How to Landscape With Palm Trees in Greater Austin

House with clay roof surrounded by bushes, flowers, and palm trees

The Greater Austin area has the best of both worlds. It’s equal parts bustling urban city and quaint southwestern town. There’s one flaw, though: This landlocked area has nothing in the way of a tropical beach getaway.

You may be a four-hour drive from the nearest beach, but that doesn’t mean you can’t relax under the shade of a palm tree, sipping something sweet from a coconut. With these tips and ideas on how to landscape with palm trees in Greater Austin, we’re bringing the beach to you.

Palm Trees to Plant in Greater Austin

If you live in Central Texas, you already know winters here can get pretty cold, with temperatures dropping as low as 15 degrees. While this may seem warm compared to more northern cities, it’s still too cold for most types of palm trees to survive.

Greater Austin (Austin, Round Rock, Cedar Park, Georgetown) falls under USDA Hardiness Zone 8b. That means that of the 2,500+ species of palms in the world, your choices are limited to the especially cold-hardy varieties. These include the Texas natives Sabal mexicana and Sabal minor.

Don’t despair just yet, though. You still have plenty of options for incorporating palm trees into your Austin landscape in creative ways. We’ve got five suggestions for how to do just that.

1. Beat the Texas heat with palm trees for shade

A pool and hot tub behind a resort with a clump of palm trees casting shade
Image Credit: PIXNIO

If you have a swimming pool, patio, or other outdoor space where you like to hang out during the summer, tall palm trees could be your new best friend. Their arching fronds create just enough shade for you to have fun in the sun without burning up.

Palm trees are great for shade near pools or other structures because of their non-invasive roots, which don’t threaten damage to plumbing or pavement. Palm trees also shed rarely, so you won’t have to clean up leaves every time you want to use your outdoor living space.

With palm trees for shade, your backyard will have the tropical feel of an island resort on the sunny shores of South Florida.

Central Texas-friendly palms for this landscape design:

  • California fan palm (Washingtonia filifera)
  • Windmill palm (Trachycarpus fortunei)
  • Pindo palm (Butia capitata)

2. Plant small palms in pots that come inside for winter

Small palm tree in a concrete pot against a concrete wall and chain-link fence
Image Credit: Pixy.org

If you want a wider selection of palms than just the ones that can survive Austin’s winter, planting a container garden is a good idea. You can arrange your potted small palms in your yard however you want. When temperatures start to drop, bring them inside and keep them as houseplants for a few months to protect them from freezing.

With this landscape design, you won’t have to worry so much about a palm variety’s cold-hardiness. Just make sure you select a palm that stays small or a slow grower that would take several years to grow too large for a pot.

Pro tip: Container gardens are a great landscaping solution for urban homes with no yard. You can set up your little slice of paradise on a sidewalk, your rooftop, or anywhere else you can fit a few palm trees.

Central Texas-friendly palms for this landscape design:

  • Pygmy date palm (Phoenix roebelenii)
  • Lady palm (Rhapis excelsa)
  • Ponytail palm (Beaucarnea recurvata)

3. Pair low-maintenance succulents and palm trees

Succulents and palm trees in front of a blue house
Image Credit: Pikrepo

Because they both love full sun, palm trees and succulents are the perfect pair to plant together. Choose a drought-tolerant species of palm, and you’ll hardly (if ever) have to worry about watering your garden.

Succulents and palm trees don’t only grow well together, they also make a visually intriguing landscape with contrasting textures. The palm’s feathery fronds offset the hard, angular shapes of most succulents.

Central Texas-friendly palms for this landscape design:

  • Sabal palm (Sabal palmetto)
  • Mexican palmetto (Sabal mexicana)
  • Chilean wine palm (Jubaea chilensis)

4. Create a privacy hedge of clumping palm trees

Close-up image of a large bush-like palm
Image Credit: “Chamaerops humilis” by David J. Stang, Wikimedia Commons CC 4.0

Many clumping species of palm trees are cold-hardy enough to thrive in the Greater Austin area. Clumping varieties, such as the European fan palm pictured above, have multiple trunks instead of the usual single trunk. As a result, their fronds grow as a thick wall that’s perfect for a privacy hedge.

If you want to keep prying eyes out of your front yard, backyard, swimming pool area, or windows, a privacy hedge made of palm trees is a beautiful and living alternative to fencing.

Central Texas-friendly palms for this landscape design:

  • Needle palm (Rhapidophyllum hystrix)
  • Fishtail palm (Caryota mitis)
  • European fan palm aka Mediterranean fan palm (Chamaerops humilis)

5. Use a small palm as a focal point in your flower garden

Four small palm trees planted in the middle of a flower bed
Image Credit: Pxfuel

Tired of planting the same flowers as everyone else on your block? Give your garden a tropical look with a palm tree centerpiece. Small palm trees really pop when nestled among colorful flowers and shrubs. Try pairing your palm with native Austin plants such as Texas sage, Hill Country penstemon, or Texas red yucca.

Add mulch to your new flower bed to help preserve the soil’s moisture and tie your palm tree together with the other plants as one cohesive feature.

Central Texas-friendly palms for this landscape design:

  • Mazari palm (Nannorrhops ritchiana)
  • Dwarf palmetto (Sabal minor)
  • Sago palm (Cycas revoluta) (actually a cycad, not a true palm)

FAQ about landscaping with palm trees in Greater Austin

How can I tell if my palm tree is dying?

If the palm leaves begin to droop and/or turn yellow, your palm tree is in trouble. But if there’s still green on the tree, no matter how little, it’s not dead yet and still has a fighting chance.

To keep your palm tree healthy, make sure it’s planted in the right kind of soil, that it’s getting enough (but not too much) water, and that the level of sun exposure is appropriate for that species. You should also check your tree for pests regularly.

How much do palm trees cost in Texas?

If you buy a fledgling palm tree (usually in a 3-gallon pot), you’ll pay anywhere from $20 to $50. Buying a young tree is an easy way to save money, but remember that palm trees are slow growers. If you don’t want to wait a few years for your tree to mature, you’ll have to drop some bigger bucks.

Mature palm trees are often priced by the height of their trunk. Tall palms (about 10-20 feet in this zone) typically cost around $1,000, depending on the species. Mature small palms run at about $100.

When to Hire a Landscaping Professional

If none of these palm tree-centered landscape design ideas seems like the right fit for your home, enlist the help of a professional landscaper. A pro can map out a personalized landscape suited to your specific property and needs.

Professional landscapers can help you select the right type of palm tree, as well. Many local nurseries stock species of palms that won’t survive in Austin, and a pro can help you weed out those varieties.

Next time you feel the urge for a beachy getaway, don’t bother booking a hotel. With palm trees in your Greater Austin landscape, you can get the feel of the tropics simply by stepping outside your front door.

Main Image Credit: Pxfuel

Jordan Ardoin

Jordan Ardoin

Jordan Ardoin is a writer and indoor plant enthusiast hailing from Florida. She enjoys reading fantasy novels, cuddling with her bulldog, and collecting succulents (because they’re so hard for her to kill).