Need advice on growing a Windmill Palm in the North (Pennsylvania

jason91230May 18, 2010

I realize this may not be the brightest idea but I am going to try to plant a windmill palm at my home here in Southwestern Pennsylvania (Pittsburgh area). Has anyone had success with this type of venture in a similar area?

Also, I have heard several different things as far as what type of fertilizer to use (if any) and how to protect in in the winter (build a wire cage around it, put blankets over it, etc.).

I have heard it should be planted in a well-drained area, but I am a little unsure as to why that is. I would think the palm would need a lot of moisutre, so why would it need to planed somewhere where the moisture gets absorbed?

Last question, I am attempting to plant it in decorative rocks besides our swimming pool? Is that a bad idea because it would be more difficult for water to get to it? Would it have to be planted on flat ground or could it be a bit of slope?

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I actually think its a really good idea! With some protection they should be able to make it through the winter just fine. one of mine survived 14F with no protection and no damage and it was completely covered in snow 3 times (the leaves were bent because of that though).
For my more tender palms I tie the leaves up, cover the whole thing in x-mas lights, put a frost cloth over that, and a plastic garbage bin over that. I also did this for one of my windmill palms with no problems.
These palms actually prefer less moisture during the winter months (if you could keep it from getting any moisture from November to March that would be great and this is the reason why they like well draining soil) so I dont think a slope will be a problem at all. You may want to occasionally water it during the summer since they do like water, but only when its warm. Fertilizer also helps get these plants growing well, but stop fertilizing them around August because they should not be actively growing once winter arrives because that lowers there cold tolerance.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   May 18, 2010 at 7:47PM
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I have successfully kept a queen palm alive through 3 winters here in Virginia - it has survived 8 F (queen palms are normally killed in the low 20s) so I would imagine your challenge is a similar one.

I wrapped my in one layer of plastic, then snaked a rope light around it starting at the bottom and working my way up to the top - 175 W total for 15 feet of tree - leaves included. Then, another layer of plastic and some duct tape to keep it together. On top of the leave plume I put a very loose plastic yard bag.

I waited as long as I safely could to wrap it up, and I unwrap it when conditions permit (which last winter was almost never). For a windmill palm, I think this probably means you can put off wrapping it until you have nights dipping below 20 F for the first winter it's in the ground and maybe 12-15 for years after that.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   May 18, 2010 at 9:35PM
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Quite doable as long as you follow the basics and stay on top of things.

Get the biggest one you can afford. Plant it with southern exposure.

Winter protection is obligatory and there are many methods. I think you should heavily mulch the base of it. Then construct a wire or mesh cage around it and stuff it with leaves- enough so that the crown is protected. If you can construct some kind of roof over it, all the better. This has protected my windmills down here in the DC area. Do that and you will have a palm.

In a few years, the palm may be big enough to withstand winter without the suit of armor. But I am not sure about your climate. Cross that bridge later.

Go for it.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2010 at 9:26AM
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brooklyngreg(7a NYC coastal plain)

It has been done sucessfully in your zone - here's some key tips that will make it real doable. I realize its not against a warm-side of your home and so the precautions are greater.

#1 plant it soon. August is too late for it to properly acclimate. Try to plant a sizeable palm thats 4-5 yrs old. They can be stronger if planted earlier.

#2 do not water it after October for your area and cover it to keep it dry or it will most likely die. The enclosure should be vented for sunny days - too warm in the winter is not good. Keep in mind that cold winds and palms don't mix.

#3 You can warm it with Christmas lights on fridgit nights, simply wrap it with lites before you place an enclosure over the palm.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2010 at 2:46PM
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I am in PA also. The best protection is an insulation board box with heat added. The best tip i can give you is that no matter what method you chose, keep the plant dry during the winter and early spring. I have lost more plants to moisture than cold. Good luck!

    Bookmark   May 20, 2010 at 11:07PM
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I agree with the last post. It doesnt make sense to just wrap it,,,or the cage of leaves. When winter is over,,,You may find ur palm alive, but it will take all summer to grow back. I say,,protect it and keep it above 45 degrees,,,and dry also. My windmill was 2 ft in 2006,,,and its 6ft now,,,and is growing in the winter also. I live in northern ohio,,,good luck!!!

    Bookmark   May 21, 2010 at 5:08PM
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Just make sure that you dont overheat it. I wouldnt let it get any higher than 80F in your climate during the winter months because it should not be actively growing and if it does get warm during the day it could get significantly warm in the protection. Also you can leave the protection on all winter, but its probably best to take it off when warmish to lessen the risk of rot.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   May 21, 2010 at 8:55PM
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