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Many of palm tree species do well in Florida, but not all

The recent cold snap has left many royal palms looking less than regal. • The Tampa Bay area pushes the northern boundary for many palms like coconuts and adonidias, but that doesn't mean a backyard tropical oasis is something only our more southern neighbors can enjoy. • A lot of factors play into how well a palm handles the cold, including age, soil type, canopy cover and proximity to buildings. But nothing beats genetics, and some palms can naturally take the cold better than others. • Queen and Washingtonia palms both take the cold well, but are also pretty commonplace. What follows are plants that are readily available at nurseries and should fare well in a Tampa Bay-style cold snap. Greg Joyce, Times staff writer

Pindo, or jelly, palms (Butia capitata) These are among the most cold-hardy of the feathery palms, growing throughout the Southeast and surviving temperatures into the teens. They have silvery or pale green arching fronds and, as a bonus, their fruit is edible.

Bismarck palms (Bismarckia nobilis) Clear a lot of room for these. Their huge fronds can be 10 feet across and their striking silver tinge makes for a showstopper. They are relatively new on the palm scene and the data are somewhat murky on how far north these palms can go. But they seem to have no trouble in our zone.

Canary Island date palms (Phoenix canariensis) Nothing says stately like these guys, but you need to have a lot of yard — and plenty of time if you want to watch it grow. Its more slender cousins — the true date palm (Phoenix dactylifera) and the silver date palm (Phoenix sylvestris), right — also brush off the cold.

Lady palms (Rhapis excelsa) These shade-loving little palms grow in clusters and can take temperatures into the mid 20s. They grow to about 7 feet, just right for a screen.

European fan palms (Chamaerops humilis) These rather small palms grow in clumps or can be pruned into individual specimens. They can survive temperatures down to 10 degrees and even snowfall.

Cabbage palm (Sabal palmetto) Absolutely bulletproof. Florida's state tree can be found growing all the way up the coast to North Carolina.

Chinese fan palm (Livistona chinensis) This slow-growing palm with somewhat droopy fronds is sometimes used as a ground cover. Given enough time, it will grow to 30 feet.

on the shelf: Cold-hardy palms

To learn more about palms that can take a chill, check out these reference books:

An Encyclopedia of Cultivated Palms by Robert Lee Riffle and Paul Craft (Timber Press, $49.95): You'll find just about every type of palm in this book, which covers around 890 species and includes details about cold hardiness, drought tolerance and more.

Betrock's Cold Hardy Palms by Alan W. Meerow (Betrock Information Systems, $39.95): The author, a research collaborator at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden and former University of Florida professor, offers detailed profiles for 82 palm species that can grow in climates colder than Zone 10.

fast facts

On the Web

Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden in Miami offers a comprehensive online palm guide at palmguide.org. The garden's main site also offers palm care information at fairchildgarden.org.

Many of palm tree species do well in Florida, but not all 02/05/10 [Last modified: Friday, February 5, 2010 3:30am]

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