Palms hold a special place in my gardening experience. Perhaps this is because as a boy I helped my grandfather sprout and grow coconut palms in his backyard nursery in Miami. Also, the first time I saw palms in Palermo, they left indelible images of the Mediterranean.
Palms are quite easy to grow, and some can live for short periods of time in very cold climates. The Windmill Palm, Trachycarpus, fortunei grows as far north as Vancouver where it can take temperatures down to -10F for short times. It is a very suitable palm for almost anywhere in California. It is drought tolerant, slow growing and very attractive.
The much larger Phoenix palms are a Mediterranean image, and Phoenix canariensis is the most widely grown palm in the world. Its mature height can reach 60 feet (much less in suburbia), and its feathery, graceful fronds form an almost perfect orb. This palm requires a lot of room to develop.
The King and Queen Palms are more suitable for the urban space. The King Palm, Archontophoenix cunninghamiana is a fine, elegant palm for any garden. It grows fast and is relatively cold tolerant, a perfect palm for S. California. And, the dead fronds drop off freely without having to prune them. The Queen Palm, Syagrus romanzoffiana grows moderately fast and also suits a small garden. The fronds move gracefully in the lightest breeze. This palm a fine one to set off the corner of buildings, and it makes lovely colonnades when planted between sidewalks and streets, and it does not heave sidewalks.
The Kentia Palm is the most similar in appearance to the Coconut Palms. Some of us acquire it as a Christmas gift palm for indoors at where it will grow for many years if it is taken outside periodically to have its fronds sprayed off with water. It thrives better outside, here in S. California. My 4 inch palm seedling now reaches to the second story where it is very tropical looking.
The Parlor Palm, Chaemdorea elegans is another palm for indoors. It is healthy even in dry heat, stuffy rooms, and poor care, but if taken outside for soil drenching and for spraying off the fronds, it will grow well indoors, indefinitely.
Areca palms are extremely attractive and popular and are, actually, best grown indoors in good light. They are sold in clumps, and when planted in attractive, glazed pots, they are beautifully graceful.
I must mention Chamaerops humilis, the Mediterranean fan palm that I often see growing in its native country, Sicily. It is tough and hardy, taking cold down to -14F!
However, when transplanted here to S. California it grows tall, lushly tropical, and beautiful. I know of 6-8 foot specimens next to the Timken Art Museum in Balboa Park. Climate and geography do affect growth.
Really, I could not live where palms will not grow. But, as you can see we can have them in our homes in any clime, and they also do grow in unexpected places; Phoenix canariensis grows in Rome, Northern Italy, and even up in Scotland