In Portland there are a number of palm trees that are hardy enough to survive and thrive. They offer a very tropical look to the garden as well as intense texture year round. Hardy palms are absolutely a necessity for a tropical garden offering a perfect focal point.
Palm trees appreciate a sunny location with well-drained soil. Since in the northwest we get a lot of rainfall and many of our soils have a heavy clay component, the soil preparation is a very important step in planting hardy palms.
- Remove some of the clay (1/4 – 1/3) in the planting area.
- Dig a hole about as deep as the container and twice as wide. A wider hole is okay.
- Mix pumice or grit, sand and organic matter (such as compost) with the existing soil.
- Use the blended soil to plant. Keep the soil level the same as it was in the container. Do not pile soil around the base of the trunk.
- Palms also do great in containers, you can use a well drained potting soil or create you own mix with the soil ingredients listed above for ground planting.
Butia capitata -
Pindo Palm, Jelly Palm
The best known palm of its species, they truly deserve to be better known. Butia is one of the coldest hardy and beautiful feather palms. Mature plants have a very stout trunk and a thick crown. The fronds gracefully curve downwards towards the stout base (very dramatic). This species can tolerate clay soil. It is best to improve heavy soil with pumice or grit and plenty of organic matter.
Hardy to 15 F. Native to Brazil.
Chamaerops humilis -
Mediterranean Fan Palm.
Multi trunk palm that grows to about 15’ tall, very shrubby. Fronds shaped like open fans with spines on the stems. Tolerates poor soil and strong winds. Hardy to 0 F. Native to the West Mediterranean region.
Chamaerops humilis ‘Cerifera’
Blue Form Mediterranean Fan Palm
Same as species except it has silvery powder blue fronds. Great specimen.
Sabal palmetto - Palmetto
Large palm with a rough trunk. Fronds to 6’ long. This palm can reach up to 20’ tall and 10’ wide. Hardy to 10-20 F. Found in N. Carolina to Florida. (Shown in side panel)
Trachycarpus fortunei -
Single trunk with very attractive habit. Probably one if the most popular and reliable palms grown in the Pacific NW.
It can tolerate growing in restricted areas such as a courtyard. Leaves grow to 18-30” long and are fan shaped. Mature local specimens are up to 15-18’ tall. Hardy to 10 F. Native to temperate and mountain forest in subtropical Asia.
Trachycarpus wagnerianus -
Dwarf Chusian Palms
Similar to Windmill Palm, but this unique palm has very stiff short fronds and a more compact appearance. It does very well in containers and is just plain cute. The stiffer stouter foliage withstands windy conditions better without tips sagging.
Hardy to 10F. Unknown in the wild; thought to originate in Japan. (See side panel)
Washingtonia robusta -
Mexican Fan Palm
Semi- hardy palm that will grow tall faster than other species.
Only hardy to 20 F. The Slender trunk tapers down to a nice coppery brown base. Leaves sharply toothed. Bright green fronds to 3’ long. Great for coastal gardens.
Native to valleys and canyons of Sonora and Baja, Mexico.
FACTS: HARDY PALMS
Genera: Rhapidophyllum, Sabal, and Trachycarpus
Common Name: Hardy Palm
Characteristics: Any of the species of palm (Arecaceae) that are able to withstand colder temperatures and thrive in places not typically considered in the natural range for palms. Several are native to higher elevations in Asia and can tolerate hard freezes with little or no damage. Many of these species can be cultivated at high latitudes, and in places that regularly see snow in winter.
Culture: In winter colder areas with high wind conditions some protection is needed. You don’t want you nice fronds to get frost bitten. You can wrap the leaves with burlap or a frost blanket. The fronds tie up very easy and the palm is not very hard to cover.
In summer, watering is very easy. In the wild you will typically find palms growing near water, if you are thinking about planting a palm tree make sure that your palm will receive an adequate amount of water and be prepared to water frequently when transplanting a new tree. Since they are in a well drained soil the roots shouldn’t mind the extra water. (Note: They are not water plants so no boggy areas, remember well drained soil.)