Nine Types of Desert Palm Trees and How to Select the Best Tree Suited to You

Do you ever dream of, say, living on a tropical island or an oasis, or even in a faraway jungle? Not me! The heat, for one, would be too much.

However, it doesn’t stop me from enjoying the thought and, more realistically, wanting a palm tree in my garden. Who doesn’t want an exotic looking Palm Tree growing in their garden?

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Palm Tree I didn’t like – so I’m biased already!

Which Desert Tree Is Best for Your Garden?

In this article, I have given you non-biased details of nine types of Desert Trees, and I have chosen the following – some of which are too exotic to plant in your garden and some which are possible and could do well, and then one that is ideal!

They are:

Nine Types of Palm Trees

The Date Palm; King Palm; The Florida Thatch Palm; The Triangle Palm; The Windmill Palm; The Zombie Palm; The Foxtail Palm; The Caranday Palm; and The Spindle Palm.

None of these Palm Trees are poisonous as such, but there are a few that you should avoid and some you really shouldn’t try to plant in your garden.

Therefore, I haven’t explained about the planting thereof. However, I have described each tree because I think you’ll find that interesting, and I’ve given you an idea of how to maintain those Palms that are right for you to plant.

Where to Find Desert Palm Trees

Moving on, let’s look at Miami, Palm Springs, Phoenix, El Centro, Temecula, and other scorching areas that are inland in the South-western United States of America.

You’ll always find a display of Palm Trees in those respective areas. Africa is another subtropical, Palm Tree loving place, so is Singapore, Malaysia, and a myriad of islands and countries in sub-tropical countries.

Palm Trees don’t grow in Antarctica

It might surprise and please you to hear that some Palm Trees are more cold hardy types and grow well outdoors in mild and temperate areas. It’s safe to say that Palms grow in every Continent in the world – just not in Antarctica.

Palm Trees have been used, down the ages, by the local peoples, for fuel, fiber, and, of course, food. They also look great in an exotic way, so that everyone wants one in their particular backyard.

Palm Trees Can Surprise You

There are over 2,500 different Palm Trees species, and they all love to live in a warm or hot and very sunny location. It could be humid, it could be arid, it could be even cooler, but there will be a Palm Tree or more growing there.

You can grow them from seed or buy a baby seedling that has just sprouted, at your local nursery, and grow it into a huge Palm Tree from that tiny plant pot.

Palm is Prolific Throughout the World

Palm Trees are prolific and, because there are so many different species, you have an enormous choice of Palm Trees, but the trick is to find out which one type is right for you, which requires a bit of thought research on your part.

Please, don’t plant a Palm Tree just because it appeals to you. The plant needs the right set of conditions to survive and flourish. Therefore, choose wisely.

Some of the cold-hardy types of Palm Trees grow exceptionally well when planted outdoors in mild, temperate areas.

I’ve chosen to briefly bring to your attention nine types of palm trees that thrive in warm, sunny climates and some that will tolerate colder temperatures:

The Date Palm

I think everyone is most accustomed to the Date Palm. People mention a Palm Tree, and dates immediately come to mind.


Mostly found in Northern Africa, the Middle East, and the Mediterranean, they are famous for their beautiful fruits – the dates.

You can also find them in the United States in Arizona, California, and Nevada, where they are commercially grown for date production.


It’s sometimes called a Phoenix Palm, but that is incorrect. Although Phoenix Palms are closely related to Date Palm Trees, they fail to produce the Date Palm fruit.

There is also a Pygmy Date Palm used as a houseplant – it needs lots of sunlight, care, and maintenance.


*You can look at this type of Palm, but I doubt that many people have the right conditions to grow it.

The King Palm


This Palm is another familiar sight. Native to Australia, it is the name given to six Palm Tree species closely related.


As one of the most popular palms there – especially in landscaping usage, you quickly recognize its height of 40 feet or even taller, swaying in the gentle breezes so loftily.

Its trunk is a smooth grey-brown color and ringed the fronds arch gracefully and display their bright green foliage making fantastic commercial and residential landscapes.

They are often grown in groups of two or three; however, if your conditions are right, you might select this King Palm for yourself –don’t try growing them indoors!


*You can also look at this type of Palm, but once again, you need a considerable amount of space, and the conditions must be right.

The Florida Thatch Palm


This Palm Tree is native to South Florida but also many Caribbean islands.


This Palm Tree is again quite different. I chose it because it makes an ideal choice for small spaces. It works well as a screening plant as it has a bushy habit and grows slowly.

As a hosting plant for the monk skipper butterfly and nesting and eating place for birds, it serves wildlife well and improves the native wildlife habitat.

That said, this plant grows slowly. It has beautiful fan-shaped leaves that are lovely to watch in the breeze

It reaches a height of around 20 feet and is approximately 10 feet wide when it reaches maturity. Plant it in a sandy like soil with good drainage. This plant will tolerate drought.


**This is a palm which you should consider – if you can supply the correct conditions.

The Triangle Palm


This Palm Tree grows to a height of 15 meters and is indigenous to the Madagascan Rain Forest


This Palm Tree looks unusual and wild and wonderful. Its name is derived from the triangular intersection of the emerging fronds at the top of its trunk.

I’ve added it more as a point of interest than something you would want to grow.

The growth habit is that it vertically stacks the fronds as they grow – one above the other, in three ranks, making it attractive and intriguing.


*Caution – Don’t even consider this type of Palm.

The Windmill Palm


This Palm Tree is a native of East Asia and grows slowly to 25 feet tall and 10 feet wide.


Often referred to like The Chinese Windmill Palm and The Chusan Palm, this is one of the most recognizable and probably one of Palm Trees’ coldest hardy types.

It can grow in areas where the winter temperature is below freezing. Because of this, people in chilly climates would probably want to have this beautiful Palm Tree in their gardens and, it is an excellent choice.

This Palm requires full sun and well-draining soil. It pairs well with other tropical plants that are cold hardy – such as the Hibiscus – another hardy plant; canna; and ginger.

You’ve probably all seen the lovely windmill effect of this plant. It has a compact dark green crown, and subtle black fibers accent its trunk.


**This could be the ideal plant for you if you have the right living conditions for its needs.

The Zombie Palm Tree


It is endemic to the West Indies island of Hispaniola in the Greater Antilles. It isn’t common, but you might occasionally find it growing on dry forested slopes and ridges.


I have to mention the Zombie Palm. It has foliage that is fan shape and a trunk that appears to be thatched and wrapped!

These palms are drought-tolerant, growing best in sandy soil with intermittent watering.

If you get close enough to one of these palms, please notice that protruding needles are spiraling up the trunk, which can easily pierce your flesh. So, this small Palm should rally grow in a place where it can be seen and admired but never touched.

When people are inclined to touch it, they quickly discover why they shouldn’t, because those needles can do real damage.

Otherwise, it’s an attractive palm that produces white flower panicles among the top fronds, followed by fruit clusters.


*Caution – Don’t say you weren’t warned about this Palm.

The Foxtail Palm Tree


The Foxtail Palm is native to Australia but adapts well to growing in South Florida and other places with warm winter temperatures.


This Foxtail Palm Tree is also a famous Palm Tree and a very familiar sight. It grows to a height of about 30 feet with a smooth grey trunk. It becomes 15 feet wide with its beautiful plume-like fronds that extend from the top and hang down the sides of the trunk in the most elegant way.

It has a self-cleaning habit – a useful attribute. Once its flowers have pollinated, this Foxtail Palm Tree produces large orange-colored fruits that are ornamental but add to the attraction.

Because of its rapid growth, the Foxtail Palms do best when they are planted in soil with organic matter that’s been added – they also need to be regularly fertilized. A reasonable amount of drought they can handle, but they prefer consistent moisture.

Despite other palms needing to be pruned, the Foxtail Palm’s old foliage falls off the tree, and that type of self-cleaning is rare and a real boon.

If you are in a frost-free region, there are many palms you could choose from to plant in your garden, but the fast-growing, lush, Foxtail Palm is the most popular.

Please don’t attempt to turn this into a house plant; it won’t do well.


**Go ahead and consider this super self-cleaning Palm –get the conditions right.

The Caranday Palm Tree


This Palm is a slowly growing native of South America. I’m mentioning it out of interest because it has a very hard trunk that has been used for making fences and even telegraph poles! Further, it’s also known as The Wax Palm as it produces wax from its leaves; and this wax goes into the making of candles, car wax, and even lipstick!


Left alone to grow in the wild, it can reach heights of 70 feet tall. In a landscape situation, it usually grows to about 30 feet tall and 15 feet wide. It enjoys full sun but will tolerate partial shade. It does best in moist but well-drained soil. It’s easy to grow and easy to maintain.

The Caranday Palm is beautiful. Its hard, smooth grey trunk produces a cluster of foliage at the very top and beautiful fronds of leaves branching out of but away from the top rather like a carousel. It has a beautiful appearance.

There’s more! After the flowering, it produces little berry-like fruits that turn black when they’re ripe. These fruits are edible, juicy, and taste sweet but leave a sharp aftertaste that is unpleasant and lasts too long.


**Green lights for this Palm – once again, ensure you have the right conditions.

The Spindle Palm


Last but not least, of the nine palms I’ve chosen is this Spindle Palm. It’s a very adaptable a hardy palm with a moderate cold tolerance. A native of the Mascarene Islands in the Indian Ocean, it grows best in well-draining sandy soil.


It’s a slow grower, reaching a height of 20 – 25 feet with between 6 to 10-foot fronds. It has a grey ringed trunk from which the fronds appear, growing upwards and outwards and giving a most attractive appearance. It has white or cream-colored flowers, and they give way to a fruit that ripens from orange to red.

To use this plant as a focal point would be a good idea. Underplanting of flowers or foliage is optional and not necessary.

Spindle Palms can be found all over Florida as they are hardier than their sister – the Bottle Palm – and they look beautifully tropical.

If you want to have one of these, check your garden’s conditions and ensure there are no periods of sub-zero conditions. They need a lot of natural sunlight and good air circulation, but they will tolerate cold temperatures although they do not enjoy frost. They don’t need a lot of water, and incidentally, they have a high salt tolerance, so if you live near the sea, this is the Palm for you.

Spindle Palms make excellent houseplants, which will probably be good news for many people globally. Just take all the precautions contained herein, and you’ll do well.

If planting outside, these Palms should be planted at least four feet from your house so that the fronds can spread naturally. If growing more than one, make sure the Spindle Palms are planted six feet apart.

If container planting, you will need an enormous container, and remember, this plant is a slow grower, so in a box or pool cage, the growth will be even slower.  You should not need to water it until the soil dries out.

Lastly, look at some of its landscape uses:

  • Edging a walkway or a driveway
  • Or plant them in pairs, bordering the entrance to a large driveway
  • Use as a feature in the center of a circular driveway
  • Plant on either side of the entrance to your home (four feet away)
  • Container planting for, say, a pool cage, or a patio or courtyard.


**Oh, yes – this is the one! How can you not consider having this as your slice of all things exotic and beautiful to feast your eyes upon every day! For the last time – please create the right conditions, or there’s no point.

Treat Yourself to a Palm Tree!

Finally, after reading this, if you treat yourself and plant a Palm Tree, I wish you well and hope you enjoy watching its growth.

Patricia Godwin

Patricia Godwin

Patricia has many years of experience as a content writer on various subjects, but her first love is gardening. She’s never met a plant she didn’t like and, consequently, she writes about every type of plant you can think of. Once an avid gardener with a herb garden, a succulent rockery, and a rose garden – to mention a few. Nowadays, she’s constantly on the move searching for interesting plants to bring to your attention; and explain to you all the details you need to grow, care and maintain these plants.

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