General Rule of Thumb for Trachycarpus hardiness.

subtropixJuly 9, 2011

A lot of postings relate to the survivability of Trachycarpus fortunei and cold-hardy Sabals in colder Winter zones. I think a good rule of thumb is the long-term survivability of Magnolia grandiflora (Southern Magnolias). If your area has established trees of greater than 10 years, you should be able to be successful with the cold hardier palms with either no (or limited) Winter protection. These trees tend to be a good plant 'indicator' species of a solid Zone 7 (around the minimum for 'cold' hardy palms--assuming they are not going to be protected my thoroughly.

Took this photo this afternoon of one of the Edith Bogues (a NJ native)

Here is a link that might be useful:

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slow73(WA z8b)

njoasis that is very interesting. Growing up south of the Mason Dixon line I saw magnolias in folks' yards. Up here despite the fact that we are a solid zone 8 (sometimes "A" and sometimes "B")you hardly see them. Although I have seen them offered in stores I think they are not popular up here in this part of the country. I know t. fortuneis are hardy for my area as they constantly sell out and I have watched several grow up and even seed. I'm having a hard time finding them today. But this past winter which was the coldest in 10 years, wreaked havoc on the areas trachys. Several ones with 5 foot trunks had severe frond burns. Most ppl just weren't used to protecting them at that size around here. I think despite being a solid zone 8 you best be prepared to cover 'em up on any given winter.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2011 at 2:26PM
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We have tons Mongolias, crape myrtles but naturalizing a trachy has been difficult. The only ones i have had luck with are planted next to my house. Anywhere else and its spear pull if they don'thave a full shelter built over them. Sabal minors have been bullet proof. I have a sabal palmetto tifton hardy that i think will do well also.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2011 at 2:35PM
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There are large Magnolias in the St.Louis area
but I doubt any Trachys could survive there.
The bud area of Trachys presents different issues
in regard to cold hardiness than Mags....

Probably would work for Sabals though,with St.Louis
summer heat,a well sited one would certainly have a chance.

I am really looking forward to testing real Takil !

    Bookmark   July 9, 2011 at 5:57PM
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Slow73, I think the reason you don't see too many M. grandifloras in zone 8+ Washington is that M. grandiflora has a relatively high heat zone requirement--meaning that it likes really warm to hot summers that are also humid and wet. Most palms are like this, but not all (Trachys and Chilean Wine Palms resent excessive heat and humidity). If M. grandiflora does not get its summer heat, the wood does not ripen sufficiently to enable it to survive cold. So the paradox is that cold outbreaks are more liable to damage your Magnolias than mine (even though my zone in much colder in the Winter).

So, it sounds that you can't use grandiflora as a indicator for success with Trachy palms. Trachy palms are supposed to be hardy to Zone 7b (Zone 7a in a microclimate). I doubt Saint Louis is Zone 7, so sounds like grandiflora is at least hardy to Zone 6B--if not lower for some cultivars. Maybe the cultivation of fig trees (unprotected) would be a better match as an indicator species.

Enjoy the rest of the gardening weekend!

    Bookmark   July 9, 2011 at 8:03PM
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Very nice magnolia! There is a nice one on my block (has been in its spot for about 5 years or so). One of the trees by my house is getting too large for its spot and Im thinking of planting a Southern Mag in its place.

I think Figs are a bit iffy in a zone 7. During warm zone 7 winters, they make it through undamaged, but I have seen some unprotected figs in very exposed spots get damaged here. Last winter had a low temperature of 7F and I saw one unprotected fig get some pretty bad dieback (was 12 feet tall, died down to 5 feet). There were lots of other unprotected figs that survived with no problems at all and fruited normally, but it still shows that exposure and culitvators do make the difference for figs survival.

I discovered that Trachys can handle some pretty bad cold, but they dont like water on their crowns during that cold. I kept my trachy dry, but unheated all winter long. 7F did do some minor damage to the oldest fronds, and the newest frond it made this spring did have a ring of discoloration on it (which is a common thing to see on palms with some cold damage) but it did see a true zone 7 temperature during its first winter in the ground, and it did survive and look good! They are definitely good palms for a zone 7, especially if you have a nice overhang to your house, or a car port or something to keep the top dry.


    Bookmark   July 9, 2011 at 11:52PM
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NJoasis, I think your rule has some validity, but limited to our Mid Atlantic region, where we do have hot humid summers that southern magnolias love. Farther south -- Gulf Coast -- where Southern magnolias are enormous, windmill palms are unhappy. Along the Pacific Northwest coast windmill palms love the cooler summers, but the magnolias don't.
We're lucky in the Mid Atlantic, where
both seem happy.

I feel blessed to be in a planting zone where plants and trees from both north and south thrive side by side -- southern magnolia next to a northern blue spruce, crape myrtles and.
pomegranate next to white birch. Throw in hardy palms into the mix and visitors really scratch their heads.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2011 at 10:16AM
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Wetsuiter makes me appreciate the weather here a bit more.

Anyway, the Fig to Trachy comparison might be better. You should probably protect both for at least 2 years, preferably 3 or 4. But then, at least judging from all the Fig trees I am starting to see, both flourish once they have built up some reselience.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2011 at 11:16AM
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TZ, figs can be risky in zone 7 unless they are close to a house--which probably matches the hardiness results with Trachys in Zone 7. Figs are quite cold sensitive for a deciduous tree (yes, I realize there are tropical deciduous trees, but still). I would not suggest you plant either a Southern Magnolia or a fig too near your house though. Fig roots can do damage to the structure of your house and magnolias are huge trees. I made this mistake years ago. I planted a grandiflora a few feet from the house. --Thinking at the time, the building would help them survive and that they needed this. Wrong on two counts. M. grandiflora will THRIVE in Eastern Zones 6B+ and GROW--they are not the fastest growers (especially for the first three years after planting), but they will inexorably infringe on your house. I felt really bad when that first magnolia had to be removed. So too, the are shallow rooted (not sure if the roots themselves would be a problem). There are more Dwarf varieties (Little Gem), but not sure of long term sustainability too close to a house. Eventually, I bought the proverbial farm and now made good on that cut down Magnolia--I planted over a dozen. Current inventory of cultivars:

Brackens Brown--1
Edith Bogue--3
Little Gem--4
Majestic Beauty--1
Green Giant--1
Teddy Bear--2

PS., Biggest problems with the Magnolias in our area is snow load--esp. as our snows are wet and very HEAVY. Some cultivars seem completely undamaged by heavy snow and ice accumulation, some snap much more easily.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2011 at 3:07PM
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Good point on heavy snow loads and southern magnolias. Our town lost a true specimen tree in one of the parks after the two February 09 blizzards. The tree was 30 to 40' tall and its lowest branches touched the ground and were rooted. It never had seen snow of that magnitude snow before. Anything above 3 to 5 inches is considered heavy here. Those two storms dumped 21" and 10" respectively, just days apart. The paltry replacement the city planted will never look the same in my life time.

Fig trees get large here too and no one. I've polled protects them.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2011 at 4:01PM
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"Fig trees get large here too and no one. I've polled protects them."

Then, I wager, you are good to go for Trachys--no problema.

My zone is basically 7a (currently), used to be 6B not that long ago. Still, even after last Winter (the Winter from Hell), I have some Zone 8's that are located on the western side of the house (Aspidistra--which is really much cold hardier than you would guess, a loquat, and Podocarpus macrophylla). Still, my Trachys took a hit last Winter--I agree, keeping snow and ice out of the crown is a BIG advantage. But man, it was survival--just getting out of the driveway from mountains of snow, and the Trachys were lower down on the list of priorities at the time. Question--Shouldn't the problem of keeping snow and ice out of the crown become LESS a challenge after the crowns rise above the level of potential snow drifts??

    Bookmark   July 11, 2011 at 4:27PM
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Yes windmills do very well, although you don't see that many. Most gardeners here have no clue they are hardy. The largest local specimens are 15' tall and been in those gardens for over 10 years.

On a similar topic, one of my neighbors posted a pic of a few strands of Spanish moss that volunteered on his camellia. While he was surprised to see it, I had read that Southern Delaware is the northern range of Spanish moss. I've never seen any, but it reportedly can be found at Trapps Pond State Park, the northern most bald cypress swamp in the USA. It looks like a piece of Louisiana airlifted to the Delaware farmlands.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2011 at 9:52AM
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