Pygmy date palm hit by freeze

ivysmomFebruary 19, 2011

We had a week of at or below freezing temps 2 weeks ago, including two days where overnight temps were in the mid to low 20s. This is very unusual for Houston.

I wrapped the base of my large potted pygmy date palm the first night, and saw in the morning it had ice on the fronds. They were still green, and it melted off by the afternoon, but two nights later there was another freeze. I covered the entire tree the second time (bedsheet with a plastic tarp, knotted around the whole tree, like a big lollipop.

The fronds did not get iced this time around, but the fronds are all quite brown. I was at first concerned that the tree had been done in and if I understand it correctly, browned fronds do not return to green.

However a closer look shows green at the base of the fronds (where they meet the trunks) and the trunks themselves are not mushy. I did water the plant well the night before the freeze, and again after we no longer had freezing temps.

Here are two pictures of the tree today and one from last summer. One shows the overall tree, and one shows the green parts up close.

I'm now fairly sure that the tree is alive and will recover, but I'm wondering what to do about the brown fronds. Is it correct they won't return to green? If so, I'm thinking that a trim or prune is in order, but this is my first palm so I have no idea how/when to go about that, and what to expect for regrowth (timewise and looks-wise).


Close up of the frond bases:

Overall tree (poor thing):

What is looks like healthy:

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NoVaPlantGuy_Z7b_8a(Alexandria, VA 7B/8A)

You'll likely get alot more responses, faster if you include the actual photos in the post such as below.

Its probably going to be a waiting game. The fronds that are brown are not going to come back, but it MAY send out new green fronds. I would leave it as is for now and see what happens. Are the newest fronds coming out of the top still firmly in place? If so that is a very good sign.

General rule of thumb with P. Roebelenii is that if it is going below 32F for more than just a few hours, bring it in or protect it with heat. You definitely do not want the pot/ roots to freeze. Update us in March / April when its had a chance to warm up and try to recover. I have seen these recover from worse damage than this.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2011 at 5:19PM
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Thanks! I didn't realize you could actually embed photos directly into the posts (though I knew about the link URL option).

The newest green growth is firmly in place, yes, and the trunks themselves don't have any mushiness to them. Those clover-like things growing in the top of the pot soil didn't seem affected by the cold, so I'm hoping that means the roots didn't take much of a hit.

What should I look for to know that it's the right time to trim off the dead fronds (the ones with no green on them anywhere)?


    Bookmark   February 22, 2011 at 10:01AM
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I have the same question. We have two pygmy palms and they both got severe freeze damage this last winter even though we had them covered ( wrapped in frost cloth ).

There is green coming out very nicely but should I trim the brown ( dead ? ) fronds and if so when.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2013 at 4:43PM
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It's more cosmetic than anything else. If you don't like the look of the dead fronds then you can trim them off. If you leave them they'll just become part of the skirt of dead fronds below the crown. Either way it won't bother the plant.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2013 at 8:19AM
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If the trunk has no shrivel or ooze...then trim the dead stuff off and wait for a new flush. They are pretty hardy small palms. They are sensitive to being dug up and moved. That's lethal most times.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2013 at 12:03PM
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NoVaPlantGuy_Z7b_8a(Alexandria, VA 7B/8A)

I have a post with photos and story that I just shared earlier today. Perhaps we can get an update from you? Mine was SEVERELY damaged to the point of spear pull. I thought it was a gonner and left it in the basement and was going to throw it out in spring. No water for months, and very little light. Somehow, even after spear pull, it lived. Just look for my post on page one. Its the only thread I have on here currently as I have not been on here in about 1.5 years. Hope yours made it!

    Bookmark   July 16, 2013 at 10:59PM
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What is the outcome of the pygmy date palm that froze last year. I ask as this month mine froze and looks black

    Bookmark   January 12, 2014 at 4:21PM
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Central_Cali369(Sunset Z9, Fresno, CA)

Wow, it must've gotten really cold. Sometimes we'll get a hard frost and my pygmy date palms get burned but the petiole never blackens like that. Good luck!

    Bookmark   January 14, 2014 at 12:07AM
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