Choosing the Best Palms for Your Landscape

House and front yard with palm trees

Using palm trees for landscaping can give your yard a tropical vibe. These magnificent, leafy plants can turn any outdoor space into a paradise, offering privacy, shade, and a striking focal point.

But with such a wide variety of palms to choose from, selecting the right palm trees can be challenging. This guide will help you choose the right palm tree for your landscape. 

In this article:

Why palm trees for landscaping?

Palms are frequently used for landscaping in South Florida, Southern California, Texas, and other warm climates because they bring tropical appeal to your yard. Beyond their aesthetic value, palm trees have many useful traits:

  • They can help withstand powerful storms and hurricanes.
  • Palm trees do not require much care and maintenance.
  • Palm trees shade your balcony, yard, and other places.
  • They also serve as a kind of fence around your property.

Factors to consider when choosing a palm tree

A palm tree’s size, leaf color, height, and growing requirements are wide-ranging. You have to consider many factors.

The amount of sun the area receives 

Before buying a palm, analyze the area where you’d like to plant it. How much sunlight does it get? Some palms thrive in full sun, while others can withstand partial sun to cold conditions. Coconut palms and Africa oil palms, among others, do very well in hot, sunny conditions.

Other palms like the European fan palm, lady palm, the Phoenix dactylifera, queen palm, Everglades palm, California fan, cabbage palm, saw palmetto, Mexican fan, and Chinese fan palm can withstand cold temperatures and tolerate the snow for short periods.

The character of your home

Traditional architecture may call for a different type of palm tree than modern abodes. Consider the home’s aesthetic when choosing a palm for landscape design to enhance the overall appearance.

The color of the palm

Homeowners sometimes wish to blend their yards with different colors. The red Latin palm is well known for its bright red stocks, while the Mexican blue palm has splendid bluish-gray leaves.

Size of the palm

Palm trees come in different sizes and shapes. Their heights and widths should be considered when deciding where to place them on your property. Tall, narrow palms might be good for lining a walkway, while short, wide palms might overgrow the same walkway or crowd an entryway. Additionally, putting a saw palm in a front flower bed might not be the best idea. They can get to be 8 to 10 feet tall and just as wide and might obstruct your view from the house when they mature. Conversely, the low-growing varieties make good privacy hedges, while tall, narrow ones don’t provide much privacy at all.

Uses of the palm tree

You’ll want to consider what purpose you want the tree to serve. Will it be strictly decorative? Should it provide a visual buffer from neighbors?

Some homeowners will use palms to shade balconies and pools, provide privacy, highlight flower beds, partner with boxwoods, serve as a focal point for landscape lighting, frame the home, and complete a rock garden.

Types of palm trees

There are countless varieties of palms from which to choose – too many to list here. For your convenience, we’ve narrowed the list to a handful that professional landscapers frequently use because of their visual appeal, hardiness and usefulness.

Lady Palm
Lady Palm | Obsidian Soul | Wikimedia Commons | CC BY-SA 4.0

Lady palm

The lady palm is also known as the bamboo palm. It has a small, thin trunk that produces clusters of green fronds with bamboo-like stems. The lady palm is a tropical plant that does well in both partial to full sun, as well as shade.


  • Has dark green, fan-shaped leaves which grow easily
  • Can withstand temperatures of 18 degrees
  • Can be used indoors or in mixed-shrub borders
  • Reaches a height of 6 to 15 feet
  • Grows slowly and provides privacy because of its lush green leaves

Care and Maintenance

  • Apply fertilizer during the growing season.
  • The lady palm requires a lot of water.
  • Avoid pruning the brownish fronds. 

Good for: The lady palm grows slowly and provides privacy because of its lush green leaves and height.

Date Palm
Date Palm | David Stanley | Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Date palm

The date palm is also known as the Phoenix dactylifera. It has arching, gray-green, waxy fronds that are 10 feet long and form a stately crown.

The date palm is a pinnate-leaved palm species that does well in urban landscapes with ample sunlight. It is one of the oldest palms and most cultivated trees in South Florida.


  • Has tall trunks with arching and feather-like fronds
  • Grows slowly
  • Female date palms produce creamy yellow flowers that bear edible fruit
  • Does well in zones 8 to 11
  • Grows to a height of 50 to 80 feet

Care and Maintenance 

  • Apply fertilizer during the late winter or early spring.
  • Remove the damaged or diseased fronds.

Good for: The dwarf specimens of date palms make good indoor plants, and you can also consume the fruits produced by female dates

Coconut Palm Tree
Coconut Palm Tree | Pexels | Pixabay

Coconut palm tree

The coconut palm, as the name states, produces coconuts, making it one of the most recognizable and important of the palms. It has a single slim trunk that reaches heights of about 50 feet, topped by a large spray of medium to dark green fronds. It is common in South Florida landscapes where humid conditions and full sunlight are favorable for its growth. It also tolerates salt spray, so it is excellent for homes in beachside communities.


  • Can reach 100 feet in height; some dwarf varieties are only 15 to 30 feet
  • Has a slim, smooth trunk with a crown of leaves and round green or yellow fruits
  • Flowers grow in clusters 
  • Trunks are mostly straight; those with curved trunks are called “character palms” and are actually desirable for landscaping

Care and Maintenance

  • The coconut tree requires annual pruning. 
  • The small coconuts need to be removed to prevent injury when they fall.

Good for: The wispy leaves of the coconut palm grow in dense bunches, providing ample shade. And, of course, this tree produces coconuts – up to 100 a year on a mature tree.

Chinese Fan Palm
Chinese Fan Palm | Joegoauk Goa | Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Chinese fan palm

The Chinese fan palm is characterized by broad fans of bright green to bluish-green leaves that weep. It is a slow-growing tree that gets wide before it gets tall. Good for indoor use and outdoor landscaping, it is a hardy palm that tolerates temperatures below 20 degree. Because it is so hardy, it can be found in climates as different as South Florida and North Oklahoma.


  • Long, narrow leaves ranging from bright green to bluish green
  • Does well in pots indoors
  • Grows to a height of 20 to 30 feet
  • Flourishes in full sun

Care and maintenance

  • Prune the Chinese fan palm during winter, before new growth emerges.
  • Water the plant when the soil feels dry to the touch.
  • Feed it with liquid fertilizer once a month during spring and summer. 

Good for: Because it is wide and has dense foliage, the Chinese fan palm offers a buffer from neighboring homes.

Areca Palms
Areca Palms | troy mckaskle | Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Areca palm

Areca palms are also known as butterfly palms because their long, swooping fronds resemble butterfly wings. That’s perhaps all you need to know about why these plants are so popular as both accent pieces outdoors and potted plants indoors. They are clumping palms, meaning they have multiple (or clumps of) stalks that come from the ground. Some of those stalks can be golden in color.


  • Comprised of multiple stalks, or clumps of stalks
  • Stalks are smooth and can be gold colored
  • Swooping fronds resemble butterfly wings

Care and maintenance

  • Water it two to three times a week during summer and spring. Avoid overwatering.
  • Feed the areca palm with liquid fertilizer during spring and summer, and spray a micronutrient to keep the foliage healthy.
  • Prune the yellow or brown fronds with wet, clean scissors to avoid damaging them.

Good for: These leafy, broad palms grow quickly and make excellent hedges or property borders to provide privacy.

Mexican Fan Palm
Mexican Fan Palm | Shutterstock

Mexican fan palm 

Like the Chinese fan palm, the Mexican fan palm is bursting with fans of slender palm fronds. But that’s where the similarities end. Unlike its shorter, wider cousin, the Mexican fan palm is a tall, fast-growing tree that can reach heights of 90 or 100 feet. This native of Northern Mexico is ubiquitous around the South and Southeast. It grows easily in well-drained soil from full to partial sun.


  • Has a columnar trunk that grows to 100 feet tall
  • Fan-shaped crowns can grow to 3 to 5 feet long
  • Dead leaves fold along the trunk, giving it a dense skirt
  • Becomes self-pruning as it grows
  • Flourishes in full sun to partial sun

Care and maintenance.

  • Remove the dead, yellow, damaged fronds.
  • Fertilize the Mexican palm in spring.
  • Water it the first three months after planting.

Good for: Because of its height, this palm is best on lawns with tall buildings or houses. It also provides shade in parking lots and makes a handsome streetscape.

Sabal Palm Trees
Sabal Palm Trees | Harry Somers | Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Cabbage palm (sabal palm)

The cabbage palm tree is also known as the sabal palmetto. It has a single slender trunk, roughly 12 to 16 inches in diameter at maturity, from which large sprays of narrow palm fronds emerge. Slightly smaller than its Mexican fan palm cousin, the cabbage palm is common in landscapes from South Carolina down to Florida and is actually the state tree of Florida.


  • A hardy plant with solid resistance to wind
  • Grows to a height of 30 to 50 feet
  • Does well in full or partial sun
  • New growth produces a bud that resembles a cabbage, hence the nickname

Care and maintenance

  • Water deeply during regrowing the cabbage palm.
  • Remove the seedling that comes from the fruit to reduce the base weeds.

Good for: When planted along pathways, cabbage palms can provide shade and safety because they resist strong winds.

Saw Palmetto
Saw Palmetto | Katja Schulz | Flick | CC BY 2.0

Saw palmetto

The saw palmetto is a short, wide palm with multiple trunks that gets only 5 to 10 feet tall and 4 to 10 feet wide. The trunks produce multiple fans with long, pointed palm fronds, giving this bush a full, prickly appearance. In the spring, the stalks sprout small yellow-white, fragrant flowers that attract bees. The saw palmetto also produces berries, a good food source for many birds and animals. This variety of palms is hardy and can withstand temperatures as low as zero for short periods. 


  • Typically short and shrubby
  • Stems sprout from underground rhizomes
  • Has large leaves with saw-like teeth along the edge
  • Grows to a height of 5 to 10 feet

Care and maintenance

  • Prune the dry and damaged leaves.
  • Check the leaves regularly for pests.
  • Water the saw palmetto in the absence of rainfall.
  • Remove the rock debris and weeds from the palm.
  • Mist the palmetto to increase humidity when the rains are low.

Good for: Saw palmetto can make your front yard attractive by imbuing it with a silver-blue color.

Queen Palm
Queen Palm | iStock

Queen palm

Also known as the feather palm, the queen palm is one of the prettiest and most stately tall palm trees. It features a single narrow trunk topped by a large canopy of softly drooping, glossy palm fronds. In the summer, it produces small flowers that mature into bright orange fruit by fall or winter.


  • Likes moist soil but is moderately drought and salt-tolerant
  • Has long, shimmery fronds more than 15 feet in length
  • Features a regal gray trunk
  • Produce flowers and clusters of small orange dates
  • Fast-growing, to a height of 30 to 40 feet
  • Effective anchor for small palms and other plants in landscapes

Care and maintenance

  • The queen palm requires more maintenance than some other palm trees.
  • This palm likes moist soil. Water it during periods of drought.
  • The queen palm requires fertilizer containing magnesium, potassium, zinc, iron, etc.
  • The palm requires periodic trimming to improve its appearance.

Good for: With its large, magnificent canopy, glossy leaves, and seasonal blossoms, this attractive tree is a great focal point in front-yard landscaping or line walkways. Cast an outdoor landscape light on it at night for a beautiful effect.

Common palm tree problems

Like any plant, palm trees have their shortcomings. Some of the problems facing palm trees are due to health, severity, progress level, and environmental difficulties.

These challenges are; 

  • Improper care leads to the discoloring of the fronds and rotting young palms.
  • Overwatering of the palm
  • Black or sooty mold on the fronds
  • Lethal yellowing
  • Fungal infections brought about by the humid climate
  • Infestation of insects

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

1. What are the best palms for small landscaping?

Some palms, such as Phoenix roebelenii, pindo palm, foxtail, sabal minor, sago palm, saw palmetto, windmill palm, and Florida thatch palm are best for small landscaping.

2. What are the best palm trees for front yards?

For front-yard landscaping,  use palms such as the areca palm, pindo palm, pigmy date palm, foxtail, queen palm, Canary Island date palm, lady palm, Sylvester palm, and fishtail palm.

Final word

Smart choices of palms can make your yard more attractive and create the tropical feeling you want. Want help? Contact a Lawn Love lawn care professional for your landscaping needs.

Main photo credit: Kenrick Baksh | Pexels

Millicent Onchari

Millicent Onchari is a freelance content writer. She is passionate about digital marketing, fashion and design, gardening, and health and wellness.