Types of Palm Trees with Identification Guide (Pictures, and Name): Small, Dwarf, and Tall Palm Tree Varieties

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Palm trees are synonymous with tropical beaches, warm sunny climates, and beautiful landscaped gardens. Palms are recognized by their fan-shaped or feather-like fronds (leaves) and fiber-covered trunks or stems. Most types of palms such as date palms and coconut palms grow in warm countries. However, some species of palms are tolerant of temperate climates and cold temperatures.

Palm trees are a type of evergreen plant belonging to the Arecaceae family of plants. There are over 2,600 species of palm trees that are grouped into over 200 genera. Palm trees are classified by their branchless stems and showy large evergreen leaves.

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Different types of palms also grow to varying heights. For example, types of coconut palms with their long wispy leaves can grow to nearly 100 ft. (30 m) tall. Date palms with their delicious sweet date fruits can grow to 75 ft. (22 m).

Some small palm trees are perfect for planting in gardens as they just reach heights of 6 to 9 ft. (1.8 – 2.7 m) tall. There are also some types of dwarf palm trees that grow well indoors in containers.

In this article, you will learn about tall, small, dwarf and indoor varieties of palm trees. You will learn how to identify the different varieties of palm trees and you’ll find their picture and common name. This will help choose the perfect palm plant for your garden or for growing indoors.

Palm Tree Facts

colombia palm

The Colombian Wax Palm is a type of very tall palm tree

Palm trees are grown for their ornamental appearance as well as for palm-derived products. For example, coconuts grow on palm trees and are used for their flesh, fibrous husks, and oil. Date palms trees are common in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern countries. Palm trees are also grown for their oil (palm oil) and their wood to make wicker furniture.

Some species of palm trees are among the tallest trees in the world. Although palm trees don’t grow as tall as Californian sequoia trees, the Wax Palm in Colombia can reach heights of 200 ft. (60 m). These trees are as tall as a 25-story building!

Not all palm trees are actually trees. Some of the more than 2,600 different types of palms are shrub-like evergreen plants and some are climbing palms.

Palm Tree Identification

palm tree identification features: tall skinny palm, spiky palm, thick palm

Identification features of palm trees include the leaf shape, height and the trunk appearance

Identifying species of palm trees is usually done by the distinctive shape of the palm fronds (leaves). Generally, leaves of palm trees are either pinnate (feather-like leaves) or palmate (fan-like fronds).

Another way to identify the type of palm tree is by the trunk shape. Some of the tallest species of palm trees have long slender single trunks and dwarf varieties have usually short fat palm trunks. Some smaller palm tree species may have clustered trunks with 3 or 4 short trunks growing together. There are also some dwarf palm trees that just have bushy pinnate fronds growing out the ground and don’t have any trunk at all.

You can also tell the species of palm tree by the appearance of the trunk. Some tall palm trees have smooth slender trunks. Depending on the species, these types of trees may have a ringed or bumpy appearance and have a grayish-brown color. Some types of palms have trunks covered in fiber or husks that make the trunk look hairy or spiky.

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Small Types of Palm Trees (Including Dwarf Palm Trees)

Most people who want to grow palm trees in their yard look for small or miniature types of palm trees. Usually species of miniature or small palm trees are defined as being under 12 ft. (3.6 m) tall which in terms of palms is quite short. Within the small or dwarf palm tree category there are two types of palm trees: bushy palm tree and small palm tree.

Here are some of the most common types of small, dwarf and bushy palm trees.

Pygmy Date Palm

Phoenix roebelenii is a smal,l dwarf spiky palm tree

The pygmy date palm is a type of little palm tree with spiky trunk

As its common name suggests, the pygmy date palm (Phoenix roebelenii) is a small-sized palm tree. This is a true type of palm in the family Arecaceae and it doesn’t grow taller than 10 ft. (3 m). The small palm tree can be identified by its single stem with long bushy pinnate fronds that measure around 3 ft. (1 m) long.

This species is an excellent ornamental flowering tree for subtropical landscaped gardens. The arching-drooping fronds are large and showy and almost hide the spiky-looking trunk. These short palm trees also grow well in containers.

Although pygmy palm trees produce dates, the fruit generally isn’t as tasty as dates that grow on larger date palms.

Pindo Palm

picture of Butia capitata (common name: Pindo palm tree)

Pindo palm tree is classified as a slow growing, cold-hardy and small palm tree variety

Also named the jelly palm, Pindo palm trees (Butia capitata) are a species of cold-hardy palms. Although the mature palms can reach a height of 15 to 20 ft. (4.5 – 6 m), they are a slow-growing species of palm. This means that they are suitable for gardens where small palm trees are required.

These short palm trees thrive in full sun or partial shade and are tolerant of most soil types. The fruit of the palm trees are a light orange to brown color and are used to make jelly – hence the name ‘jelly palm.’ The palm is especially attractive when it flowers with red, yellow, or white blossoms.

Triangle Palm

Neodypsis decaryi

The Triangle Palm has pinnate fronds that fan out from a single trunk

The Triangle Palm is the common name for the Dypsis decaryi palm which is in the small to medium-sized category of palm trees. The Triangle palm is identified by its extremely long pinnate fronds that grow up to 8 ft. (2.5 m) long. The interesting feature about the fronds is that the leaflets point out at 120° giving the fronds a triangular shape on the cross-section.

Looking at pictures of this palm tree, you can see another reason why it’s called the triangle palm. The leaves fan out from a single fibrous stem to form a distinct triangle shape. This a very ornamental type of palm tree for subtropical and tropical gardens.

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Mediterranean Dwarf Palm

Chamaerops humilis - multi trunk dwarf palm tree

The Mediterranean Dwarf Palm has few trunks and is small enough to suit many gardens

Also called the Mediterranean Pan palm, this species of flowering palm is a small-growing tree. The Mediterranean Dwarf Palm (Chamaerops humilis) has a few clustered trunks that make the palm look more like a shrub than a tree. In warm climates, this small palm species grows to between 10 and 20 ft. (2 – 5 m) tall.

The palm fronds are light green to silver-green in color and grow in a fan shape. The leaflets are between 20” and 30” (50 – 80 cm) wide and each leaf is up to 5 ft. (1.5 m) long.

The Mediterranean Dwarf palm is prized for its ornamental value and cold hardiness. Although the palm thrives in the hot sun, it can withstand temperatures as low as 10 °F (−12 °C). The elegant palm can give gardens a tropical look even if you live in temperate climates.

Mazari Palm

Nannorrhops ritchiana

The Mazari palm is cold hardy and looks more like a palm bush

The Mazari palm (Nannorrhops ritchiana) is more of a shrubby bush than a palm tree. Native to southwestern Asia, the Mazari palm has palmate (fan-like) leaves that grow on clusters of stems. The fan-shaped leaves can measure between 1 and 4 ft. (30 – 120 cm) long.

Apart from the striking look of its leaves, the other interesting feature of the palm is its color. The fronds are a silvery-green or silver-blue color and the long tapering leaflets give the palm a spiky appearance.

Like other types of cold-hardy palm trees, the Mazari palm needs hot summers to grow well. However, this species is also cold-hardy down to 10 °F (−12 °C).

Dwarf Majesty Palm

Ravenea hildebrandtii

The Dwarf Majesty palm tree is common both indoors and outdoors due to its miniature size

One of the most popular short palm trees for gardens and landscaping is the Dwarf Majesty palm tree (Ravenea hildebrandtii). This is a single-trunk palm with dark green pinnate leaves. The trunk is slender and is only 3” (7 cm) thick and the palm tree doesn’t grow taller than 8 ft. (2.4 m).

The large wide arching leaves look majestic as the focal point of any subtropical ornamental garden. The bright green leaves can grow up to 3 ft. (100 cm) long and have up to 100 leaflets growing along the stem. The contrast of the slim trunk and wide crown of foliage can grace any garden. You can also grow this palm in containers.

Christmas Palm Tree

Adonidia merrillii

The Christmas palm tree is a popular choice in many gardens

If you are looking for a miniature type of palm tree for your garden, then the Christmas palm (Adonidia merrillii) is an excellent choice. This ornamental palm tree is small when compared to other tall coconut or date palms. Some reports indicate that the Christmas palm tree is one of the most popular ornamental types of palm on the planet.

This small species of palm tree doesn’t grow taller than 25 ft. (7.6 m), however, some smaller varieties only grow to 15 ft. (4.5 m). Large pinnate palm leaves arch up from the top of the stem to form a beautiful crown of green foliage.

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Bottle Palm Tree

Hyophorbe lagenicaulis

The small ornamental Bottle palm tree has a thick short trunk

The Bottle Palm tree (Hyophorbe lagenicaulis) gets its name from the bottle-like shape of the short fat trunk. The identifying feature of this small palm tree is the enlarged trunk that looks swollen at the base. This helps to differentiate this palm species from the Spindle palm which swells in the middle of the fat trunk.

At the top of the 10 ft. (3 m) high trunk are 3 or 4 huge palm leaves. At maturity, these pinnate leaves can grow to 12 ft. (3.6 m) long and have leaflets that are 2 ft. (0.6 m) long.

These bottle palms grow well in states such as Florida and California. Or, you can grow them in containers and bring them indoors during winter.

Sago Palm

Cycas revoluta

The Sago palm is not a true type of palm tree

Although the Cycas revoluta is named the Sago palm, it is not a true variety of palm tree. The Sago palm belongs to the family Cycadaceae which may look like a palm but is botanically different. This ‘palm’ is identified by its short trunk and fern-like leaves.

Other Types of Palm Tree

Depending on your climate and type of garden you have, there are many species of tall palm trees that look majestic in subtropical and tropical gardens.

Canary Palm Tree

Picture of Phoenix canariensis (common name: Canary palm tree)

The beautiful Canary palm tree has a tall trunk with large leaves

One of the most elegant palm trees you can grow is the Canary palm tree (Phoenix canariensis). The palm tree is identified by the large pinnate leaves that look like an explosion of foliage at the top of tall palm trunks.

Depending on the climate, Canary palms grow to between 33 and 66 ft. (10 – 20 m) tall. The dark-green leaves are 13 – 20 ft. (4 – 6 m) long and form an elegant crown. Being a species of palm tree from the Phoenix genus, Canary palm trees also produce edible dates.

Sylvester Palm Tree

Phoenix sylvestris

The Sylvester palm has different species which vary in height

Related to the Canary palm tree is the Sylvester palm tree (Phoenix sylvestris). This date-producing palm tree is native to India, Pakistan, and Nepal. Some species of the Sylvester palm can be as short as 13 ft. (4 m) and others can grow up to 50 ft. (15 m). Large arching pinnate leaves grace the top of this single long stem.

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Chinese Fan Palm

Livistona chinensis

The ornamental Chinese Fan palm looks attractive in any landscape design

Native to Asia and the Far East, the Chinese Fan palm (Livistona chinensis) is a single-stemmed palm with ornate drooping leaves. The palm gets its name from the fan-shaped (palmate) leaves. These arch out from the top of tall thick stems that grow to between 30 and 50 ft. (9 – 15 m) high. The tree has a widespread of up to 12 ft. (4 m).

Palmetto Palm Tree

sabal palmetto

The Palmetto is a type of tall palm tree

Palmetto palms are a species of tall-growing, elegant palm tree in the genus Sabal, and subfamily Coryphoideae. Sabal Palmetto palms are identified by their striking spiky-looking leaves in a fan shape. The straight thick trunks of these tall palm trees stretch up to 65 ft. tall (20 m).

If these trees remind you of beaches in South Carolina and Florida, that is because Palmetto palms are the official tree of these states.

Mexican Palm tree

Washingtonia robusta

The Mexican Palm tree has tall and skinny trunk

Also called the ‘Mexican washingtonia’, this species of palm tree has a long narrow trunk and bushy-like leafy foliage at the top. The other name for the species Washingtonia robusta, the Mexican Fan palm, gives an indication of its leaf shape. Palmate fanned leaves measuring up to 3.3 ft. (1 m) long sit gracefully on top of 82-ft. tall (25-m tall) stems.

Clusters of edible fruit grow on this date palm, although the dates aren’t as tasty as dates from other types of palms.

Windmill Palm Tree

Trachycarpus fortunei

The Windmill palm tree is very hardy and has long slim trunk

The Windmill palm tree (Trachycarpus fortunei) is native to China and Japan and is one of the hardiest species of palm tree. This evergreen perennial palm tree has long slender trunks that can grow up to 66 ft. (20 m) tall. The fan-shaped leaves, rough trunk, and wispy palm appearance are identifying features of this tall palm tree.

Indoor Palm Trees

Many types of ornamental palm trees look beautiful indoors and can provide attractive greenery. Some types of indoor palms are good in containers in conservatories. Many types of indoor palm plants thrive at home, and their ‘mini’ or ‘baby’ size makes them a good addition to your houseplants.

Here are some types of palms that grow well indoors.

Parlor Palm

Chamaedorea elegans

The Parlor Palm is a small low maintenance tropical palm tree. It is also considered to be one of the lucky plants according to the Feng Shui

Chamaedorea elegans is the botanical name of the evergreen perennial that is known as the Parlor Palm. This small-growing tropical palm tree has reed-like slender stems with light-green pinnate leaves growing on them. Each stem has 6 or 7 leaves that give the palm a bushy appearance when a few grow together. Usually, in tropical outdoor areas, these small palm trees grow up to 9 ft. (2.7 m) tall.

However you don’t have to live in tropical countries to enjoy this beautiful elegant palm tree. The Parlor Palm is commonly sold as a houseplant and doesn’t grow taller than 6 ft. (1.8 m). It is also a very low-maintenance indoor evergreen that can even survive in low-light and dark conditions.

Kentia Palm Trees

Howea forsteriana

The Kentia palm is a slow growing tree that can be grown indoors

Although Kentia palm trees (Howea forsteriana) grow up to 40 ft. (12 m) outdoors, indoor varieties of this palm will max out at about 12 ft. (3 m) tall. Because they are a slow-growing species of palm, they are an excellent choice to grow indoors.

The thin green stems have large palm-shaped leaves that can provide a tropical atmosphere to any kind of room. The ability for Kentia palms to withstand low-light, infrequent watering, low humidity, and cool to warm temperatures make them a perfect indoor type of palm.

Lady Palm Trees

Rhapis excelsa

The Lady palm is a multi stem tree that you can grow at home

Rhapis excelsa is the botanical name for broad-leafed Lady palms that also thrive indoors. This palm is a type of multi-stemmed leafy plant that has a gorgeous bushy appearance and can grow up to 13 ft. (4 m) in height. The palmate leaves are dark green and glossy and have unique saw-tooth leaf tips. The multiple stems of this palm look similar to some types of indoor bamboo plants.

Ponytail Palm

Beaucarnea recurvata (commmon names: bottle palm tree or elephant foot tree)

The Ponytail palm tree can grow tall outdoors. But is also suitable to be grown in a container indoors as an indoor palm plant

The Ponytail palm tree (Beaucarnea recurvata) is one of the most ornamental indoor palms you can have in your room. Other common names for this plant include bottle palm tree or elephant foot tree.

The ponytail palm tree is neither a palm nor a tree. It is actually a type of succulent and it’s a member of the Agave family.

The Ponytail Palm plant can be identified by its thick brown swollen base of the stem. This distinctive feature is a reason why it’s also called the Elephant’s foot palm.

The end of the short fat palm stem is a fountain of beautiful thin green arching leaves. This bushy display of green foliage makes for an attractive indoor tropical palm in sunny locations.

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