Two nice palms for your yard
Two Small Palms for Your Yard
By Joe Wolf
Polk County Master Gardener
Two of my favorite palms are the Needle palm
(Rhapidophyllum hystrix) and the European Fan
Palm (Chamaerops humilis). Both are fairly
small palms with typical heights under 10’,
drought tolerant, have fan-shaped fronds, and
should not be bothered by a frost.
The Needle Palm is a beautiful, small, shrubby
plant with fan shaped leaves. It would be great
in a Florida Friendly Yard in a shaded or
partially shaded area. It is very cold hardy;
specimens grow as far north as Washington DC
and Cincinnati Ohio. It is native to north and central Florida and is nearly maintenance
free when grown in your yard.
With time, the Needle Palm will grow up to 6’ or 7’ in height but often stays close to the
ground. It does not have a trunk per say but rather a crown that grows taller year after
year. It suckers easily and produces seedlings that stay close to the mother plant so it
forms a dense clump. You can control the size of the clump by cutting around the outside
of the clump.
The Needle Palm likes damp, fertile well drained soils but once established will be able
to handle our sandy soil. Since it is native to the southeast states where it grows in the
understory of forests it wants shade or partial-shade to thrive.
The leaves have long slender stalks; 2 to 2 ½’ long with a fan of leaflets at the top. The
tips of the leaflets are cut off giving it a stubby appearance. The one disadvantage of this
plant is that it has long needles coming out of the central crown. These needles are not
generally a problem unless you stick you hand into the crown. It might not be
appropriate where small children play.
This palm can be useful around a pool, as a background to flowering plants, or to provide
a change of shape or texture among other plants in a garden, or alone as a specimen plant.
It also could be used in a pot in a pool enclosure or lanai.
Be careful when you buy this palm. Some unscrupulous dealers will go into the forests of
Florida and remove specimens that they offer for sale on the open market. Because this
has been done so often in the past the Needle Palm has become endangered in the wild.
Only buy plants from a respectable dealer.
The European Fan Palm is also a small palm with fan shaped leaves. It will grow a
little taller than the Needle Palm; up to about 15’. Like the Needle Palm it forms a dense
shrubby clump and is very cold hardy. It is a native to the hot dry regions around the
Mediterranean Sea in Europe and Africa and so loves our heat and sandy soil. It wants
full sun to thrive.
This palm has multiple trunks. It is considered a clumping palm and will grow new
trunks from the base. These extra trunks can be pruned to control the spread of the clump
and to limit the number of trunks. The leaves or fronds are about 2’ long and 2’ wide and
fan shaped. It will grow fairly quickly when
given enough water and fertilizer. Otherwise, it
European Fans palms work well as a stand alone
plant where a small plant is needed. It can be
grown in a pot or will work well around a pool or
other enclosure. In groupings of palms or other
plants, it can be used to screen a yard for privacy.
It would also be good in an out-of-the way
portion of the yard you want to look good but be
Another small palm, The Lady Palm
These two palms make excellent additions to the yard where small shrubs that are cold
hardy and maintenance free are needed.