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Types of Palm Trees

Sampling of Both Pinnate and Palmate Kinds

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Picture of a palm tree

Picture of a palm tree with the palmate leaf type.

Henry Orozco

Nothing else gives a landscape that "tropical" feel quite like palm trees. But beginners may be bewildered by all the different types available. Which one(s) should you choose? The answer will depend largely on three factors with which you must acquaint yourself: cold hardiness, height and sunlight requirements. To that end, below I offer a handy list.

For the convenience of beginners seeking a quick reference, I divide the types of palm trees into two broad categories (technically, a third category also exists that's a cross between the two, called, "costapalmate"). These categories are based on differences in leaf structure:

  1. Palmate
  2. Pinnate

A "palmate" leaf has lobes fanning out from a common point. The structure resembles an opened hand, with fingers radiating out from the palm. A "pinnate" leaf has individual leaflets branching out on both sides of a common axis. The structure resembles a feather (pinna is Latin for "feather").

The following types of palm trees represent merely a small sampling of the vast number of varieties from which you may choose. My selections were made with the intention of giving beginners some idea of the diversity of palm trees in terms of the critical factors mentioned above: namely, their cold hardiness, height and sunlight requirements (figures for which are based on the information provided at Junglemusic.net).

Types of Palm Trees: Palms With Palmate Leaves

    Lady palm trees (Rhapis excelsa)
  • Cold hardiness: to 22 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Height: 4 to 8 feet.
  • Sunlight requirement: shade or filtered light.

    Puerto Rican thatch palm trees (Coccothrinax alta)
  • Cold hardiness: to 28-30 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Height: 25 feet
  • Sunlight requirement: full sun

    Silver saw palmetto palm trees (Acoelorrhaphe wrightii)
  • Cold hardiness: to 20 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Height: 15 to 20 feet
  • Sunlight requirement: full sun

Types of Palm Trees: Palms With Pinnate Leaves

    Mountain cabbage palm trees (Prestoea acuminata var. Montana)
  • Cold hardiness: 30-32 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Height: 20 to 25 feet.
  • Sunlight requirement: filtered or partial sun

    Queen palm trees (Syagrus romanzoffiana)
  • Cold hardiness: to 20 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Height: 50 feet
  • Sunlight requirement: full sun

    Date palm trees (Phoenix dactylifera)
  • Cold hardiness: to 18 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Height: 50 feet
  • Sunlight requirement: full sun

Types of Palm Trees for Use as Houseplants

Of the types of palm trees listed above, Phil Bergman at Junglemusic.net recommends the Lady palm trees for use as houseplants, along with Kentia palm trees and Bamboo palm trees.

Mixing Types of Palm Trees in Your Landscape Plantings

Although mention of "palm trees" conjures up an image of bright, sunny skies, not all palm trees can stand full sun (as you can see from the foregoing). If you have a sun-drenched yard but desire to grow a short variety that likes partial to full shade (for example, lady palm trees), consider planting a taller, sun-loving palm tree first (for example, Queen palm trees).

If you adopt this strategy, you’ll have to wait for the taller specimen to achieve some height before planting the shorter type of palm tree, so that the former provides a canopy for the latter. Just make sure both have sufficient cold hardiness for your area. Again, this is why success in growing palm trees is founded on one's knowledge of their cold hardiness, height and sunlight requirements. Keep these factors in mind as you continue to learn about the different types of palm trees.

Other plants you may wish to read about if you want to inject a tropical feel into your landscaping:

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