Palmetto Palm Tree
Palmetto, or palmetto palm, is a common name used for several different palms that are commonly used in home landscapes. Most are drought-tolerant and grow well in full sun but they can range from 10 to 70 feet tall and 6 to 18 feet wide.
The size depends on the variety and location. Their hardiness also varies by species, with some being hardy as far north as North Carolina. Most are low maintenance once established and hold up well to drought and other tough conditions.
Most palms in the Sabal genus don't produce a large canopy, making them valuable as focal points that don't block the sun. When strategically planted, they can shade roofs and buildings to help keep structures cool in summer and reduce air-conditioning bills. Their large fronds can cause damage if they fall on things, so consider that when locating one.
Small species are best treated as large shrubs and can be used as informal hedges or barrier plants. They're also a good option for the back of the border, especially if your landscape style leans toward tropical or eclectic.
Palms in the Sabal genus typically do best in hot climates that see full sun (at least 6 hours of direct sun per day) and have well-drained soil. They will tolerate partial shade, but won't grow as quickly. The trees also tend to suffer in soil that has a high clay content. If your ground is more clay than loam, plant these in raised mounds or liberally amend the holes with organic matter—such as peat, coconut coir, or compost—to improve drainage.
These slow-growing palms don't require pruning, but fronds do drop at maturity. In average soil, these palms usually don't require fertilization, but in nutrient-poor or especially sandy soil, they can benefit from a spring application of a fertilizer formulated for use on palms. Be sure to follow instructions on the packaging.
Spreading a 3- to 4-inch-deep layer of mulch over the soil at planting time helps cut back on competition from weeds and provides a barrier that protects the trunks from lawn mower or string trimmer damage.
If you're growing one of these trees at the northern end of its hardiness range, it helps to plant it in a protected spot, such as near a south-facing wall, to help give it extra winter protection. Some gardeners wrap the palms in burlap then fill it with leaves to provide extra protection during winter.
More Varieties of Palmetto
Belize thatch palm
One of the fastest-growing palms in the Sabal genus, this palm is native to Central and South America and features large fronds. In frost-free areas, it can reach 60 feet tall. Zone 10
Florida's state tree, cabbage palm is also called swamp palm and is native to North America. It can reach as tall as 80 feet in ideal conditions, but in most home landscapes, it tops out around 20 feet tall. Zones 9-10
Dwarf palmetto palm
The hardiest species, this shrubby palm reaches 10 feet tall and has fronds to 5 feet long. Zones 7-10
Puerto Rico hat palm
This majestic species can reach 60 feet tall and has a smooth trunk that sets it apart from most other Sabal genus. Zones 9-10