NZ Palms, Cycads and Subtropical Plants

Palms that Like the Sun for New Zealand.

In many ways the notion of the archetypal palm tree is of one thriving in a desert oasis. In truth that’s rarely the case with many palm trees preferring much less harsh conditions. Here we’ve picked out a few palm trees that like the sun.

Native to Mexico the Ponytail Palm (Beaucarnea recurvata) is perfectly suited to sunny conditions
The Mexican Blue Palm (Brahea armata) thrives in sunny, hot and dry locations
The Guadalupe Palm (Brahea edulis) is native to sunny Mexico
The Jelly Palm (Butia capitata) thrives in hot, sunny places
Coming from the Mediterranean Basin the Mediterranean Fan Palm (Chamaerops humilis) definitely likes the sun
Date palms growing in full sun

Howea forsteriana

It may seem a little strange placing the graceful Kentia palm in the same category as other tough desert palms but the Kentia Palm takes hot sun better than any other feather leaf palm.

For such a delicate looking palm the Kentia Palm (Howea forsteriana) is very tolerant of the sun
The Australian Cabbage Palm (Livistona australis) is from sunny East Coast Australia
Coming from North Queensland the Ribbon Fan Palm (Livistona decipiens) just loves the hot sunshine

Livistona australis and Livistona decipiens

These two palms both originate in Australia (Livistona australis, the Australian Cabbage Palm predominantly along the NSW coast and Livistona decipiens, the Ribbon Fan Palm from North Queensland) so it’s entirely to be expected that they’ll take both sun and hot, dry conditions.

The Date Palm (Phoenix dactylifera) comes from the sunny Arabian Desert
The Senegal Date Palm (Phoenix reclinata), like most Phoenix species, thrives in the sun
Like most blue/grey palms the Dwarf Palmetto Palm (Sabal minor) is very tolerant of hot, sunny conditions
Another sun-hardy palm is the Palmetto Palm (Sabal palmetto)

Sabal minor and Sabal palmetto

These two Sabal palms originate in the south-eastern US so are used to hot sun, hot drying winds as well as humidity (not to mention biting cold). Both species grow best in locations where they receive an abundance of sun and heat. Don’t be put off however – even in Northland’s mild and cloudy climate these palms grow well.

The Queen Palm (Syagrus romanzoffiana) has been grown in hot, sunny California for over a century
Originating from Baja California the Mexican Cotton Palm (Washingtonia robusta) is perfect for sunny climes

© NZ Palms, Cycads and Subtropical Plants 2019

Beaucarnea recurvata

Okay, it’s not a palm tree it’s a member of the lily family but let’s not let that distract us. What matters is that the Ponytail Palm absolutely adores the sun. It’s tough, drought tolerant and handles neglect. Best of all the new leaves of some varieties turn a deep red in the sun.


Brahea armata and Brahea edulis

Two palms just perfect for sunny conditions. Brahea armata, the Mexican Blue Palm, and Brahea edulis, the Guadalupe Palm, both thrive in full sun. The silver-blue Brahea armata needs dry conditions while Brahea edulis is much more tolerant of high humidity. The Guadalupe Palm is a great plant if you can find one. Think of it as a slower growing, tougher Washingtonia robusta.

Butia capitata

Coming from the grasslands of Argentina the Jelly Palm is well used to harsh sun. As with many blue/grey/silver palms it doesn’t burn and takes tough conditions with ease.


Chamaerops humilis

Not surprisingly for a palm that originates from around Southern Europe and North Africa the Mediterranean Fan Palm is well suited to hot, sunny conditions. Again, the tough silver-green leaves indicate greater tolerance to hot conditions.

Phoenix dactylifera

Several species of Phoenix come from hot, sunny locations but none is more synonymous with the desert oasis than the Date Palm, Phoenix dactylifera. Blue/grey leaves and stiff fronds; this is the palm of the Arabian Desert.


Phoenix reclinata

Another species of Phoenix that loves hot, sunny weather is the Senegal Date Palm. Despite its name this is a palm that’s found all over tropical Africa. Mature plants are a striking sight varying from those with graceful, thin trunks to monsters with multiple trunks each every bit as thick as a Canary Island Date Palm.

Syagrus romanzoffiana

The Queen Palm is another plant that seems just too delicate to be considered a sun hardy palm but it’s a proven performer in hot, dry climates. Long before it was popularised in New Zealand it was grown as a landscape palm in Los Angeles and desert states in the American south. Genetically the Queen Palm is related to both the Jelly Palm and Coconut Palm which may explain its tolerance of the sun.


Washingtonia robusta

Originating in northwest Mexico in arid desert regions the Mexican Cotton Palm is naturally suited to hot, sunny conditions. The secret to good growth however is plenty of water. There’s a second species better suited to truly arid conditions, Washingtonia filifera, which succeeds on the east coast of the North Island.