Ubiquitous throughout Florida, but particularly in the warmest southern part of the state, palm trees may be tall and elegant or short and scrubby. More than 30 varieties of palm trees may be found in south Florida, according to FloridaYards.org, and many thrive in sun, require only moderate water and are salt tolerant. Palm trees can add shade, depth and interest to a landscape, but make sure to check the height of a particular species before planting, as some trees can grow to 80 feet.
Fan palms (Livistona) are native to China and Australia, but are found all over south Florida. Depending on the species, fan palms may grow to 50 feet and all have wide, wind-resistant leaves. The Australian fan palm (Livistona australis) is among the tallest varieties and can grow to 50 feet. This tree has a slender trunk with dark green leaves that may be up to 5 feet wide. The Chinese Fountain Palm (Livistona chinensis) is a slow-grower that tops out at 15 feet and has bright green, droopy leaves that can reach 6 feet across. Fan palms, which are hardy in zones 9 to 11, require full sun, regular water, slightly alkaline or acidic soil and have a high tolerance for drought.
Palmetto palms (Sabal) are large, slow-growing palms with fan-like leaves that attract wildlife, including birds and butterflies. The largest species, the Cabbage Palm (Sabal palmetto) can grow to 90 feet and is native from South Carolina to Florida. Among the smallest species is the Dwarf Palmetto (Sabal minor), which grows to 9 feet and leaves usually grow on individual stems. Depending on the species, palmetto palms are hardy in zones 8 to 11, and most require full sun and moderate water. These plants are not fussy about soil and tolerate salty air well.
Windmill palms (Trachycarpus fortunei) are unlike many other palms in that they prefer partial shade and can tolerate almost full shade. Native to China, the windmill palm is fast-growing, reaching up to 30 feet in the warmest climates, and can reach 60 feet in optimum conditions. However, it is more likely to top out at about 25 to 30 feet. Leaves are fan-like, can reach 3 feet across and grow on spiky stalks. The windmill palm, which is hardy in zones 8 to 11, requires regular water and is not fussy about soil type. This palm produces fragrant flowers in summer.