Sabal Palmetto

The Sabal Palmetto is a beautiful fan palm with glossy green leaves that is drought, wind, cold and salt water spray tolerant.

It is a very popular tree in the southern U.S. where it originates.

Easy to grow.

Thrives in many locations and soils.

It is the state tree for both Florida and South Carolina making it a popular site in those areas.

Sabal PalmettoSabal Palmetto

Different Kinds

The Sabal palm now has 2 different strains growing in the southern states.

The original is easily found in the wild flourishing even right on the edge of the ocean.

The new strain is called the Sabal Palmetto “Lisa.”

It has all the same characteristics and tolerances of the original tree but the leaves are different in shape and presentation.

They also carry many nicknames including:

  • Cabbage Palm,
  • Cabbage Palmetto,
  • Sabal Palm
  • Palmetto Palm 

just to name a few.

It is a member of the overall Sabal Palm family and belongs to the Palmetto branch of that family.

There are 14 other species included in the palmetto branch.

Sabal Palmetto--Cabbage Palm TreeSabal Palmetto--Cabbage Palm Tree

Appearance

These palms can get quite large, normally reaching 60 plus feet and occasionally as much as almost 100 feet.

There can be some confusion in identification because of the looks of the trunk.

They can display both a smooth trunk with no attached leaf boots and also a rough looking trunk when the leaf boots- after pruning –have remained attached to the tree.

Sabal (Lisa) Palmetto Hybrid Cabbage Palm TreeSabal (Lisa) Palmetto Hybrid Cabbage Palm Tree

CC Original photo by:  Zeeth :   


The original Sabal Palmetto has large glossy green fan leaves that have long points at the end of them and a smaller center to the fan.

The Lisa variety has a more solid looking leaf.

No long or hanging points.

The points on her leaves are very minimal and giving the appearance of a tougher, fuller looking fan.


Quick info: Cabbage palm: 

Scientific name Sabal palmetto

  • 60-90 ft tall, 12 ft wide, single trunk
  • minimum temp 22°F     zones 8-11
  • full sun, drought and salt tolerant
  • growth rate slow to medium in any well drained soil
Cabbage Palm Tree - Medium

Sabal Palmetto Growth and Care

Sabal Palmettos- Cabbage Palm Trees on Shore Next to OceanSabal Palmettos- Cabbage Palm Trees on Shore Next to Ocean

This palmetto is an easy keeper. It can tolerate colder temperatures to 7°F or -13°C.

Its ability to withstand salt spray from the ocean, standing in water and drought make it popular for landscapes and ocean fronts.

They also will withstand high winds if not over pruned. More leaves equals better wind tolerance.

They prefer full sun to part sun, regular light watering and fertilizer every couple of months will help to keep them looking their b

Well drained soil will work but isn’t really necessary. That’s one of the reasons for the name swamp cabbage.

They do fine in a swampy location.

They can be cultivated from seed, but most just dig up a smaller, healthy specimen from the wild.

They take some time to get established so this shortens the need to wait for the landscapes to develop from seed.

Palm Heart

The Sabal Palmetto is well known for its use as palm heart-in it's case-sometimes called swamp cabbage.

The heart or the new leaf bud (also called terminal bud) is cut from the tree and used in salads.

The bud where all the new leaves are formed is very tender and tastes something like an artichoke. They are also grown commercially, where they are cut, and canned for food.

If the new bud is taken from the tree, it is unable to grow any new leaves and will eventually die. It really is the heart of the tree.

Palm Tree Hearts for FoodPalm Hearts

Here’s your landscape solution for colder climates, swampy areas, ocean spray- where nothing else will grow successfully.

The easy care and great fan leaves should make this a great landscape choice for those hard to plant areas!

Explore more about palms

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    Planning on growing a tropical garden inside or out? Here's a list of the many types of palm trees used in landscapes so you can plan accordingly!

  • Beautiful Butterfly or Areca Palm

    The areca palm is a beautiful tree with feathery leaves that is mostly cultivated as a house plant. Find out what they look like and how to grow them.

  • Bamboo Palms

    The bamboo palm is a very popular house plant. These 3 different kinds are easy to grow indoors or in containers. See what they look like and how to grow.

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