Trachycarpus wagnerianus survival

JohnnieB(Washington, DC 7a/b)May 29, 2007

I've been unimpressed with the hardiness of my one windmill palm (Trachycarpus fortunei)--damaged foliage and spear pulled 3 winters in a row (even after the unusually mild 2005-2006 winter); the first two times it recovered quite well come spring but after 7 degrees this past winter and extensive damage, there's still no sign of new growth and I'm not sure it's going to make it. Even if it survives, I may remove it because it just looks so awful every spring. I know other people have grown this species successfully in my area, but they generally have much more favorably locations.

On the other hand, my "waggies" (dwarf windmill palm, T. wagnerianus) have been doing fabulously well. I planted seeds in early 2001; the 3 largest are now about 6 years old, and have been in the ground through 5 winters. I protected all of them during their first winter, then protected only one of them (just as insurance) in the second and third winters; since then the only protection I've given them has been a heavy leaf mulch. They have grown fairly slowly but none of these three has ever had a spear pull; they came through 7 degrees this past winter with virtually no damage and are pushing out vigorous new growth.

The biggest surprise came from the runt of the litter. This seedling grew more slowly than the rest and was still very small when I finally planted it out last spring, pretty much just to give up on it. I put it in a poor location where it got watered infrequently and shaded out by other plants, then didn't protect it except for mulch (which I forgot to apply until after the weather had turned cold!). Because this was a cold winter I wasn't surprised that it suffered quite a bit of damage. By this spring the spear had pulled and only one relatively green leaf was left; the rest were fried. About a week ago I was about to pull it out when I saw, to my amazement, that it was pushing out a new spear! I guess I won't give up on this one quite yet! I'll try to get some photos posted later this week.

From my own experience, and from talking to other growers, I am absolutely convinced that this species is hardier than T. fortunei.

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the_virginian(Zone 7 NoVA)

Did you ever think to protect your T. Fortuneis? Perhaps that would get them to a size where they could deal with the cold like the one that is growing well in Sterling, VA. Hardiness varies in individuals and in seed lots so you may have a hardy strain of T. Wagnerianus as I have found them to be only as hardy as T. Fortunei. As I recall your palms seem very small for their age and their location seems less than idea in their setting.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2007 at 10:01AM
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nucci60(6 Ma.)

my potted 5 gallon waggie spent it's winter on a closed sun porch with some takil seedlings. temps never went below 25f and all had spear pull.waggie is recovering with new spear emerging but takil seedlings(quart size) are dead.2 one gallon fortunis had spear pull, but 5 gallon size did fine. go figure!

    Bookmark   May 29, 2007 at 10:14AM
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the_virginian(Zone 7 NoVA)

Having those palms in pots in an exposed porch where their root zone can freeze is much harder on them than being in the ground with lower temperatures. Seedlings of any cold hardy palm are vulnerable to cold temperatures.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2007 at 10:50AM
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JohnnieB(Washington, DC 7a/b)

I went out and took some photos of the "runt" waggie last night:

Closeup of the emerging spear:

My other waggies are much larger, have been in the ground for about 5 years, and are quite healthy. I suppose I could try to "push" them but this species is both smaller and generally slower growing than T. fortunei. I have no idea how big they "should" be at 5-6 years old from seed (they have certainly been set back by some hard winters), but several growers who are far more experienced than I am with this species have told me that the growth rate of my palms is about to be expected. As long as my plants are healthy and growing, I'm happy with them and don't need to see instant results. The challenge, and the fun, are in the growing.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2007 at 12:57PM
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nucci60(6 Ma.)

virginian,I think your right. the cold temps were hard on these potted palms, plus on a sunny day this sunroom would heat up to 80 degress and rthen plummet at night.All are growing their spears back except the 1 quart "takils" that croaked.I was trying to harden them up and not expose them to very warm and dry house temps.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2007 at 1:09PM
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raising night greenhouse/sunroom temperature at no cost with thermal mass heat exchange. Try placing 2 water filled large black capped olive containers in the room. This raises greenhouses temperature at night substantially.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2010 at 2:28AM
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