Windmill palm trees can add a taste of the tropics to your garden even in a temperate climate like Washington state.
You don’t have to live in sunny Florida to get a tropical vibe in your garden. The exceptionally cold-hardy windmill palm tree can thrive across the West Coast as far north as Washington, with stunning, broad green blades and yellow blossoms in spring. The windmill palm is also well-suited for the Gulf Coast due to its high salt tolerance. As a particularly shade-tolerant tree, the windmill palm is a striking, low-maintenance addition to any garden.
Windmill Palm Trees at a Glance
- Can be planted in a container
- Green year-round, with yellow flowers in spring
The windmill palm has a single, thick trunk covered in hairy brown fibers. Its long, densely-packed, fine-toothed fronds fan out from a symmetrical crown, creating a windmill shape. Some of the leaf tips are stiff, while others are droopy.
Windmill palm trees can grow anywhere from 10-40 feet. You’ll see them kept compact at many homes, with a maximum height of about 10-20 feet and a spread of 6-10 feet. Windmill palms grow slowly, gaining less than a foot each year.
USDA Hardiness Zones indicate the regions where plants can grow well, based on minimum winter temperatures. Windmill palm trees thrive in Zones 7-11, all along the West Coast, Gulf Coast, and up the East Coast as far as Virginia.
Choose a planting site that receives partial shade and has well-drained soil. Make sure the site doesn’t receive too much harsh wind—that can shred your palm’s leaves.
Pull any weeds and clear away any turfgrass or debris. Dig a hole twice the width of your windmill palm’s root ball. You want it deep enough that you can set the root ball equal with the level of the surrounding soil.
Tease the roots apart gently using your hand or a small garden spade. Place the root ball in the hole, taking care to make sure that it’s perfectly upright and not at an angle. Backfill the soil, tamping down as you go to make sure there aren’t any air bubbles. Soak the hole as you fill it with dirt.
Place a 2-3 inch layer of mulch on top of the planting area, keeping it a few inches away from the stems and trunk. This will help retain moisture.
If you want to plant several windmill palms, plant them 6-10 feet apart from one another to limit competition for water and nutrients.
Windmill palm trees are not picky about soil. They love shade and can tolerate temperatures as low as 10 degrees Fahrenheit.
Sun and shade
Windmill palm trees actually prefer shade to too much sun. Plant them in partial shade, where they will receive two to four hours of direct sunlight per day.
Windmill palm trees are highly adaptable to different types of soil but prefer to grow in porous, moist, fertile, and well-drained soil.
When newly planted, windmill palms require a lot of water to grow a healthy root system. Water them every two to three days for the first three months, then just once a week from then on, except for summers. If the weather is consistently hot or dry, you may need to water twice a week.
You want the soil damp at all times but never soggy. You can find out when to water by pressing your index finger firmly 2-3 inches into the surrounding soil. If it feels dry, it’s time to water.
Windmill palms need fertile soil to flourish. Feed with a slow-release fertilizer designed for palm trees once or twice during the growing season—first in spring before new growth emerges, then again in summer or fall.
Windmill palm trees do not require pruning, aside from cutting any branches that are dead, diseased, or damaged. You should prune those as soon as you notice them.
Frequently Asked Questions
How tall do they get?
They can grow to as high as 40 feet tall, but most fall into the 10-20 foot range.
How fast do they grow?
Windmill palms grow at a slow rate of less than 8 inches per year.
Do they need full sun?
Windmill palm trees actually prefer partial shade to full sun.
What do you feed them?
You can apply a slow-release fertilizer designed specifically for palm trees.
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