Monday, March 1, 2010

Winter Damaged Palms

We have been getting calls regarding cold damage to palm trees from our customers asking what to do about their palms.  At this point, I advise you to wait until the danger of frost is over before you take any action.  I have seen several palm tree stumps in yards where they have cut their palms down.  Normally, when someone sees brown foilage on a plant they assume it is dead and remove the plant. For most palms it is really to soon to tell unless, you clearly can see rotting.   Brown leaves act as a buffer and protect your palm from cold damage.  Cutting back the leaves to soon allows the frost to get even deeper into the plant.  Although, not trimming back at all and leaving dead leaves promote disease.

Palms don't mind a little snow or light frost, but ice and severe cold weather can damage and kill them.  To protect your palm, tie up the leaves and wrap with frost proof cover until the danger of severe weather is over.  Palms that are grown in pots lose two hardiness zones.  If you are able, move potted plants in the garage or protect by wrapping the pot with insulation or warm blanket and covering the top.  It also helps to water your plants before a freeze to help them adjust to the lower temperatures.  If the soil is dry, roots can be injured.

One of the after effects from the cold weather that causes more damage than the "frostbite" itself is crown rot.  This can kill a palm.  To help prevent this, spray the heart of the palm with Ferti-lome Systemic Fungicide as soon as we enter the cold season.  Also, repeat this every time after a heavy freeze or ice storm.

There is no palm that is completely cold hardy.  In our area, Windmill is one of the toughest and is cold hardy down to 10 degrees. Pindo and Sago are hardy to 15 degrees.  Sago palms are not a true palm, they are actully cycads.  Mexican Fan, Mediterranean Fan, and Sabal Palms are hardy to 20 degress.  The older or more established a palm is, the chances of its survival increase.  Wrapping of palms is highly recommended during severe freezing weather or ice.

As soon as danger of the last frost is over, cut back brown foilage to the next node and continue until you see green and stop there.  I would feed the palm at that time to promote flushing of new foilage.  This will require some patience on your part.  Palms typically put on new growth in the heat of the summer.

This palm was severly damaged by the January freeze and it appears as this one will not recover

This palm still has hope.  There is some green on the leaves and the trunk is firm.  Remarkable, being left out in a pot.

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