Growing Palm Trees in Virginia

Virginia isn’t the ideal place for palm trees to grow, but some cold-hardy species can thrive in the state. Virginia’s mild humid coastal climate is characterized by cold snowy winters and hot humid summers. In July, the average temperature is around 26°C (78°F), with the average temperature in January being around 2°C (36°F).

Virginia is under the threat of winter storms, hurricanes, tornadoes, and tropical cyclones. The annual snowfall is between 8 and 15 inches (20 cm-38 cm). The highest temperature ever recorded in Virginia was 43°C (110°F), while the coldest was -34°C (-30°F). The state’s USDA hardiness zones range between 5a and 8a.

Our Bottom Line Upfront

You can grow palm trees in warmer regions of Virginia beginning with USDA hardiness zones 7b and above. You’ll need to get cold hardy palm trees that can withstand cold temperatures down to 5°F. Palm trees in Virginia grow well in Arlington, Alexandria, Newport News, Richmond, Norfolk, and Virginia Beach thanks to the mild, wet coastal climate of these areas.

Growing Palm Trees in Virginia’s Climate

The climate of Virginia ranges from USDA hardiness zones 5a-8a, with the majority of the state being in the range of 6b to 8a. Due to Virginia’s climate, the state is well-suited to cold-hardy palm trees. Several palm varieties can grow well in Virginia, including cities like Norfolk, Alexandria, Richmond, Roanoke, and Newport News.

One such palm tree is the Cabbage Palm (Sabal Palmetto or Sabal Palm), which can survive in very cold climates like USDA hardiness zone 7b.

The extremely slow-growing, inexpensive Cabbage Palm is a popular palm that’s exceptionally attractive. Its graceful silhouette is iconic—evoking scenes of balmy southern sunsets. Able to grow in severely cold climates, the Cabbage Palm is suited to Virginia’s climate.

The Mediterranean Fan Palm or European Fan Palm is another popular palm species with fan-like leaves that make it look exotic in any landscape. Moreover, it produces little yellow flowers during the spring. The Mediterranean Fan Palm is one of the hardiest palm trees and is wind-resistant. Growing to just 10 feet tall on average, it’s an ideal focal point in any space.

Where Do Palm Trees Grow In Virginia?

In Virginia’s warmer areas, you can find plenty of cold-hardy palm trees like Windmill Palm, Mexican Fan Palm, Mediterranean Fan Palm, Pindo Palm, Dwarf Palmetto Palm, Cabbage Palm, Needle Palm, as well as California Fan Palm.

Due to strong winter winds along the coast of Virginia, most palm trees there are in bad shape. They have around a 50% survival rate.

In Virginia Beach, most palm trees there look like they’ve suffered heavy winter damage. Palm varieties like Pygmy Date Palm and Queen Palm, which are only suited to the cold-hardy zone 9b, will almost certainly not survive even a single winter there.

Many hotels near Virginia Beach plant warmth-loving palm varieties (such as coconut palm) for the annual tourist season, since they know it won’t survive the winter. Others grow tropical plants in pots under greenhouse conditions.

While most palm trees in Virginia Beach are planted, some varieties also grow naturally. Palms growing in private homes have higher chances of flourishing if they’re grown in the microclimate and given winter protection. Microclimate is a region whose temperatures are slightly different from the overall climate.

Planting palm trees in an area that’s far from the beachfront and protected from severe winter winds will dramatically reduce exposure to the winds, improving their survival chances in the cold winter period. When it comes to palm tree establishment, the first three years are the most critical. So all young palm trees need to be protected, even the most cold-resistant varieties.

If you grow palm trees in Virginia without protecting them from the winter, then be prepared to have sorry-looking plants for most of the year.

How Often Should a Palm Tree Be Watered?

Newly watered palm trees need watering daily during week one and after every two days in the second week. Afterward, you should keep a regular watering routine of 1-3 times per week, based on the plant’s moisture requirements and the season. Since you aim to ensure that the water gets to the roots, it’s best to water the palm deeply.

As palm trees vary widely in terms of how much you should water them, it’s vital to find out the exact amount of water required by your palm. Underwatering or overwatering your palm tree may cause permanent damage.

How Much Water Do I Need for My Palm?

If you have outdoor palms, you should provide them with 10 percent to 20 percent of the capacity of the container that the palm’s growing in. If the palm is in a 10-gallon container, you should use one or two gallons of water. When it’s hot, use a little more water and vice versa.

An established palm tree should be watered 1-3 times weekly. You should adjust your watering based on the season. Palms grow faster during the warm season and grow slowly during cold months. In the winter, watering once per week should suffice.

The amount of water your palm requires also depends on the soil type and type of palm. Always examine the soil to ensure it’s moist and if necessary adjust the amount of water. Remember, the soil needs to be wet rather than soggy.

Palm Fertilization Tips

If you follow an annual fertilization program, you can easily avoid nutritional deficiencies in palm trees. The most important thing when it comes to fertilizing palm trees is to apply the right mixture of essential elements like potassium, nitrogen, and phosphate.

Lack of at least one of these nutrients can cause many health issues and impact the overall appearance of the tree. You shouldn’t fertilize newly planted palms until after they produce a new spear, say, around two months after planting. Always fertilize during the growing season only (from the end of March to the end of October). For mature palms, you should follow their usual fertilization schedule.

It’s best to apply a fertilizer with continuous release formula so your palm tree can receive nourishment for some months instead of applying a poor quality fertilizer that will be washed away by two or three rains.

One of the best slow-release fertilizers you can apply on your palm trees is Jobe’s 01010 Spikes Palm Tree Fertilizer. This fertilizer is amazing since it enhances the development of roots and the long-term health of all kinds of palm trees. It comes with all the nutrients required by your palm trees and won’t burn their roots.

When Should I Fertilize My Palm Tree?

Although the fertilizing routine you keep depends on what product you use, it’s best to fertilize palm trees during the growing season. If your area has a warm climate and the temperatures don’t drop below freezing point, you may need to apply fertilizer up to four times annually.

Since palms can grow in other climates apart from tropical ones, temperatures do drop below freezing point in some areas. If this applies to your area, stop fertilizing your palms a few months ahead of the first cold spell.

Now, some palm lovers believe that fertilizing palms during the cold season will help them stay strong and be prepared for the growing period in the spring. We disagree. This isn’t the right time to promote growth and if you do so, the palm will be weaker before next winter.

10 Best Palm Trees to Grow In Virginia

In the warmer regions of Virginia, palm trees can be grown from zone 7b and above. You’ll need to get cold hardy palm trees that can withstand temperatures as cold as 5°F. Here are the best palm trees to plant in Virginia.

Pindo Palm

Pindo Palm is also known as Butia odorata or Butia Capitata in scientific terms. It’s an attractive species with lovely fronds that make it an ideal focal point. The palm famously produces edible fruits that help make delicious jelly.

This extremely cold hardy palm tree can withstand cold temperatures of as low as 5°F-10°F and even tolerate 0°F when established. It’s perfect for USDA hardiness zones 8a (10°F-15°F) to 10b (35°F-40°F).

Windmill Palm

Scientifically called Trachycarpus fortunei, Windmill Palm is one of the best species around due to its durability and cold hardiness. It can withstand temperatures as low as 10°F in addition to drought. Temperatures below 10°F will cause damage to leaves. Originating in China, the Windmill Palm is used to frequent snow and low temperatures. It’s perfect for USDA hardiness zones 8a (10°F-15°F) to 10b (35°F-40°F).

Cabbage Palm

Known scientifically as Sabal Palmetto, Cabbage Palm is one of the coldest and hardiest palm trees. It’s very popular in Virginia thanks to its ability to withstand a wide variety of soils and weather conditions and its durability.

It can tolerate temperatures as low as 10°F when established, making it best for USDA hardiness zones 8a (10°F-15°F) to 11 (over 40°F).

European Fan Palm

Also called Mediterranean Palm, European Fan Palm Tree is scientifically called Chamaerops humilis. It’s a slow-growing palm that’s native to northern Africa and the Mediterranean area of Europe. This palm variety is evergreen, bushy, extremely tough, and also very attractive.

It can withstand temperatures as low as 5°F to 10°F but can survive low temperatures down to 3°F without lasting damage when established. If the temperature dips lower than 16°F, it’ll shed all its leaves. It’s best for areas in USDA hardiness zones 7b to 11. It can also grow in USDA hardiness zone 7 with a little winter protection.

Saw Palmetto Palm

The scientific name for Saw Palmetto Palm is Serenoa repens and it’s native to coastal regions of the Southeast like South Carolina. This very popular palm tree can act as a focal point, filler for planting beds, or screening plants.

This weedy dense plant is cold and drought tolerant, as well as widely adaptable. It’s perfect for areas lying in USDA hardiness zones 8a (10°F-15°F) to 11 (over 40°F).

California Fan Palm

Scientifically referred to as Washingtonia filifera, California Fan Palm is one of Virginia’s most popular palm trees due to its stunning look and durability.

It adapts easily to a wide variety of soils and might tolerate temperatures as low as 10°F. It can grow in warmer regions of Virginia provided it’s protected from severe cold winds. It thrives in USDA hardiness zones 8a (10°F-15°F) to 11 (over 40°F).

Miniature Chusan Palm

Scientifically named Trachycarpus wagnerianus, Miniature Chusan Palm originates in China and it’s often covered with snow. This cold-hardy palm is very durable and can tolerate temperatures as low as 10°F, making it ideal for areas lying in USDA hardiness zones 8 to 10b.

It might flourish in warmer areas of Virginia, as long as they’re not windy. To grow Miniature Chusan Palm within zone 7, be ready to protect it from the winter so it can survive.

Mexican Fan Palm

Mexican Fan Palm, also known by its scientific moniker Washingtonia robusta, is a very popular palm tree in Virginia due to its beautiful look and ability to withstand a wide variety of conditions.

It may withstand temperatures as low as 10°F, making it best for landscapes lying in USDA hardiness zones 8a (10°F-15°F) to 11 (over 40°F). It can be grown in warmer regions of Virginia, as long as it’s away from the beachfront.

Dwarf Palmetto Palm

Dwarf Palmetto Palm is scientifically known as Sabal minor and originates in the southeastern US. Often mistaken for Saw Palmetto Palm, Dwarf Palmetto Palm is a sprawling plant with a very short trunk or underground trunk.

This palm tree can withstand temperatures as cold as 40°F but is proven to survive temperatures of -5°F to -10°F when established. While it thrives in USDA hardiness zones 7 (0°F to -5°F) to 10b (35°F to 40°F), it can also be grown in zone 6 as long as there’s good winter protection.

Needle Palm

Scientifically named Rhapidophyllum hystrix, Needle Palm is one of the coldest and hardiest palms that can withstand cold temperatures like 40°F and can even tolerate cold minus any form of protection.

Unsurprisingly, it’s found growing in some areas in Virginia. With a little bit of winter protection, Needle Palm can grow in zone 7. But it flourishes in USDA hardiness zones 8a (10°F-15°F) to 10b (35°F-40°F).


Question: Where in Virginia Do Palm Trees Grow?

Answer: Palm trees can do well in areas like Norfolk, Newport News, Arlington, Alexandria, Virginia Beach, and Richmond thanks to the mild, wet coastal climate in the zone 7 and 8 areas.

Question: Can a Palm Tree Be Grown in Virginia?

Answer: Yes, palm trees can grow in Virginia, especially some cold-hardy varieties.

Question: Can Palm Trees Withstand the Cold Weather?

Answer: Palm trees can’t survive in areas where the soil is frozen for several weeks or months, but some palm species can withstand low temperatures down to 20°C and, at times, even lower.

Question: How Long Does a Palm Tree Take to Grow Fully?

Answer: Generally speaking, different types of palms take up to 4-50 years to grow fully. Some species like Corypha palm never flower for up to 40-50 years. But when they do, they wither away immediately after the flowers develop into a fruit.

Question: Are Palm Trees Slow or Fast Growing?

Answer: In general, palm trees grow slowly. However, King Palm grows remarkably faster—it grows at least 1 meter annually.

Last Word on Growing Palm Trees in Virginia

Cold hardy palms can grow in Virginia, especially along the coast. The state has a mild muggy beachfront environment with cold winters and hot moist summers.

If you live in USDA hardiness zone 7b or higher in Virginia, you can grow several cold-hardy palm trees. Just make sure to pick palms that can withstand temperatures as low as 5°F. Some cold hardy palms to grow in Virginia include the Needle Palm, European Fan Palm, Pindo Palm, Saw Palmetto Palm, Windmill Palm, and Sago Palm.

Palm trees like wet soil, which means you need to water them every day within the first week of planting them. Then water them every two days during the second week. After that, you should water them once to thrice a week.

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