Central Florida includes two major metropolitan areas, inland Orlando and the coastal Tampa Bay area. This region is in USDA Plant Hardiness Zone 9, and has hot, humid summers and temperate winters, during which temperatures may drop to 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Ocala is considered the northernmost part of the Central Florida region, which runs south to about Lake Okeechobee. Palm trees are ubiquitous throughout Florida and the central part of the state is no exception. Cabbage palms, fan palms and windmill palms all grow well in this area.
The cabbage palm (Sabal palmetto), which is the Florida state tree, has a slender trunk and globe-shaped head with fan palm fronds. These trees can grow to 90 feet and are native to Florida and South Carolina. Also known as the sabal palm or cabbage palmetto, the cabbage palm is drought and salt tolerant. The cabbage palm is not fussy about soil, thrives in full sun to partial shade and requires regular water.
The fan palm (Washingtonia) is native to California, and both the California (Washingtonia filifera) and Mexican (Washingtonia robusta) varieties fare well in central Florida. The California variety has a thick trunk and fronds that can reach 6 feet. This tree can grow to 60 feet. The Mexican variety is a taller (up to 100 feet) tree with a more slender trunk and shorter fronds. Mexican palms can be identified by the red streak on the underside of the leaf stalk. Neither variety is fussy about soil and both require full sun and regular to little water.
The windmill palm (Traachycarpus fortunei) is native to China and is among the more cold-hardy palms (10 degrees Fahrenheit). This tree has a trunk that is thicker at the top than the bottom and palm leaves may be 3 feet across. The leaves are somewhat fragile and may be torn by high winds. In warmer areas, the windmill palm can reach 60 feet but most are significantly shorter. These trees require full sun to partial shade and regular water and are not fussy about soil.
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