Palm Trees in Texas
The primary limiting factor for growing palm trees in Texas is the extent of winter cold. Palms that grow with a trunk are "tree-like," with a minimum mature height of 5 feet. An organic rich, moist, well-draining, non-alkaline soil favors best growth and aesthetics for Texas palm trees. Many more palms prosper in the warm climate nearest the Gulf Coast than farther north.
The Panhandle: USDA Zone 6
The northernmost reaches of the Texas Panhandle experience the coldest winter weather in the state. Reaching lows to -10 degree F, no trunk-growing palm "trees" grow well here without lots of care and intensive protection by gardeners. The needle palm (Rhapidophyllum hystrix, USDA zones 6b-10) is a good cold-hardy Texas palm tree alternative, but it's a slow-grower and tops out around 6 feet.
North Texas: USDA Zone 7
North Texas, the vast interior of central and north Texas in USDA Hardiness Zone 7, includes the cities of Abilene, Lubbock and Odessa. One of the best palm tree choices for this region is the windmill palm (Trachycarpus fortunei, USDA zones 7-11), which survives winter much better if sheltered from the winter winds. The North Carolina State Extension explains that this palm's fronds, which spiral in all directions, is the reason for its common name. Only in warm microclimates on the southern side of buildings would a European fan palm (Chamaerops humilis, zones 7b-11) perhaps grow nicely, and then only in the warmer parts of Zone 7.
Southeast Texas: USDA Zone 8
Winter's low temperatures in Zone 8 usually get no colder than 10 degrees, increasing the number of palm tree species suitable to grow and enjoy. In Austin, Tyler, El Paso and Lufkin, cabbage palms (Sabal palmetto, zones 7b-11) grow with minimal winter frond browning. Other tree-like palm species possibly growing well in southern Texas include the European fan palm (Chamaerops humilis, zones 8-11) and Mexican blue palm (Brahea armata, zones 8-11) and, in the warmest areas, the hardy bamboo palm (Chamaedorea microspadix, zones 8-11).
Coastal and Subtropical Texas: Zone 9
The long, hot growing season with mild winters in USDA Zone 9 along coastal Texas allows gardeners to enjoy the widest selection of tree-like palms in their landscapes. Palm trees in Houston and Corpus Christi include all the palms listed for Southeast Texas (USDA Zone 8).
If soils are kept dry during the winter months, Canary Island date palm (Phoenix canariensis, zones 9-11) is a small, slow-growing specimen. The Texas A&M AgriLife Extension notes that individual fronds may reach lengths up to 10 feet. In addition, many more species of sabal palm (Sabal spp.) and windmill palm (Trachycarpus spp.) grow. Chinese fan palm (Livistona chinensis, zones 9-11) and ribbon palm (Livistona decora, zones 9-11) add an elegant touch to gardens with their large fan-like fronds that drop off the trunk.
Although occasional warm winters coax some plant enthusiasts to try permanently growing queen palms (Syagrus romanzoffiana, zones 10-11) and foxtail palms (Wodyetia bifurcata, zones 10-11), they succumb to freezes and look beat and tattered when temperatures drop below 30 degrees. Prolonged Arctic cold along the Texas Gulf Coast will fully kill these two palm species, too.