Palms & Citrus Trees Near Charlotte, NC?

lindailJanuary 24, 2008

Just wondering of palm trees and or citrus trees can be grown in the area around Charlotte, NC or does it get too cold in the winter months there?


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I'm in Raleigh, 3 hours east of Charlotte and there are plenty of palms in this area. Most prominent is the Chinese Windmill Palm. There are some in the local parks that are close to 25 feet tall. You can sometimes see Needle Palms which are more of a clumper, but I've seen some that are over head high. And plenty of people have Sabal minor or Palmetto which can get pretty tall. I've even seen them self sow. None of these require any protection in the winter, nor do they need special siting to handle winter. I have seen some of the other palm - I've always called it Jelly Palm, don't remember its scientific name - but it doesn't do as well this farm north and must be planted up near a house wall or given some sort of protection.

Ordinarily I would say that citrus is much more limited but I recently attended a lecture on cold hardy citrus and saw many photos of large fruiting trees in places as cold or colder than here. The most reliable is the little Poncirus or Trifoliate Orange which is pretty much inedible. But the flowers are fragrant and the fruit stay on the tree all winter after the leaves have fallen off which is a pretty winter display. There are all sorts of winter hardy crosses out there but they are hard to find (not sure I've ever seen them for sale at a garden center). Believe it or not, there are people picking their own oranges and grapefruit in this area! But you have to experiment with lots of seedlings to find the one that will handle your conditions and then wait for it to get large enough to fruit. Your best bet would be to check out the Citrus forum here on GW and to locate some of the cold hardy citrus growers in this area for seedlings.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2008 at 9:29AM
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dottie_in_charlotte(z7-8 NC)

Citrus I believe needs to be potted and hauled in during most of the winter.
I see palms in many places. There's a tennis center on Rea Rd near the Union Cty line that has tall palms. Even though we had the drought, they seem to be doing fine. A friend with a house in Ballantyne has tall palms in their front yard.
We can't plant palms in my neighborhood (architectural/landscape rules).

There was, last year, a site on Providence Rd. west side in Union Cty. that was selling palm trees. Looked like a load of weird telephone poles laying on the ground.
They do grow here if you can get the right soil mix and location. They do look ugly all braced and staked until they grow enough root to support the height.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2008 at 11:27AM
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Ralph Whisnant(z7b-8 NC)

As Triangle John related, a recent Thursday night speaker at the J C Raulston Arboretum here in Raleigh talked about examples of people that are growing regular grapefruit and Mandaran Orange trees here in the Carolinas. He suggested that these may be chance seedlings that have unusual hardiness. Most of his talk was about the many new hybrids between Hardy Orange, Poncirus trifoliata, and various forms of orange, lemon, etc. These new hybrids are grafted onto Poncirus to provide dwarfing and additional hardiness. Many of these new hybrids were developed near Aiken, SC and are available for sale from Woodlanders Nursery ( J C Raulston Arboretum has a specimen of Poncirus trifoliata 'Flying Dragon' that has been thriving there for many years, but none of the new hybrids. There is also at JCRA a Citrus ichangensis, another hardy citrus from China and related to the Kaffir lime.
The arboretum also has a number of palms that are doing well, including Sabal minor, S. mexicana, S. palmetto, Chamaerops humilis and possibly others. As suggested above, the Citrus and Palm/Cyclad forums here on Garden Web can probably offer more examples of what will grow in our area.

Here is a link that might be useful: Woodlanders' Hardy Citrus

    Bookmark   January 25, 2008 at 12:43PM
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I first discovered the fabulous Poncirus trifoliata at the NC zoo in Asheboro. They have several of them (around the elephant exhibit, and near the aviary I believe) and they seem to be doing well, blooming in the summer and fruiting around October or so. I have a couple of year-old seedlings at present, which I was afraid to leave out on the balcony since they're so small and in pots. I might chance it next year, and I hope to get them in the ground someday when I own some ground. So ask me in five to ten years and I'll tell you how that worked out.

I've had a calamondin since last spring that is currently indoors "surviving" until it gets warmer. It seemed very happy outside, and should be able to be kept small to facilitate hauling it in when it gets cold.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2008 at 8:05PM
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Ralph Whisnant(z7b-8 NC)

Lalibellule, your Poncirus trifoliata should be hardy to minus 20 degrees F. Since it has such wicked thorns, it will soon become harder to find a convenient place to keep them inside. Fortunately, they are relatively slow growing, though they can eventually reach 20 feet in height. The 'Flying Dragon' cultivar that is growing at the J C Raulston Arboretum has very contorted branches and reportedly only gets 6 - 8 feet tall.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2008 at 10:32PM
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I know, they were just so small... ;) They'll stay out next year. Their parent fruit was from a small, contorted, curved-thorned (presumably FD) tree, so I'm hoping they'll be the same. The thorns are curved, but no branches so far, so we'll see (the trunks are pretty straight). Even if they keep growing almost a foot a year I've got a few years before they're unmanageable.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2008 at 12:36PM
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There was an article in the August 2007 Carolina Gardener magazine about someon in Charlotte that grows 50 species of palm trees. On really cold nights he wraps the trees and puts Christmas lights on them. I'll be glad to try and scan the article and email it to you if you are interested.


    Bookmark   February 2, 2008 at 1:56PM
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tamelask(z8a NC)

flying dragon does come true from seed- you should get the nice curves. mine curls and curves more the longer the branches get. mine's in a 32 gallon tub, and is about 6' tall. it's been very very happy there and bulked up, but not added much height since we got it about 5 yrs ago. i just noticed a seedling recently, so i'll pot if up for a swap. on a side note- mine drops its fruit in late fall- i don't know if they all do that or not. but the branches are divine with or without fruit throughout the winter.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2008 at 11:06AM
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Many palms grow in Charlotte! The first thing to remember is that despite what the USDA map says, CLT is not a 7b, but an 8a-8b. Until this past winter, we had not dropped below 18 degrees in some twenty years.

The palms that grow here include: windmill, cabbage palmetto, pindo, saw palmetto, European fan palm and needle palm. Cycas revoluta (misnomer of Sago palm) also does well.

Poncirrus trifoliata 'Flying Dragon' does excellently in Charlotte. I have had one in the ground since 1997, and it has grown so big that it requires annual pruning. I have dozens if not hundreds of little ones all over the yard, so if anyone wants some, you may contact me through the Crescent Ridge Dawn Redwoods Preserve Just hit the contact button.

I'll let you have as many as you want for a steal, just to get rid of some of them. In addition to the showy flowers and inedible fruit, they make an excellent under-window deterrent plant. They are used in China as living livestock fences; even pigs cannot get through.

Here is a link that might be useful: Crescent Ridge Dawn Redwoods Preserve

    Bookmark   August 11, 2014 at 1:31PM
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