General gardening topics

Growing hardy palm trees

Last updated on April 28th, 2022

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While most palm trees need tropical temperatures there are a few that are suitable for planting outdoors in the UK. One of our personal favourites is the Trachycarpus forunei but Phoenix canariensis is also a popular choice and can often be seen in many gardens throughout the UK. These palm trees can add a lot of structure to your garden and really give it that tropical feel.

You Garden Hardy Phoenix Palm, 2 Trees 70-80cm Tall 15cm Pot Exotic Patio Plants
  • Add a pair of these tropical beauties to your garden to create a real holiday feel for many years,
  • Their unique architectural shape and spectacular foliage adds instant dramatic impact to any garden.
  • Despite their tropical origins, these exotic plants thrive in the UK and are hardy to -6.
  • They love a sunny position and are perfect for patio pots!
  • Supplied as 2 x established plants, approx. 60-80cm tall, ready to plant out.
Hardy Fan Palm, Trachycarpus forunei, Outdoor, 60-70cm Tall, Exotic Patio Plant
  • Trachycarpus is one of the most hardy palm trees you can get easily surviving past -10°C so it is ideal for growing in the variable British climate!
  • With its deep-green, tough, fan-shaped leaves producing wonderful shadows on your patio or lawn, this exotic beauty will be a brilliant centrepiece wherever you decide to plant it.
  • It is slow-growing and compact ideal for a large patio pot, or alternatively you could plant it directly in the ground in a sunny spot.
  • Simply cut off the leaves when they turn brown and over time, an upright, woody, fibrous trunk is formed.
  • Supplied as an established potted plant, already approx. 60-70cm tall (including pot), Trachycarpus will grow around 5-10cm a year.

Where can you grow hardy palm trees?

Hardy palm trees, such as the two varieties mentioned above, will survive winters in much of the south of Britain if they are given sheltered conditions although you can often spot established palm trees further north, such as in the North West, in cities such as Manchester.

However, plants that are grown in exposed areas or in containers are more liable to be damaged during the winter, which is why you should always find a hardy specimen that is less likely to be damaged. Give them some extra protection in winter by bringing them into a cold greenhouse, at least until it’s fully established with a good root system, at which point it will be suitable for planting in the ground. Even further south though, we recommend growing them in pots until there is a good-sized root system before planting them permanently in the ground.


Choosing the right compost

You can grow palm trees in containers with the right compost but make sure that you bring them undercover for the winter and work to improve drainage conditions by making sure they have ample drainage holes and plenty of crockery in the bottom of the pot to prevent the holes from becoming blocked.

Soil-based compost, such as John Innes potting compost, is perfect because it helps to retain moisture, and being a heavier medium also helps keep the pots upright in the wind.

Compo Sana 1143102004 Grünpflanzen and Palm Compost – 10 litres
  • 8 weeks nutrition
  • Beautiful, decorative leaves
  • A lot of water
  • Model number: 1143102004

Improving clay soil

On the note of drainage, if you have heavier clay soils these are much more prone to waterlogging so they won’t work as well for the palm trees. That being said, if you add plenty of grit to the soil to improve drainage and then lift the soil to the surface with some extra compost and form a mound, you can plant the palm tree with some of the roots above the original ground level so at least some of the root system is not as prone to waterlogging, and this may be enough to help it thrive. Failing this, the only option will be to grow them in containers and pots.


Allow plenty of space for them to spread

Keep in mind that palm trees grow very slowly. Despite their slow growth rate, they need a lot of space so don’t plant them near other shrubs or flowers in your garden that will try to compete for resources.


Plant them in a bright position with plenty of light

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Even if you do have a mild winter, remember that palm trees are not tolerant of a lot of shade so you will need to put them in a location where they will receive an ample amount of sunlight.


Winter protection – bring them indoors or cover them with fleece if you have a younger plant

As palm tree stems thicken with age they become more tolerant of lower winter temperatures but during the first few years, you should always protect the containers, bringing them indoors during the winter into a cold greenhouse or conservatory if possible. The first few years are when they are most at risk from cold temperatures until they establish a good root system.

If this is not possible wrap the containers in lagging to protect the root system and cover the plants with a couple of layers of fleece or use a fleece jacket if the temperatures are forecasted to drop below freezing. Larger established plants ground in the ground are usually fine.

Haxnicks 2x Large Easy Fleece Jackets | Garden Fleece Bags For Winter Plant Frost And Wind Protection | Trees Shrubs Tree Ferns Banana Plant Protection | Pack Of 2, 1.2m x 1.8m, Fleece030101
  • Provides instant protection from frost and harsh weather, while still allowing air and moisture to filter through to maintain healthy growth
  • Made of soft-green, high-quality UV-stabilized, extra thick 35gsm polypropylene fleece; includes drawstring for easy and practical use.
  • Two jackets per pack; Dimensions: 47"D x 71"H each
  • Ideal cover for wintering large, exotic, and tender container plants such as palms and cordalynes; eliminates the need for bring indoors
  • Also available in Small and Medium sizes (sold separately)

Pruning palm trees

Unlike other trees, you don’t actually need to prune a palm tree. However, you can always remove the lower leaves when they start to die off and become unsightly. If you are doing this, it’s important you don’t cut them right back to the main stem and leave a little still attached.


Propagation palm trees

Palm trees are generally propagated by seed but some can be divided. This is done by dividing the suckers and replanting these, this is usually an option for Chamaerops. Dividing is a much faster process than trying to propagate by seed.

The seeds should be planted to their own depth and it’s better to use fresh seeds and placed them in a heated propagator. They will typically sprout within one or two weeks but they can take up to a few months to properly germinate and can also take a few years to be appropriately sized for transplantation, so it’s a slow process.


Common Problems (winter damage)

Palm trees are very strong and they don’t incur a lot of problems with diseases or pests. Realistically the biggest issue you’re going to face is winter damage. This can be a real problem, especially in colder parts of the UK.

If winter damage does take place you should remove any of the damaged growth in the spring and make sure the soil conditions are appropriate for recovery.

We are often asked if a palm tree has died when no new growth has appeared by summer. The answer is usually yes because they can only grow from the top of the trunk and cannot regrow from the base like some trees.

Recommended hardy palm trees to consider

  • Trachycarpus forunei (Chusan palm)
  • Dwarf fan palm (Chamaerops humilis)
  • Caranday Palm (Phoenix canariensis)
  • Washington Palm (Washingtonia filifera)

Last update on 2022-03-17 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Welcome to my site, my name is John and I have been lucky enough to work in horticultural nurseries for over 15 years in the UK. As the founder and editor as well as researcher, I have a City & Guilds Horticultural Qualifications which I proudly display on our About us page. I now work full time on this website where I review the very best gardening products and tools and write reliable gardening guides. Behind this site is an actual real person who has worked and has experience with the types of products we review as well as years of knowledge on the topics we cover from actual experience. You can reach out to me at john@pyracantha.co.uk

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