When you think of palm trees, you probably imagine a tropical location where the palms soar into the sky for what seems like miles. What you didn’t know is that there are dozens of palm trees as shrubs that help homeowners add a touch of the tropics to their backyard in a casual way.
While most of the 2,600 species of palms come from tropical and subtropical climates, some varieties withstand cold and sometimes freezing temperatures. On top of that, not all palms have to be tall.
There are dwarf and smaller trees that work well as shrubs and complement your existing landscaping. Palm trees are often characterized by their large fronds that grow from the top of a trunk without branches.
Many varieties live up to 100 years old and have endless shapes, textures, colors, and fruits. These trees produce oils, syrups, nuts, wax, and wood and have become more prevalent in the United States.
- How to Plant Palm Trees
- Small Palm Trees as Shrubs: Sago Palm (Cycas revoluta)
- Date Palm (Phoenix dactylifera)
- Pindo Palm (Butia capitata)
- Mexican Fan Palm (Washingtonia robusta) – Small Palms with Showy Foliage
- Sabal Palm (Sabal palmetto)
- European Fan Palm (Chamaerops humilis)
- Extra Hardy Palm Trees – Windmill Palm (Trachycarpus fortunei)
- Golden Cane Palm (Dypsis lutescens)
- Queen Palm (Syagrus romanzoffiana)
- Bamboo Palm (Chamaedorea elegans) – Shrub Palms for Yards
- Bottle Palm (Hyophorbe lagenicaulis)
- Florida Thatch Palm (Thrinax radiata)
- Lady Palm (Rhapis excelsa) – Elegant Palms as Shrubs
- Madagascar Palm (Pachypodium lamerei)
How to Plant Palm Trees
Before you purchase a random palm tree and bury it in the ground, there are numerous factors to consider. Make sure where you live is a suitable location for a palm tree.
Although there are many types, only some species withstand cold and below-freezing temperatures. If you live in hot regions, you’ll likely be able to plant whatever kind you desire, so long as you meet their other demands.
Always keep the root ball of a palm tree moist. Dig a hole at least twice the root ball’s size and add potting soil for palms in that spot before placing the tree inside and refilling it with the original dirt.
Once planted, deeply water the tree and continue to water it regularly throughout the first year of its life.
Once established, one of the palm tree benefits at home is that many palms are drought tolerant and require far less time and attention than other trees and shrubs and they add a tropical feel to your yard.
Small Palm Trees as Shrubs: Sago Palm (Cycas revoluta)
The sago palm is a smaller variety of palm species. These palm trees as shrubs have feather-like fronds that look great when grown in pots or as an accent to your garden.
The foliage grows from a central trunk that doesn’t produce flowers or fruit. Although they often prefer warmer climates, they can withstand colder temperatures, especially when grown indoors.
Plant sago palms in the early spring or late fall. These are slow growers and generate only one new frond every year and reach a maximum of ten feet tall when planted outside.
Most only get about five or six feet tall. They like being in full sun or part shade and tolerate most soil types. Sago palms are some of the best shrubs around pool areas.
Date Palm (Phoenix dactylifera)
Date palms are often found in southern regions of the United States but are from the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern parts of the world. The warmer the weather, the more significant yield of sweet fruits they produce.
Unfortunately, cold areas don’t often allow for fruit production, but these hardy trees still work well as shrubs around your home. Date palm trees live for up to 100 years. They have surface roots that spread and anchor the plant to help it consume surface water.
Give them an area with full sunlight and well-draining soil. Date palms like sandy, loamy, and even clay soils and are some of the best trees for hot dry climates once they are established.
Pindo Palm (Butia capitata)
Pindo palms are some of the best palm trees as shrubs. These plants are common in Florida and other southern states. Their trunk only reaches a width of one and a half feet, and they often produce red, yellow, or white blooms.
The flowers transition to orange fruits that are often turned into jelly and help draw wildlife to your yard. Pindo palms grow in partial shade or full sun. They like their soil to be well-draining and can withstand salty conditions.
The fruits make a mess when they fall, so be sure to keep the plants ten feet away from decks and paved surfaces that you want to stay clean.
Mexican Fan Palm (Washingtonia robusta) – Small Palms with Showy Foliage
Mexican fan palms are attractive trees with broad, fanning foliage that is dark green. They look fantastic when lining roads or driveways and offer lots of texture to your home’s exterior.
The Mexican fan palm is hardy in USDA zones nine through eleven. They have reddish-brown trunks when they’re young that transition to gray as they mature.
Although these plants are native to the desert, they succeed when planted in areas with underground water pockets.
They do best when they have lots of sunlight, and they like sandy or loamy soil. Although they naturally drop the dead leaves, pruning them is okay to keep their size in check.
Sabal Palm (Sabal palmetto)
The sabal palm is native to the Americas and is one of the ideal coastal evergreen trees. They are often planted to line streets but look amazing in group plantings and showcase white flowers that grow on top of their long stalks.
Edible berries appear in the fall and attract many forms of wildlife. Because they grow so tall, keeping them within shrub size requires growing them in pots.
Sabal palms are hardy in USDA hardiness zones eight through eleven, but mature trees can withstand cold winters with ease. Plant them in a partly shaded location and give them well-draining soil for optimal health.
European Fan Palm (Chamaerops humilis)
Also called the Mediterranean fan palm, this tree is one of the few that withstands freezing temperatures. These small trees typically grow about eight feet tall and easily add a tropical flair to homes located in northern regions.
European fan palms are slow growers and have blue-green, spiky foliage. Their multi-trunk growing habit adds lots of flair to a yard. Give European fan palms full sun or partial shade and at least four hours of direct sunlight.
They aren’t picky about soil and adapt well to most ground conditions. Water a newly planted palm regularly until the root system establishes itself in its new home.
Extra Hardy Palm Trees – Windmill Palm (Trachycarpus fortunei)
The windmill palm is another excellent choice when picking palm trees as shrubs. These plants are hardy in zones eight through 11 and endure a small snow layer during the colder winters.
They have large, round leaves and a trunk covered in brown, hairy fibers. Although they get pretty tall, these palms are extremely slow-growing, and pruning helps them retain a smaller size.
Use windmill palms as accent plants around a patio or to frame another tree. Plant each tree about six to ten feet apart and make sure they have fertile soil and a location that receives full or partial shade.
Golden Cane Palm (Dypsis lutescens)
Once an endangered species, you’ll now find the golden cane palm along most streets in subtropical climates. The fronds of these palms closely resemble the foliage of bamboo and have smooth, golden trunks.
When planted in a line, golden cane palm trees are great tall plants for privacy in the front or backyard. This palm prefers a setting with part shade and slightly acidic soil.
They are especially sensitive to salts, so be sure your ground is rich with organic material and has plenty of drainage. Water these palms less frequently than other palms, so they don’t get waterlogged and let the soil dry out completely before watering.
Queen Palm (Syagrus romanzoffiana)
The queen palm has a single trunk topped with an abundance of glossy green leaves. The foliage droops and arches to make a rounded canopy. In the summer, they bloom with large orange flowers and begin fruiting by the start of winter.
Give queen palms a home full of sunlight and warm temperatures. They like lots of moisture and should be watered more frequently during hot years and summers. These palms do best in acidic soil, or they develop mineral deficiencies that kill the tree.
Bamboo Palm (Chamaedorea elegans) – Shrub Palms for Yards
Bamboo palms are some of our favorite palm trees as shrubs. Depending on the variety, they grow four to 12 feet tall and only three to five feet wide. They have a bright green color and brighten a hardy home or yard in USDA zones ten and 11.
Bamboo palm trees like placement in spots with full sun or partial shade. Water them only when the surface or the ground is completely dry and make sure the soil is evenly moist.
Add fertilizer to the ground once every year for ensured health and keep an eye out for mites on the leaves’ undersides.
Bottle Palm (Hyophorbe lagenicaulis)
The bottle palm tree is named after its unique-shaped trunk that resembles a bottle. Young trees start with a swollen and rounded trunk that eventually elongates as they mature.
This tree is native to the Mascarene Islands, so don’t plant them as shrubs in northern regions. Bottle palm trees enjoy sandy soil and warm temperatures. They only reach ten feet in height, but their green fronds get as long as 12 feet.
Plant these palm trees in a sunny spot with well-draining soil amended with potassium. Make sure the hole is twice the size of the root ball when planting, and don’t mound the soil when you fill it back in.
Florida Thatch Palm (Thrinax radiata)
The Florida thatch palm is a small, shrub-like tree with a straight, erect trunk and fan-shaped leaves that are yellowish-green. Most of these trees reach around ten feet in height. They have a moderate growth rate and work well as a shrub around homes.
White flowers appear in the spring and last the rest of the growing season as they turn into white berries for animals to eat. The Florida thatch palm doesn’t have many soil requirements as long as it is well-draining; however, they prefer sandy soil to all other types.
Fertilize these palms three times every year and prune off the dead fronds. Plant each palm five to ten feet apart or grow them in a container to move around your yard and home.
Lady Palm (Rhapis excelsa) – Elegant Palms as Shrubs
Lady palms turn your yard into a jungle with their lush, dark green foliage that fans out from their stems. They look fantastic when planted in groups but also bring a touch of elegance when standing by themselves.
Each lady palm grows a maximum of 12 feet tall and wide. Keep your lady palm trees out of direct sunlight and water the palms whenever the top inch of soil dries out.
Be careful not to overfertilize these trees, or they may become invasive. When planted in rich, well-draining soil, lady palms are hardy in USDA zones eight through 12.
Madagascar Palm (Pachypodium lamerei)
The Madagascar palm looks like a cross between a succulent and cactus. These palms grow about six feet tall and have a long, spindled trunk covered in sharp spikes.
It doesn’t develop branches. Instead, yellow, red, or pink flowers and green leaves grow on the top and bring a unique look to the outdoors.
Madagascar palm trees require lots of sunlight, and they like having warm temperatures throughout the year. Water these plants regularly during the summer and less during the winter.
Palm trees don’t have to only be for people living in Florida, and they also don’t have to be towering plants that reach for the sky. Many palms fit various needs, and using small, shrub-like palms is a fun way to bring tropics to your backyard in a subtle way.
If you found these palm trees as shrubs made the perfect addition to your garden, share these small palm trees on Facebook and Pinterest.