Small palm trees are an ideal addition to a garden landscape if you live in warm, sunny climates. However, some types of small palms are also cold hardy. Dwarf palms are classified as palm trees that are under 20 ft. (6 m) tall. Most small palm trees grow from a single trunk, but some have multiple trunks. All small or dwarf palm trees are identified by their feather-like or fan-shaped fronds (leaves).
The benefit of planting dwarf palms in your front or backyard is that they don’t take up much room. Their short stature means they won’t block out sunlight. Some of the smaller palm varieties also thrive in containers. Although small palms can reach up to 20 feet (6 m), many dwarf or pygmy palms are only 5 feet (1.5 m) when mature.
Of course, palm trees—large and small—are synonymous with tropical climates. But many varieties of small palms grow well in temperate climates.
In this article, you’ll find 17 of the most popular species of small palms. You’ll find short palms that grow in warm climates such as Florida, and other dwarf palms that are cold hardy and can withstand freezing temperatures.
Small Palm Tree Facts
The smallest type of outdoor palms like dwarf palmetto may only reach about 3 feet (1 m) tall. The tallest types of small palms such as spindle palm may reach 20 feet (6 m). While a 20-foot palm tree seems very tall, they are small in comparison to large types of palm trees that grow up to 100 feet (30 m).
Small palm trees are mostly grown in gardens for their aesthetic appeal in the landscape. Their compact size makes them perfect for planting in a front yard or if you want to turn a garden into a tropical landscape.
Most varieties of small palms have a small root ball, so you can plant them close to your house. Growing in warm conditions, many small palm trees flower and produce delicious sweet fruit.
Small Palm Tree Identification
Identifying species of small palm trees is done by the shape of their leaves (fronds) and type of trunk. Palm trees have either feather-like leaves (pinnate) or fan-like fronds (palmate). Some dwarf palms have slender, smooth trunks, and others have husks that give the trunk a spiky appearance.
There is a wide variety in the appearance of different species of palm. Some palms have slender trunks with a bushy crown of arching fronds. Other types of palms have thick, hairy trunks that are rough to touch. Some species of miniature palms have a clumping, bush-like growth with leaves that seem to grow out of the ground, without any visible trunk.
Types of Small Palm Trees
Here are the best dwarf or small palm trees to grow in your garden landscape:
Adonidia Palm (Adonidia merrillii)
The Adonidia palm is a small palm tree with a slender, gray smooth trunk. Also called the Christmas palm, this popular Florida palm tree grows to around 6 ft. (2 m). Its elegant crown identifies the small palm with long arching fronds that spread up to 8 ft. (2.4 m) wide.
The common name of this small palm comes from the fruit that ripens in December, around Christmas time. One of the advantages of growing this palm in your yard is that it’s self-cleaning and low-maintenance. That means that Adonidia palm sheds its fronds faster than some other palm species, and that gives it a better look. The Christmas palm thrives in USDA zone 10.
Landscape uses: Plant the Adonidia palm as a specimen tree to create a focal point in a sunny, tropical garden. In a front or backyard, you can plant the palm trees close together as they have a small root ball—ideal for small gardens.
Dwarf Sugar Palm (Arenga engleri)
The dwarf sugar palm is a multi-stemmed small palm tree. Its clumping growth nature results in a bushy palm that resembles a large shrub. The palm grows to around 8 ft (2.4 m) tall and is identified by green pinnate leaves that seem to grow out the ground.
Many consider the dwarf sugar palm to be one of the best landscaping palms. The miniature fern-like palm bush thrives in USDA zones 10B and 11.
Landscape uses of this palm tree: Plant a dwarf sugar palm as a specimen tree in a tropical garden. Or, you can plant the low palm bushes together to create a tropical privacy screen.
Dwarf Palmetto (Sabal minor)
The dwarf palmetto is an excellent ground-cover palm for warm climates. The short palm usually has a growth habit of up to 3 ft. (1 m) high. The tropical palm has fan-shaped leaves that can grow up to 6 ft. (2 m) long. The hardy dwarf palm tree thrives in hot, humid conditions but is also cold tolerant to 0°F (-18°C).
Landscape uses of this palm tree: Dwarf palmetto palms are native to Florida. You can plant them together in a backyard to create a bushy privacy screen. Or, you can grow in containers on your patio to add a tropical ambiance.
Short Bottle Palm (Hyophorbe lagenicaulis)
The bottle palm tree gets its name from its short fat trunk that looks like a pear-shaped bottle. You can identify this small palm tree by the way the stem swells as its base. Growing to only 10 ft. (3 m) tall, the miniature palm has four to six arching fronds that grow up to 12 ft. (3.5 m) long.
As the palm tree matures, its trunk becomes somewhat elongated and develops a husky exterior. Short bottle palm trees grow in Florida and southern California, where they get warm temperatures all year long. These small palms thrive in full sun.
Landscape uses of this palm tree: Bottle plants are an ideal small palm tree for compact residential gardens. In colder climates, grow bottle plants in containers and bring them indoors to protect from frost.
Pygmy Date Palm (Phoenix roebelenii)
The pygmy date palm is an ornamental dwarf tree with a short slender trunk, resembling a pineapple. Pygmy date palms are identified by the crowing mass of gracefully arching pinnate fronds. Usually, a single-stemmed palm, the tree can sometimes develop multiple trunks.
These miniature date palms thrive in full sun and grow in USDA zone 10 to 12. Flowers appear on stems that develop into clusters of small black fruits. These easy to grow dwarf palms grow up to 10 ft. (3 m) tall and have a spread of 6 to 8 ft. (1.8 – 2.4 m).
Landscape uses of this palm tree: Grow pygmy date palms to accent a Mediterranean garden landscape. The mini palm tree is also a suitable container plant to keep indoors during winter.
Pindo Palm (Butia capitata)
The pindo palm is a slow-growing small tree with a single stout trunk. The attractive feature of the pindo palm is its spectacular crown of bluish-green fronds that arch and create a weeping effect. Its short fat stem has a rough appearance from the stubs of old leaves.
Also called the Jelly palm or Cocos capitata, the hardy palm tree it drought, heat, and salt tolerant.
Landscape uses of this palm tree: This attractive small palm tree is ideal for coastal landscapes, and it is cold hardy to 14°F (-10°C).
Saw Palmetto (Sereona)
Native to Florida, saw palmetto palm trees are a bushy type of palm with fanning leaves. Small saw palmetto palms grow to between 7 and 10 ft. (2 – 3 m) and tend to grow in clusters. Their silvery-green fan-shaped leaves help identify these palm trees.
The edges of its leaves are serrated, which is why this small palm tree is named the saw palmetto. Being a type of clustering palm, this palm tree has multiple stems growing from the ground.
Landscape uses of this palm tree: Plant the palmetto palms close together to create a tropical privacy screen or plant in a container for a dramatic look.
Windmill Palm (Trachycarpus fortunei)
Windmill palm trees have large fanned leaves and slender, short, hairy trunks. The slow-growing palm trees eventually grow to between 10 and 20 ft. (3 – 6 m). Their name comes from the windmill form that the splaying fronds create at the trunk’s crown. Windmill palms are hardy palms that grow in zones 8a – 11.
Windmill palm trees look very decorative planted in a front or backyard. The palms are stunning specimen plants, creating a focal point in the landscape. Or you can plant them in containers for a patio or deck area. It’s best to plant small windmill palm trees in a protected part of the garden in the shade or partial shade.
Sago Palm (Cycas revoluta)
The sago palm is not a true type of palm tree. Instead, it’s a type of cycad plant with palm-like growth and appearance. Sago palms have a short, shaggy trunk that produces long green feather-like fronds, growing in a rosette pattern.
The cold-hardy palm-like tree can tolerate temperatures as low as 14°F (10°C). Its tolerance for cold temperatures makes the sago palm a popular small landscape palm-like tree.
Needle palm (Rhapidophyllum hystrix)
The needle palm tree is a shrub-like palm with several short trunks growing from the ground. Identify the needle palm by its fan leaves that have long, needle-like spines. Also, the needle palm is one of the most cold-tolerant palms, surviving temperatures as low as 5°F (-15°C).
Needle palms are suitable plants for privacy or security screens. The bushy palms also grow well in containers as an ornamental low-growing tree or specimen plant. Needle plants grow to between 3 and 6 ft. (1 – 1.8 m) tall with a spread of up to 8 ft. (2.4 m).
Parlor Palm (Chamaedorea elegans)
Parlor palm trees grow from a single thin, slender trunk that divides into many thick branches. Parlor palms grow to between 6 and 10 ft. (2 – 3 m) tall. The parlor palm tree has pinnate foliage with long broad leaves on the stems. The palm tree grows outside in tropical conditions in USDA zones 10 and 10b.
Although parlor palms are one of the most popular types of indoor palms, they can grow in your garden under the right conditions. Plant in dappled sunlight and keep moisture levels high. Or, you can grow the palms on a patio in containers.
Spindle Palm (Hyophorbe verschaffeltii)
Spindle palm trees have short slender gray trunks with a crown of curved, green pinnate leaves. These small flowering palm trees reach up to 20 ft. (6 m) tall. Spindle palms are similar to bottle palms—the difference is that the spindle palm’s trunk bulges in the center, not at the base.
Grow spindle palm trees as a specimen palm in your front or backyard. Also, spindle palms grow well in containers if you live in temperate climates.
Coontie Palm (Zamia floridana)
Coontie palms are a type of low-growing palm tree native to Florida. The Coontie palm is not a true type of palm tree but a cycad plant with palm-like growth and appearance. Coontie palms are more like bushes rather than actual palm trees. Multi-branched clusters of palm-like fronds grow from the ground. This bushy palm like tree grows up to 3 ft. (1 m) tall and has a rounded growth habit with fern-like foliage.
Coontie palms are an excellent palm-like plant for ground cover, edging, or adding greenery to shady spots.
Triangle Palm Tree (Dypsis decaryi)
Triangle palm trees have a short trunk and long green palmate leaves growing in a triangle shape. This spectacular tree can have leaves up to 8 ft. (2.4 m) long that fan out from the thick central trunk. The triangle palm is a flowering type of palm that can bloom all year long under the right conditions.
Plant this specimen palm tree for its ornamental value or as an accent plant. The triangle palm tree is low-maintenance and survives heat and drought well.
Mediterranean Dwarf Palm or European Fan Palm (Chamaerops humilis)
The Mediterranean dwarf palm is a low-growing clumping palm with three or more trunks at its base. This bushy multi-trunk palm tree can grow to between 10 and 20 ft. (2 – 6 m) tall. A compact crown of rounded fan leaflets graces the tops of the small trunks.
Mediterranean dwarf palms are popular as landscape palms in countries that enjoy hot summers. However, the palm is also cold hardy, withstanding temperatures as cold as 10°F (-12°C). Planting in containers can help to control the palm’s height if you want to add a Mediterranean touch to your patio or decking area.
Florida Thatch Palm (Thrinax radiata)
The Florida thatch palm has a single slender stem with a canopy of palmate leaves at its top. Native to Florida, this small palm grows up to 20 ft. (6 m) high. When growing in full sun, the fanning crown of palm leaves has a compact growth in a globular shape. Florida thatch palms are popular residential landscape palms in Florida and other states in the southern U.S.
Florida thatch palm trees are cold-sensitive plants and only grow in USDA zone 10 and above. The upright, slender palm is ideal for gardens in coastal areas or where there is high wind.
Cat Palm (Chamaedorea cataractarum)
The cat palm tree is a clumping bushy palm plant with multiple stems growing from the ground. Growing up to 6.5 ft (2 m) in gardens, the short cat palm tree has glossy dark green leaves forming dense palm foliage. Cat palms require bright sunlight to thrive and a moist growing medium.
Due to the palm’s bushy growth habit and short stature, you can grow cat palms as a privacy hedge in tropical gardens. Cat palms also grow well in containers to add tropical greenery to a patio or decking area. These multi-stemmed palms are also popular indoor palm trees if you can grow them in bright light.
Discover many other types of palm trees to plant in your garden.