree
Cabbage Palm Tree, scientifically known as Sabal Palmetto, is a pretty hardy palm that grows slowly. This plant has become many people’s favorite due to its ability to withstand a wide variety of weather and soil conditions as well as its durability.
It can tolerate cold temperatures as low as 10°F, making it ideal for USDA hardiness zones in the range of 8A to 11 (10°F-15°F to over 40°F)
Canary Date Palm
Canary Date Palm, scientifically called Phoenix canariensis, is easy to recognize through its trunk characteristics and crown of leaves. The palm is slow-growing and is super adaptable to a wide variety of soil conditions. It can also withstand cold temperatures as low as 15°F.
With extra winter protection, the palm can grow well in USDA hardiness zone 8A. It’s perfect for zones in the range of 8B to 11 (15°F-20°F to over 40°F).
True Date Palm
Scientifically referred to as Phoenix dactylifera, the True Date Palm is one the world’s most recognizable palms due to its delicious fruits called “dates”.
The slow growing palm adapts to a wide variety of soil conditions and can tolerate cold temperatures as low as 15°F. It’s best suited to USDA hardiness zones in the range of 8B to 11 (15°F-20°F to over 40°F).
European Fan Palm
Scientifically known as Chamaerops humilis, the European Fan Palm has become really popular in North Carolina due to its cold hardiness and durability, making it ideal for soils in the USDA hardiness zones of 8B to 11 (15°F-20°F to over 40°F).
Scientifically called Nannorrhops ritchiana, the Mazari Palm is a rare variety that has of late been gaining popularity in North Carolina due to its durability and stunning appearance.
It adapts to various soils easily and can withstand drought and cold temperatures as low as. It’s ideal for USDA hardiness zones in the range of 8A to 11 (10°F-15°F to over 40°F).
Mexican Fan Palm
Known scientifically as Washingtonia robusta, the Mexican Fan Palm is a highly popular outdoor and indoor palm tree due to its ability to acclimatize to a wide range of weather and soil conditions and stunning appearance.
It can withstand cold temperatures as low as 15°F, making it suitable for USDA hardiness zones in the range of 8A to 11 (10°F-15°F to over 40°F).
Miniature Chusan Palm
Referred to as Trachycarpus wagnerianus in scientific terms, the Miniature Chusan Palm is a perfect palm tree to grow outdoors and indoors due to its cold hardiness and durability. This makes it ideal for USDA hardiness zones in the range of 8 to 10B.
Also known as Rhapidophyllum hystrix in scientific terms, the Needle Palm is one of the hardiest palm trees grown in North Carolina that can withstand cold temperatures as low as 10°F or even freezing cold of down to -5°F. The palm tree is perfect for USDA hardiness zones in the range of 8A to 10B (10°F-15°F to 35°F-40°F).
Also referred to as Butia odorata or Butia capitata scientifically, the Pindo Palm is a beautiful palm tree that can be an ideal centerpiece in any landscape. Its edible fruits are used to manufacture delicious jelly. The Pindo Palm is perfect for USDA hardiness zones in the range of 8A to 10B (10°F-15°F to 35°F-40°F).
Saw Palmetto Palm
The scientific name for the Saw Palmetto Palm is Serenoa repens. It’s a very popular palm tree that can act as a focal point, filler for planting beds, or a screening plant.
Like every other palm tree previously mentioned, it’s drought-resistant, cold-tolerant, and adaptable to a wide variety of soil conditions. It’s best suited to USDA hardiness zones in the range of 8A to 11 (10°F-15°F to over 40°F).
Also scientifically called Cycas revoluta, the Sago Palm is a cycad rather than a real palm tree. The palm grows slowly, is extremely cold hardy, and might withstand cold temperatures down to 15°F.
However, it’s also shown to tolerate even colder temperatures down to 10°F, without lasting damage. It’s best suited to USDA hardiness zones in the range of 8B to 11 (15°F-20°F to over 40°F).
Sylvester Date Palm
Scientifically named Phoenix sylvestris, the Sylvester Date Palm is one of the world’s most popular palms that are used in golf courses, hotels, and luxury homes.
It grows slowly, adapts to a wide variety of soils, is easy to care for, and can withstand cold temperatures of down to 15°F. It’s great for USDA hardiness zones in the range of 8B to 11 (15°F-20°F to over 40°F).
Named Trachycarpus fortunei in scientific language, the Windmill Palm is a very popular palm tree grown in North Carolina due to its durability and cold hardiness. It can withstand cold temperatures as low as 10°F and tolerate drought. It’s best for USDA hardiness zones in the range of 8A to 11 (10°F-15°F to over 40°F).
Answer: Due to North Carolina’s climate, certain cold-hardy palm varieties can grow and thrive in the state. For instance, the Windmill Palm can survive in very cold climates like zone 7B.
Answer: Yes, some palm trees do grow naturally in North Carolina. The Sabal Palmetto (cabbage palm), as well as the Sabal minor (dwarf palmetto) are both originally from southeastern North Carolina.
Answer: The Windmill Palm is best suited to North Carolina Piedmont. It’s one of several cold-tolerant palm varieties that flourish in the Piedmont area.
Answer: The lowest temperature for a palm tree to survive is -5°F (-15°C). The Kumaon palm tree can even survive in temperatures of down to -4°F. However, exposure to severe cold will potentially cause foliage damage.
Last Word on Growing Palm Trees in North Carolina
There are lots of attractive palm trees that may withstand the cold weather conditions of North Carolina. Almost all of them grow slowly, are drought-resistant, and are adaptable to a wide array of soils. While the palm trees listed above are ideal for USDA zones 8 and over, they can even grow well in USDA zone 7 with some extra winter protection, creating a beautiful tropical garden.
Needless to say, you should let your palm tree establish itself before it’s exposed to cold weather conditions. Acclimatization can help accelerate the process. The University of Florida reports that a palm tree takes around 3 years to become fully established.