Trends in lifestyle and decor extend beyond home walls into gardens to influence how gardens are designed and what their owners hope they express. Palm trees span many genera and species to offer a wealth of different looks. Trendy homeowners and adventuresome gardeners can turn to palms for something new.
Stay-at-home vacations are credited with a surge of interest in tropical palms as decorative accents for outdoor settings. In cold climates, the urge to recreate the tropics has homeowners using non-hardy palms as garden annuals and winter houseplants. Usually container-grown and underplanted with colorful flowers, these palms are viewed as summer annuals. At season's end, some people simply let the plants succumb to cold. Others move the palms indoors to overwinter as large houseplants.
Trends toward low-maintenance landscapes and smaller gardens have generated interest in small palms. Marketed as dwarf palms, pygmies and super pygmies, these palms fit smaller landscapes. Homeowners can maintain them more easily than towering counterparts. Slow-growing dwarf palms such as pygmy date palm (Phoenix roebelenii) enjoy popularity. Hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 9 through 11, pygmy date palms provides classic tropical foliage on a tree just 8 to 10 feet tall. They also do well in containers.
As palms become more widely used, the desire for something even more distinctive arises. Palms with striking foliage coloration have gained interest. Bismarck palm (Bismarckia nobilis), hardy in USDA zones 8b through 11, offers dramatic, dusty silver-blue palm fans. Pindo palm (Butia capitata), hardy in USDA zones 7b through 11, has large, arching silver-green fronds that curve back toward the tree's trunk. These palms add a tropical look, but the colors also pair beautifully with greens and blues of many native Southwestern plants.
For gardeners who seek challenge, cold-hardy palms might be the answer. The trunkless needle palm (Rhapidophyllum hystrix), hardy in USDA zones 5b through 11, sends out fans directly from its base. The trunked windmill palm (Trachycarpus fortunei), hardy in USDA zones 7b through 11, was planted by Northeast homeowners impacted by Hurricane Sandy as a storm-proof alternative to traditional trees. ( One New York-bred windmill cultivar called "Landcraft" has proven hardy, with winter protection, in USDA zone 6b.
- George Thompson; Garden Care Specialist; Hick's Nurseries; Westbury, New York
- Andy Sawyer; Grower; Landcraft Environments; Mattituck, New York
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