Can Palm Trees Grow In Chicago? Everything You Need To Know

Chicago is known for its cold, windy winters. So you may be wondering if palm trees, which thrive in tropical climates, can survive the harsh Chicago weather. The short answer is yes, some palm species can grow in the Windy City if given the right care and protection.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about growing palm trees in Chicago. You’ll learn which palm species do best, tips for helping palms survive winter, ideal planting locations, and proper care for palms in Chicago.

Palm Varieties That Can Grow in Chicago

While Chicago’s cold and snowy winters may not seem like the ideal climate for palm trees, there are actually several varieties that can thrive in the Windy City. These palm trees have adapted to withstand colder temperatures and are capable of surviving the harsh Chicago winters.

Here are some palm varieties that can grow in Chicago:

1. Needle Palm

The Needle Palm is one of the hardiest palm trees and can tolerate temperatures as low as -20 degrees Fahrenheit. Its name comes from the sharp needles that cover its trunk, which adds a unique visual appeal to any landscape.

This palm variety is known for its resilience and can withstand the harsh winter conditions in Chicago.

2. Parlour Palm

The Parlour Palm, also known as the Neanthe Bella Palm, is another palm variety that can thrive in Chicago. This small palm tree is often used as a houseplant, but it can also be planted outdoors in warm summer months.

While it may need protection during the winter, the Parlour Palm can survive in Chicago’s climate with proper care.

3. Lady Palm

The Lady Palm, scientifically known as Rhapis excelsa, is a slow-growing palm tree that can tolerate colder temperatures. It features fan-shaped leaves and can add a touch of elegance to any garden or landscape.

While it may require some winter protection, the Lady Palm can successfully grow in Chicago’s climate.

4. Pindo Palm

The Pindo Palm, also called the Jelly Palm, is a cold-hardy palm tree that can tolerate temperatures as low as 5 degrees Fahrenheit. This palm variety produces edible fruits that resemble dates, making it a unique addition to any garden.

With its ability to withstand cold temperatures, the Pindo Palm can thrive in Chicago.

5. Windmill Palm

The Windmill Palm, or Trachycarpus fortunei, is one of the most popular palm varieties for colder climates. It can survive temperatures as low as -5 degrees Fahrenheit and is commonly found in gardens throughout Chicago.

The Windmill Palm features large, fan-shaped leaves and can create a tropical ambiance in any landscape.

While these palm varieties can successfully grow in Chicago, it’s important to note that they still require proper care and protection during the winter months. Providing adequate mulching and shelter can help ensure their survival.

Additionally, it’s recommended to consult with local gardening experts or visit reputable gardening websites, such as Chicago Botanic Garden or University of Illinois Extension, for more specific guidance on growing palm trees in Chicago.

Helping Palms Survive Chicago Winters

Chicago winters can be harsh, with freezing temperatures and heavy snowfall. It may seem unlikely that palm trees, which are typically associated with tropical climates, could survive in such conditions. However, with the right care and precautions, it is possible to grow palm trees in Chicago.

Here are some tips to help palms survive the winters in the Windy City.

Choose Cold Hardy Species

When selecting palm trees for your Chicago garden, it is important to choose species that are cold hardy. Some palm varieties, such as the Windmill Palm (Trachycarpus fortunei) and the Needle Palm (Rhapidophyllum hystrix), are more resilient to freezing temperatures and can withstand the harsh winters in the Midwest.

These species are able to tolerate temperatures as low as -20 degrees Fahrenheit.

Plant in Sheltered Areas

Another key aspect of helping palms survive in Chicago is to plant them in sheltered areas. Palms should be planted in locations that offer protection from strong winds and exposure to extreme cold. Planting them near a building, fence, or other structures can provide the necessary shelter to shield them from the harshest winter conditions.

Insulate Palms Before Winter

To provide extra protection for palm trees during the winter months, it is recommended to insulate them. Wrapping the trunk of the palm with burlap or frost cloth can help to insulate it and minimize the risk of damage from freezing temperatures.

Additionally, adding a layer of mulch around the base of the palm can provide insulation and help retain moisture in the soil.

Water Infrequently in Winter

During winter, it is important to adjust the watering routine for palm trees. Overwatering during the colder months can lead to root rot and other issues. Palms should be watered infrequently in winter, allowing the soil to dry out slightly between waterings.

This helps to prevent the roots from becoming waterlogged and reduces the risk of cold damage.

By following these tips, you can increase the chances of successfully growing palm trees in Chicago. It is important to remember that while it is possible to grow palms in colder climates, they may not reach the same size or thrive as they would in their native tropical environments.

However, with proper care and attention, you can enjoy the unique beauty of palm trees even in the midst of a Chicago winter.

Ideal Locations to Plant Palms in Chicago

Against South-Facing Walls

One ideal location to plant palms in Chicago is against south-facing walls. These walls provide protection against cold northern winds and can help create a microclimate that is more suitable for palm trees.

The walls absorb heat during the day and radiate it back at night, providing additional warmth for the palms. This can be especially beneficial during the colder months when temperatures drop below freezing.

Near Buildings for Radiant Heat

Another ideal location for planting palms in Chicago is near buildings that emit radiant heat. Buildings, especially those with large windows or glass facades, can release heat into the surrounding area. This radiant heat can create a warmer microclimate that can support the growth of palm trees.

Placing palms near these buildings can help protect them from the harsh winter conditions and extend their growing season.

In Courtyards and Sheltered Gardens

Courtyards and sheltered gardens provide an excellent location for planting palms in Chicago. These enclosed spaces offer protection from strong winds and extreme temperature fluctuations. The walls and structures surrounding the courtyard or garden act as a barrier, reducing the impact of harsh weather conditions.

This creates a more favorable environment for palm trees to thrive. Additionally, the surrounding buildings can provide shade during the hot summer months, preventing the palms from being exposed to excessive heat.

It’s important to note that while these locations can be ideal for planting palms in Chicago, it is still essential to choose cold-hardy palm species that can withstand the local climate. Some cold-hardy palm species that are suitable for planting in Chicago include the Windmill Palm (Trachycarpus fortunei) and the Needle Palm (Rhapidophyllum hystrix).

These palm species have been proven to tolerate the colder temperatures and harsh conditions of the region.

For more information on palm tree cultivation and species suitable for the Chicago climate, you can visit the Chicago Botanic Garden website, which provides valuable resources for gardening enthusiasts in the area.

Proper Care for Chicago Palms

Water Deeply in Summer

While palm trees are not native to Chicago’s climate, with proper care, they can thrive in this region. One important aspect of caring for palm trees in Chicago is ensuring they receive enough water, especially during the hot summer months.

Palm trees have deep root systems, so it’s essential to water them deeply to encourage root growth and prevent shallow root development.

Experts recommend watering palm trees in Chicago once or twice a week, depending on the weather conditions. During dry spells or heatwaves, it may be necessary to increase the frequency of watering. It’s important to water the tree slowly and deeply, allowing the water to penetrate the soil and reach the root zone.

This helps the tree withstand drought conditions and stay healthy.

Pro tip: Use a soaker hose or drip irrigation system to ensure an even distribution of water and minimize evaporation.

Fertilize in Spring and Summer

Fertilizing palm trees is another crucial aspect of their care in Chicago. Since the soil in this region may lack certain nutrients, it’s important to provide the palm trees with the necessary fertilizers.

Fertilizing in spring and summer helps promote healthy growth and enhances the tree’s ability to withstand harsh weather conditions.

When selecting a fertilizer, it’s important to choose one specifically formulated for palm trees. These fertilizers typically contain the essential nutrients that palm trees require, such as nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus.

Follow the instructions provided on the fertilizer packaging for the correct application rates.

Pro tip: Avoid applying fertilizer directly to the trunk of the palm tree, as this can cause damage. Instead, spread the fertilizer evenly around the tree’s drip line.

Prune Dead Fronds

Regular pruning is essential for maintaining the health and appearance of palm trees in Chicago. One of the primary reasons for pruning is to remove dead fronds, which can be unsightly and potentially pose a safety hazard.

Dead fronds can be a breeding ground for pests and diseases, so removing them promptly is crucial.

When pruning palm trees, it’s important to use sharp and clean pruning tools to avoid causing damage to the tree. Start by removing any dead or yellowing fronds, making sure to cut close to the trunk without injuring it.

Avoid excessive pruning, as this can weaken the tree and make it more susceptible to stress and disease.

Pro tip: If you’re unsure about pruning your palm tree, it’s best to consult with a professional arborist who can provide expert guidance.


While growing palm trees in Chicago can be challenging, it is possible with the right species selection, winter protection, and care. Focus on planting small, cold hardy palm varieties in sheltered locations. Provide extra insulation before winter. And give them proper water, fertilizer, and pruning during the growing season. With the proper techniques, you can add a tropical flair to your Chicago landscape with hardy palm trees.

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