Are There Palm Trees in Virginia: Everything You Need to Know

Virginia’s Atlantic beaches are a big draw for tourists and residents in the summer. Those who flock to the state for the summer months notice a feature along the coast that they typically associate with the other side of the country: palm trees. 

That leads visitors to ask a few questions. Are there palm trees in Virginia? We will answer that below.

Do Any Palm Trees Grow in Virginia?

Are There Palm Trees in Virginia

While Palm Trees are not native to Virginia, certain trees can grow in the climate. 

In Virginia’s warmer climes, you can find trees such as the needle palm, pindo palm, Mediterranean fan palm, cabbage palm, and Mexican fan palm

These trees reach their peak growth in the warmer months of spring and summer, but they are often in an unhealthy state as the intense winter coastal wind from the Atlantic causes significant damage to them and their leaves. 

The Cabbage palm tree typically grows best in Virginia because of its ability to endure cold weather and survive in several soil conditions. Though it will not survive winters where temperatures drop below 10 degrees Fahrenheit, it will make it through winters in coastal areas, where temperatures are typically warmed slightly by the water. 

The other palms that grow well in Virginia are the windmill palm and the pindo palm. Both are not native to the state but come from colder climates and can adjust to Virginia’s winters, with mature pindo palms even having the ability to survive temperatures of 0 degrees Fahrenheit.

Are Palm Trees Native to Virginia?

Are There Palm Trees in Virginia

Palm trees are not indigenous to Virginia, though some islands, beaches, and inland areas can sustain them, and some grow naturally now. 

Palm trees did not pop up or evolve in this state because of its colder zones and climate, which famously could not produce food for the first European settlers of the United States. Unfortunately, when people plant aesthetically pleasing palm trees suited to different conditions, such as coconut palm, they often do not make it through the year. 

On the East Coast of the United States, palm trees are native to Florida, South Carolina, and other further southern states with warmer climates and soil conditions more suitable for palm trees.

Instead, Virginia imported palms such as the windmill palm from China, Mexican fan palm from Mexico, and cabbage palm from Florida in the past. Some of these palm trees now grow naturally on their beaches.

Can Palm Trees Grow Outside All Year in Virginia?

Are There Palm Trees in Virginia

The short answer to this question is no. That is because, among the general population of palm trees planted in Virginia, the survival rate is about 50% percent because of the winter conditions.

Palm trees only grow outside in the spring and summer months in Virginia. The growing season generally stops in fall, when the trees start suffering due to lower temperatures and more intense winds. 

With younger trees, however, some growers will remove them from the ground in the winter to put them in a greenhouse to protect them so they can keep growing. Other families or palm tree owners will find ways to protect them from the cold so they can stay alive through the winter, but these are the exception. 

Are There Palm Trees in Virginia: Summary

In summary, yes, there are palm trees in Virginia. They can grow in this beautiful state, but it takes some work and some extra resilient qualities in the trees to survive. Some beaches or resorts plant trees they know will not make it through winter, but younger or smaller trees are sometimes transported to other environments to protect them. 

Virginia’s cold zones are difficult to live in for palm trees. Certain imported species can make it work, and Virginians find ways to take care of younger trees to keep them going. Once grown, these trees are among the most impressive sights to see in Virginia.