palm trees in OK?

greenman1976(7)July 26, 2009

OK, so I came across some needle palms in Lowes this weekend and the tags said they were hardy to zone 6b. They looked really neat. Doing some research, I found that in addition to these surviving winters here (I am on zone 7a), that we actually have a palm native to OK, the sabal minor. Does anyone have experience with either of these? In searching around the web it seems that they prefer mostly shade and moist soil, but are drought tolerant. Anyone know anything else about their light/soil/water requirements?

It seems strange Lowe's had them out, as I would imagine that the best time to plant these would be in early spring right after the last frost. Wonder if it would be possible to do a fall planting?


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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

In theory you can grow palms here, but I'd plant only one and try it for a few years before I spent the money on more than one, and here's why.

Obviously we have very erratic weather here. Often it is not our 'average winter low temperature' that kills plants that are marginally hardy here. Instead it is the way the temperature can plunge in one day when a blue norther (cold front) comes roaring in. One year we made it to mid-December without a hard freeze. Because the weather had stayed relatively warm all fall, the plants were not acclimated to colder weather. On the night the first freeze came in, our temperature dropped from around 60 degrees during the day to 18 degrees that night. I lost a lot of zone 7 and 8 plants that couldn't handle the sudden plunge.

The same thing can happen when a fairly warm Feb. and Mar. are followed by a strong cold spell in April. Plants that have the idea that spring has arrived and which have begun to show new growth can receive devastating freeze damage when a late spring freeze or snow storm hits in April.

So, often it isn't the standard cold night that gets them, but just the abrupt change from warm to very cold.

All the stores in north Texas and Oklahoma seem to carry a lot of tropical-type plants this time of year, some of which are hardy and some of which are not. Here in southern OK, the tropical-looking stuff usually appears about July 4th and is in stores until fall. I think it is because no one in their right mind is going to plant anything else at this time of year but can talk themselves into believing these plants can be planted now and will survive. (Some will, some won't.)

As far as the big box stores (and some nurseries) selling plants.....I have found they will carry anything that they think somebody will buy, and the stores don't care if it is winter-hardy here or not. For them, the name of the game is sales, period. It is, in fact, to their advantage, if somebody buys a zone 8, 9 or 10 plant in zone 6 or 7, because that somebody will come back and buy something else the next year after that plant freezes back. Am I cynical? Absolutely. I see zone 9 and 10 plants in Dallas-Fort Worth nurseries and big box stores every spring and I often wonder if they people buying them realize they don't stand a chance of surviving.

One more thing about Oklahoma, and this is true in many parts of the country. Remember that zones are averages and lower temperatures can occur. I'm in zone 7b and should expect temperatures as low as 10 degrees, right? OK. However, several times we've gone significantly lower than that....down to as low as 1 degree, so I will lose zone 7 plants to a very cold spell right here in zone 7. So, just because a plant is said to survive in zone 7 and you live in zone 7, that doesn't mean the weather won't kill it anyway.


    Bookmark   July 27, 2009 at 11:39AM
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soonergirl1968(7a OKC)

Just in case you are interested... There is a very nice guy here in Oklahoma City who owns a pet store specializing in reptiles and who also grows palms. Here is a website you might find interesting :)

    Bookmark   July 27, 2009 at 12:56PM
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cactuspaul Tulsa zone7(7a)

I grow 5 or 6 different palms in my yard. A couple require some winter protection but Sabal minors are actually native to McCurtin County in sounthern Oklahoma. I also grow S. lousiana, Needles, Tracycarpus forturei (windmill) and Washingtonia fillifera (fan palm). The needle, s. minor and the s. lousiana require no protection at all in Tulsa area. Paul

    Bookmark   July 27, 2009 at 10:49PM
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Thanks for the tips, folks.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2009 at 4:39PM
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