Palm trees swaying in the breeze brings to mind warm tropical climes, but there are several palms that are perfectly hardy in Portland! They lend an unique look to the garden as well as adding wonderful architecture, color and texture year round.

Palm trees appreciate a sunny location with well-drained soil. Many Portlanders have heavy clay soil that holds a lot of water during rainy months, so preparing the soil well is an very important step in growing hardy palms successfully.

  • Remove some of the clay (1/4 – 1/3) in the planting area.
  • Dig a hole about as deep as the container and at least twice as wide. A wider hole is good, but don't dig too deep - the plant will sink as soil settles.
  • Mix pumice or grit and organic matter with the existing soil, blending it well.
  • Use the blended soil to plant. Keep the soil level the same as it was in the container or slightly higher. Do not pile soil around the base of the trunk.
  • Palms are well suited to growing in containers too. Use a well-drained soil or cactus mix for planting.
Butia capitata

Butia capitata: Pindo Palm, Jelly Palm

Butia fronds gracefully curve forming giant arches and are quite dramatic! Mature plants have a stout trunk and thick crown and are one of the most cold-tolerant palms for Portland. Jelly Palms are more tolerant of clay soil than some of the other hardy palms.

Grows to around 6-8' x 8-10' in Portland, Hardy to 15 F. Native to Brazil.

Chamaerops humilis

Chamaerops humilis: Mediterranean Fan Palm

Green fronds shaped like open fans at the tips of long stems that mean business - they are covered in vicious spines! Plant it in an area where you won't brush up against it accidentally. Chamaerops have a shrubby habit and are slow to develop a trunk.

Grows 5-10' x 5-10', Hardy to 15F, Native to the Mediterranean region.

Trachycarpus fortunei

Trachycarpus fortunei: Windmill Palm

People have been growing Windmill Palms in Portland for decades! Indeed there are mature specimens all around town, many of them towering over the yards where they were planted, having outdone the gardener's expectations years ago.

Trachycarpus fortunei is slow-growing at first, but eventually develops a tall single trunk, topped with relatively short stems and huge bright green fans at the tips. It produces big clusters of odd yellow flowers that look a bit like millet.

Windmill Palm is happy alone as a specimen or growing along side other plants so long as care requirements are similar for the neighbors.

Grows 15-20' x 4-5', Hardy to 10 F. Native to temperate and mountain forest in China.

Dwarf Chusian Palm

Trachycarpus wagnerianus: Dwarf Chusian Palm

Similar to Windmill Palm, but this unique palm has very stiff short fronds and a more compact appearance. It does very well in containers and is just plain cute. The stiffer stouter foliage withstands windy conditions better without tips sagging.

Hardy to 10F. Unknown in the wild; thought to originate in Japan.