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Whenever we see a palm tree, it conjures up images of tropical islands with beautiful beaches, blue water and the impressive green foliage of these trees.
But did you know that there are over 2,600 different species of palm trees? Each one has its own individual features. With so many types of palm trees out there, it can be tricky to know which are which and how to identify them.
So to help you, today we will take a look at how to identify palms and the most popular types of palm trees for gardens and landscaping projects.
How To Identify Palm Trees
Identifying palm trees is easy. You can identify a palm tree by its leaves, flowers, and fruit.
The color and shape of the leaves are the most distinctive features of palm trees. There are two common types of palm tree leaves: feather-like leaves (pinnate) and fan-like fronds (palmate).
Another identifying feature of palm trees is their trunk, particularly the trunk shape. Typically, smaller palm varieties have short, fat trunks, while large palms have thin trunks.
Some of the smaller species of palm trees have clustered trunks where up to 4 trunks grow together. On the other hand, a few of the dwarf varieties only have leaves growing out of the ground with no trunk at all.
The texture of the trunk can also be a distinguishing feature. Some palm trees have a smooth trunk, while others grow little bumps and ridges.
You may also find palms that have a fibrous tree trunk with little spikes and hair.
Small, Dwarf, And Pygmy Palm Trees
Let’s start with some of the smaller palm trees. Due to their small size, particularly the dwarf and pygmy varieties are ideal as indoor plants.
This is a very popular palm tree in many parts of the world due to its attractive appearance and ease of care. It has a wide range of adaptability from tropical to subtropical climates.
This small palm tree can grow up to 8 feet tall and it will need at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight each day.
The Triangle Palm (Dypsis decaryi) can be grown indoors or outdoors but it prefers full sun. If you want to plant this palm outside, make sure that there is enough space for it to spread out.
The main feature of this small to medium-sized palm tree is how its leaves fan out from the slender trunk forming a triangle shape. This pattern makes the triangle palm tree ideal as an ornamental garden plant.
The cat palm (Chamaedorea Cataractarum) is a small palm tree that grows to about 6 feet tall. It has long, slender branches and leaves up to 5 inches across.
The cat palm doesn’t have a trunk and produces thick, slender leaves over time. Part of the small palm trees, this type of palm tree is ideal for growing indoors.
Its most common use is around the garden as a plant in warm climates. However, thanks to its shrubby growth, it can also be used as an evergreen hedge.
In cooler climates, cat palms can be grown in pots indoors but they must have access to sunlight.
Dwarf Majesty Palm
This dwarf palm (Ravenea hildebrandtii) is native to Southeast Asia and China. It’s one of the smallest palms on Earth. Its height ranges from 2-4 feet tall and it has only a single trunk.
The crown of the dwarf majesty is rounded or oval-shaped and grows outwards rather than upwards. This makes this palm tree ideal as a garden and landscaping feature.
It has thin, leathery green leaves that are similar to those of other palms. They can grow up to 3 feet long.
The leaves of the dwarf majesty plant are also very flexible and can bend easily. This makes them great for indoor plants because you don’t need to worry about pruning them.
It’s a hardy palm species and can tolerate low temperatures. However, as an indoor plant, it does best when placed near a window where it gets plenty of sun.
Pygmy Date Palm
The pygmy date palm (Phoenix roebelenii) is native to South Africa. It’s a fast-growing palm tree that reaches heights of up 10 feet and can live up to 100 years.
This palm tree has a short trunk that’s covered by large, fan-shaped leaves. The leaves are usually around 3 feet long and 1-2 feet wide. The leaves are dark green and glossy.
The pygmy date palm is often used as an ornamental plant in gardens. It’s also a good choice for a container plant since it tolerates dry conditions well.
The pygmy date palm needs little care and can survive without much water once established. It thrives under drought conditions.
The Arikury palm (Syagrus schizophylla) is native to Madagascar and the Comoros Islands. It’s a small-sized palm tree that grows up to 6 feet tall.
The Arikury palm has broad, heart-shaped leaves that are about 4 feet long and 2 feet wide. This palm tree grows beautiful, yellow flowers on thick stems.
The Arikury palm is easy to maintain and requires minimal watering once established. It can even thrive in drier areas if given enough light.
The Arikury palm is a slow-growing palm tree so it will take many years before reaching maturity.
One of the most striking features of this small palm tree is its toothed leaf stems which are quite rare in the Syagrus family of palm trees.
Christmas Palm Tree
The Christmas palm tree (Adonidia merrillii) is native to Australia and New Guinea. It’s a medium-sized palm tree that grows between 15 and 25 feet high.
The Christmas palm tree has a round crown that’s covered by large leaves. These pinnate leaves are typically 5 to 7 feet long and 3 to 4 feet wide.
Due to its attractive foliage, this type of palm tree is a popular landscape plant.
The Mazari palm (Nannorrhops ritchiana) is native to India, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Japan. It’s a medium-size palm tree that grows up 10 to 20 feet high.
The Mazari palm has a dense crown that’s covered by long, narrow leaves measuring between 1 and 4 feet long.
This cold-hardy palm tree is fast-growing and it doesn’t require much maintenance once established. It can be grown indoors too.
The Mazari palm is one of the few varieties of palm trees that have edible fruits. You can eat these fruits raw or cook them into delicious desserts.
Bottle Palm Tree
The bottle palm (Hyophorbe laciniosa) is native to tropical Asia. It’s a small palm tree that grows a trunk that is up to 10 feet tall.
The bottle palm has a rounded crown that’s covered by leathery, oval-shaped leaves. The leaves are typically 8 to 12 inches long and 3 to 5 inches wide.
This palm tree is commonly found in landscaping projects because of its attractive appearance.
It’s a very hardy palm tree that can withstand harsh weather conditions, such as severe droughts. This makes it ideal for growing in Southern climates, such as Florida and California.
It’s also a great choice for a container plant due to its compact growth habit.
The pindo palm (butia capitata) is native to South America. The mature pindo palm trees can reach a height of up to 20 feet.
This slow-growing species of palm is ideal for gardeners, especially when it flowers with white, red, and yellow blossoms.
Pindo palms have a distinctive shape with a flat top and round base. Its unique shape gives it an interesting look from far away.
Pindo palms grow best in full sun but they tolerate partial shade too. They’re also drought-tolerant so you don’t need to water them regularly.
These palms are also called jelly palms because you can use their brown-orange fruit to make delicious jelly.
Larger Types Of Palm Trees
If you are looking to plant a palm tree in your garden or as part of a larger landscaping project, here are some of the large palm tree species.
Florida Royal Palm
The Florida royal palm (Roystonea regia) is native to Central and South America. It’s a medium to large-sized palm tree that can grow up to 100 feet tall.
The Florida royal palm has a broad crown that’s covered by fan-shaped leaves. The leaves are usually 15 to 25 feet long and 6 to 9 feet wide.
This palm is a good choice if you want to create a tropical atmosphere in your yard. It’s also suitable for landscapes where there’s lots of sunlight.
Florida royal palms grow well in both dry and wet soil types. These palms are also known to attract birds and butterflies.
The Guadalupe palm (Brahea edulis) is native to Mexico and Central America. It’s a large palm tree that can grow to a height of 40 feet.
The Guadalupe palms have a thick trunk that’s covered by dark green foliage. The leaves are generally 2 to 4 feet long and 1 to 2 feet wide.
This type of palm tree is often used as a specimen plant because of its impressive size. It’s also considered to be a popular landscape plant due to its beautiful appearance.
They tolerate moderate amounts of shade and they’re also resistant to pests and diseases.
Guadalupes are highly adaptable plants that thrive in many different environments. They do not require much maintenance and they’re easy to care for.
During the summer months, Guadalupe palms produce sweet-smelling, yellow flowers. When it stops flowering, this palm produces palm fruits that are sweet, perfect for eating fresh or cooking desserts.
The MacArthur palm (Ptychosperma Macarthurii) is native to Australia. It’s a fast-growing palm tree that can grow into a huge specimen.
Mature MacArthur palm trees can grow up to 33 feet high. The multiple, slim trunks are covered by small, oval-shaped leaves that are about 3 to 5 inches long.
The MacArthur palm is very hardy, and it tolerates both dry and moist soils. It’s also a great choice for gardens that get lots of sun.
It’s also one of the most popular Australian palm trees because of its attractive appearance, resembling a tropical landscape.
These palms will flower only once every few years. If you’d like to see more blooms, you’ll need to buy new plants each year.
The peach palm (Bactris gasipaesa) is native to southern Brazil. This palm grows up to an impressive 66 feet tall, and it’s a popular landscape plant because of its unique, circular shape.
The peach palm has an unusual canopy structure that creates a round shape when viewed from above. In addition, these palms have multiple stems that branch out at various angles.
The peach palm has a dense crown that’s covered by small, leathery leaves. These palms are extremely drought tolerant and tolerate heavy foot traffic.
In the springtime, peach palms produce clusters of bright orange-red flowers. During the fall, the fruit ripens and turns brown before falling off the tree.
The coconut palm (Cocos nucifera) is best known for its fruit which is first large yellow or green, and then turns into the brown coconut which we all know.
Coconut trees can grow up to 100 feet tall and their recognizable palm fronds can be up to 20 feet long.
Coconut palms grow best in sandy coastal areas where they find ideal salty soils. That’s why you often see them near beaches or parks.
Coconut trees also come as dwarf palm varieties which don’t grow any taller than 5 feet. While you may be able to grow coconut palms inside, they don’t usually find the perfect growing conditions inside.
The Montgomery palm (Veitchia arecina) is native to Australia. This palm tree grows up to 80 feet tall, and it has a distinct trunk that’s covered by dark green leaves.
Its leaves are oval-shaped and they’re arranged in pairs along the stem. In the springtime, the Montgomery palm produces clusters of white or cream-colored flowers.
The Montgomery palm is a great plant for landscaping and gardening projects. It tolerates poor soil and it’s very drought resistant.
You’ll find the Montgomery palm growing in many public gardens across the country.
The Bismarck palm (Bismarckia Nobilis) is native to South Africa. It’s a slow-growing palm tree that can reach heights of 20 feet.
The Bismarck palm has a distinctive trunk that’s covered by gray, silvery leaves. This palm tree is best identified by the blue or silver spiky leaflets.
When mature, the Bismarck palm produces a single cluster of white flowers that bloom during the winter months.
The Bismarck palm is a good choice for landscaping if you’re looking for something that doesn’t require much maintenance.
It grows small brown fruits that look like eggs. These grow in bunches, similar to grapes.
Proctor’s Silver Palm / Cayman Thatch Palm
This palm is native to Central America. It’s a slow-growing palm tree that can grow up to 20 feet tall.
The Proctor’s silver palm has a distinctive trunk with a smooth surface. The leaves are smaller than other palm trees, and they’re arranged on either side of the trunk.
During the summer, this palm tree produces a beautiful array of red, pink, or purple flowers.
The Proctor’s silver palm is best suited for locations that receive full sun exposure. It does well in both dry and wet climates.
The oil palm (Elaeis guineensis) is native to West Africa. Its unique trunk is covered by thick, leathery leaves.
In the springtime, the oil palm produces an abundance of tiny white flowers. When these flowers have matured, they turn into round, black seeds.
Due to its fruits being used for oil production, the oil palm is one of the most common palm trees grown around the world. You’ll find them in tropical regions such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, and Singapore.
In the United States, you’ll find oil palm plantations located in Florida, Louisiana, Texas, Hawaii, California, and Puerto Rico.
Chinese Fan Palm
The Chinese fan palm (Livistona Chinensis) is native to China and Japan. It’s a slow-growth palm tree that can grow to 50 feet tall.
The Chinese fan palm has a distinctive trunk covered by large, broad leaves. During the springtime, this palm tree produces clusters of yellowish or orange flowers.
The Chinese fan palm is a popular landscape plant because of its attractive foliage. It also provides shade when planted near other plants.
California Fan Palm
The California fan palm (Washingtonia filifera) is native to North America. It can grow up to 60 feet tall.
The California fan palm has a distinctive, narrow trunk covered by long, thin leaves. During the fall season, it produces a profusion of bright yellow flowers.
The California fan palm is a good choice if you want a palm tree that requires little care. It thrives in hot, dry conditions.
You’ll find this palm tree growing in parks, residential areas, and even along highways throughout the country.
Chilean Wine Palm
The Chilean wine palm (Jubaea chilensis) is native to South America. It’s a fast-growing palm tree that can reach heights of 80 feet.
The Chilean wine palm has a distinctive trunk that is covered by dark green leaves. In the springtime, this tree produces clusters of golden yellow flowers.
If you live in a warm climate area, the Chilean wine palm is a great option for your yard. It can withstand high temperatures and drought.
Windmill Palm Tree
This palm tree was originally introduced from Asia to Europe. It’s now widely distributed across the globe.
The Windmill palm tree (Trachycarpus fortunei) grows up to 66 feet tall. It has a distinct trunk covered by wide, glossy leaves.
This type of palm tree is extremely hardy, which makes it ideal for changing weather conditions and extreme climates.
The windmill palm tree is ideal for planting in shady areas where there is no direct sunlight. It will thrive in moist soil.
Indoor Palm Trees
Not every palm tree is ideal for growing inside. Even the smaller varieties often require much more maintenance which can be difficult when grown in a pot or container.
Here are some of the most common indoor palm trees.
The Areca palm (Dypsis lutescens) is an evergreen palm tree from Southeast Asia. It’s commonly used as a decorative plant indoors because it looks great in hanging baskets or pots.
The Areca palm is a fast-growing palm tree that can grow as high as 40 feet outdoors. It’s easy to care for and requires little water once established.
The Areca palm has thick leathery leaves that grow in clusters along its branches. During the fall, these leaves turn bright yellow and orange.
In the spring, the Areca palm produces large green fruit that resembles coconuts. This palm also produces a sweet sap that can be collected and distilled into alcohol.
Lady Palm Trees
The lady palm (Rhapidophyllum hystrix) is a popular houseplant that’s been around since ancient times.
Lady palms have long slender trunks that support large feathery fronds. They have glossy dark green leaves that are shaped like fans.
Lady palms produce fragrant white flowers in the spring and early summer. These palms do well in warm temperatures.
Lady palms are very tolerant of low humidity and thrive in moist conditions.
The parlor palm (Ravenala madagascariensis) is a tropical palm tree native to Madagascar.
They prefer moderate light levels and will grow in soil with good drainage. The parlor palm has a broad crown of arching fronds that look like feathers.
Palm trees are not just limited to your yard! They make great additions to ponds, lakes, rivers, fountains, pools, and water gardens.
Aquatic palm trees add height, texture, and color to aquatic environments.
Palm trees are also very beneficial to fish. They provide shelter and food for many types of fish including trout, bass, catfish, carp, tilapia, goldfish, and more.
There are several different species of aquatic palm trees. Here are some of the most common.
The mangrove palm (Rhizophora mangle) is native to tropical regions around the world. It’s found along coastlines from North Carolina to Brazil.
Also called Nipa, this palm has thick roots that anchor it to the muddy bottom of the ocean. Its branches spread out horizontally and form a protective canopy over the water.
The mangroves palm is one of the largest plants in the world. When mature, it can grow up to 30 feet tall and its leaves can be up to 6 feet wide.
The mangroves palm is an excellent choice for creating a natural habitat for wildlife. It’s even considered a type of invasive plant because it spreads so quickly.
If you’d like to create a pond or lake for fish, consider planting a mangrove palm.
The river palm (Ravenea musicalis Beentje) grows in coastal areas of South Africa, Mozambique, Madagascar, and India.
It’s often referred to as the “musical palm” because its leaves are shaped like musical instruments. This palm produces clusters of tiny white flowers in the springtime.
It’s easy to care for but requires regular fertilization. Ravenea palms need about 1 gallon of fertilizer per square foot each month during the growing season.
Ravenea palms are ideal for use in any outdoor environment where they get at least six hours of direct sunlight daily. They do best in moist soil conditions.
You may already know which palm tree would work best for your garden. Or maybe you’re still deciding between two or three different varieties.
Either way, we hope our guide helps you choose the right palm tree for you.