One of the most cold hardy trees in US is the Rhapidophyllum hystrix. In simple words, I am talking about the needle palm tree. It can tolerate temperatures as low as -5°F. Not only can it survive subzero temperatures, but is also a low maintenance plant. This highly adaptable plant is also drought resistant. Thus, it is a favorite plant for gardeners and is suitable as an ornamental plant for offices and homes. It does not matter which zone you live in, you can add a tropical look to your surroundings with these trees. However, these plants are a bit rare as their growth rate is extremely slow. This makes them hard to find. If you own a needle palm or planning to bring home one, it is important you read a bit about its care. This will help your plant flourish and live a long life.
The needle palm tree is a beautiful tree, native to southeastern United States. It can grow about 7 to 10 feet tall and does not have a trunk as such. Instead it has stems that grow tightly together from a single base. It is covered in sharp, brown or black needles along its trunk. It can be propagated using seeds as well as division of clumps. The leaves are palmate or fan shaped. They are deep green in color and about 2 feet long and 4 feet wide. In spring, the plant produces yellow to brownish flowers that grow in clusters. It is a dioecious tree, where the male and female flowers grow on separate plants. Thus, it becomes very difficult to propagate the plant sexually. Until and unless you have both the male and female plants growing close together, sexual propagation is not possible. The fruits formed are fuzzy, reddish brown in color which are about an inch in size and grow close to the petiole.
How to Care
Caring for the plant begins the minute you bring one home. When planting the tree, make sure you dig the hole wide and deep. The hole should be dug near a partially shaded area or an area that receives full sunlight. The soil should be moist and well drained. Add organic compost to the hole before planting the sapling. Now, place the tree into the hole. Spread the roots around, so that they have room to spread and grow. The best time to plant needle palms is in spring or summer. Add a little soil to the hole, then pat it down well. Pour a bit of water, then add another layer of soil. Pat it down and pour water. Continue adding soil and water, till you fill the hole to ground level. Now, add a bit of palm tree fertilizer and mulch straw or hay around the base of the plant. You need to add water every day for the first 3 months. Then, water once a week during the first year of the tree in your garden. Although the plant is drought resistant, it requires water to establish itself the first year. During winter, you should wrap the trunk with a burlap wrap and mulch the base about 2 to 4 inches. This will protect the tree from cold and help it in extreme temperatures. When the temperatures turn warm, you can remove the burlap wrap.
As you can see, this low maintenance tree does not require much care. Just a little bit of your attention will keep it happy and growing. As it is a slow growing plant, you will find that it grows just a few feet each year. Add a streak of tropic to your garden, by planting this somewhat hard to find, needle palm tree.