Many of us who live in hot and humid climates look forward to the cooler temperatures and decreased humidity that the Fall and Winter months provide.
But your palm trees don’t welcome the chill as much, especially if it comes suddenly, versus gradually, which does not provide time for plants to acclimate properly.
If you want your palm trees to stand strong in the sunshine and blue skies, taking care of them all year is important, especially in winter.
Here are some winter palm tree care tips to ensure yours keep growing green in your home landscape.
How Does Cold Affect Palm Trees?
Palms can acclimate to the normal temperature fluctuations they experience.
For instance, in the south and southeast U.S., warm, humid nights are normal. But in the western U.S., evenings are cool. Palm trees in each of these regions are used to their typical temperature fluctuations.
A palm tree’s cold tolerance can differ greatly depending on the species. Tropical palms have fairly low cold tolerance; anything below 50 degrees Fahrenheit can be too much for them. But more temperate species of palm trees can withstand subfreezing temperatures with little or no injury.
Colder temperatures can certainly slow down your palm tree’s root activity and growth rate. But when a palm tree encounters temperatures below what they normally experience, it can cause injury. A palm stressed by cold temperatures is very susceptible to rot issues in its crown and main trunk, as well as nutrient deficiencies, while damages resulting from hard freezes can impact all parts of a palm. Frost alone may only impact exposed parts of a palm.
How To Protect Palm Trees In Winter
Being proactive is important for winter palm tree care.
Palms can acclimate to regular cool temperature fluctuations in your region. But a few of these planning tips can help ensure minimal damage happens during sudden temperature drops.
Palm Tree Mulching
Proper mulching can help minimize damage to the roots.
Mulching more heavily prior to forecasted hard freezes at a depth of 3 to 4 inches can help with palm tree winter protection. This helps keep the ground near the palm from freezing deeply, protecting the tree’s roots. Mulch also maintains palm root temperature, further protecting it from cold damage when rapid temperature fluctuations occur.
Palm Tree Watering
A palm tree’s water uptake can slow down once temperatures fall below 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
Making sure your palm tree is well-watered entering the winter can maximize water availability to its leaves. You want to adequately saturate the soi but not to the point of water-logging
Any time a freeze is imminent, remember to water your palm trees deeply.
Palm Tree Covers & How To Wrap Palm Trees For Winter
Often, frost and freeze warnings will arrive in time for you to take action to provide your sensitive species with winter palm tree protection.
You can carefully cover your shorter palms with a blanket or cloth sheet before an expected freeze. Place the blanket over your palm loosely so that warm air rising from the soil stays underneath to keep the palm warmer than the outside air.
You can also wrap the trunk and foliage of palms for winter palm tree protection. To do this properly:
- Use a synthetic blanket, burlap or landscape fabric.
- Wrap the material around the trunk and secure it with duct tape.
- You can continue to wrap it around the lower leaves while gathering them closer into a bunch. Wrap as high as the leaf stiffness allows.
When it comes to taller palm trees, a professional, licensed arborist can also wrap the fronds together to protect the heart or main bud.
Remember to remove the sheet and unwrap the fronds after the freeze has passed.
Plant Cold-Hardy Palms
Planting palms that can adapt to your local climate is important to palm tree care in winter. But there are some tougher palms that you can choose.
Here are some cold-hardy palm tree varieties that can better acclimate to freezing temperatures:
- Butia capitata (Butia palm) - A handsome small palm with a stout trunk and blue-green or gray-green leaves that grows in USDA zones 8 to 11.
- Chamaerops humilis (European fan palm) - A bushy palm that is a medium-size rounded or small tree shape that grows in USDA zones 8 to 11.
- Rhapidophyllum hystrix (needle palm) - A hardy palm, this shrubby, rounded palm has a short, thick trunk and large, dark green leaves that grows in USDA zones 8 to 10.
- Sabal minor (dwarf palmetto) - A common, fan-shaped palm in a small shrub form that grows in USDA zones 7 to 10.
- Sabal palmetto (cabbage or sabal palm) - Native to Florida and coastal North and South Carolina and Georgia, this palm has a single trunk and full, rounded canopy. It grows in USDA zones 8 to 11.
- Trachycarpus fortune (windmill palm) - This taller palm is hardy with a wide crown and grows in USDA zones 8 to 11.
- Cocos capitata (pindo palm) - Pindo palms, also known as jelly palms, grow slowly to a mature height of 15 to 20 feet with a trunk diameter of 1 to 1.5 feet in USDA zones 8 to 11.
*Photo credit: Dan Morgan