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Garden Talk


Sabal minor leaf

Horticultural Highlight: Dwarf palmetto

Nick Schwab

In this series, the staff of Duke Gardens highlights plants you’ll find within our 55-acre living collection. This week, assistant horticulturist Nick Schwab features his favorite cold hardy palm.

Sabal minor with flowers

Botanical name: Sabal minor
Common name:  Dwarf palmetto
Family name: Arecaceae (Palm Family)
Plant type: Shrub
Native range: Southeastern U.S.
Locations in Duke Gardens: Doris Duke Center Gardens, Blomquist Garden of Native Plants, Historic Gardens
USDA Hardiness Zones: 7-10
Growing conditions: Full sun to part shade

Sabal minor is my favorite cold hardy palm that we grow here in zone 7a. We don’t have a whole lot of palms to choose from, but Sabal minor stands out because of its ability to withstand a variety of planting conditions. It can grow in swamp like conditions or somewhere dry as a desert.  This palm is evergreen and looks great all year long with minimal effort.

I am the beekeeper on staff, so I am biased toward plants that bees enjoy, and Sabal minor is no exception. Throughout summer this plant is in full bloom and covered in honeybees. Once summer is over and winter is upon us the fruit adds great winter interest. 

Sabal minor in snow

Keep an eye out for this interesting shrub in any season at Duke Gardens!

Photos by Jason Holmes (top)
and Nick Schwab (left).  

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