windmill palm hardiness

cycadjungle(z9b Cent FL)October 6, 2007

I have seen all the reports, but I would like to hear it from people who have actually tested these north of me. What are the lowest temperatures you have let your windmill palms deal with without any covering or protection? Someone is asking me for one who said they sometimes get single digits. This person is in central North Carolina. I know a needle palm will work but wasn't sure exactly what these will truly take. Thanks. Tom

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In Albq., NM last winter we hit mid to lower single digits a couple of times and the winter was very cold in general with many lows in the lower teens or lower. One Waggie near me about 8 feet in height, was completely unprotected this winter and saw nearly 30 inches of total snow this winter and had no problems. It even seemed to grow throughout the winter although very slowly (I was watching the spear). All the trachy's in town take this every year if not lower temps and have absolutely no problems if planted in a decent spot and at the right time of year.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2007 at 11:12PM
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Tom, I have 2 windmill's on the south face of my home fairly close to the foundation that have been in the ground for three years now, they have been subjected to a strong cold west wind and temps as low as 7 degrees.I have never had a spear pull yet, on the coldest nights I threw a flannel sheet over them and that is it. We did have some rather severe burn but I really think the worst was caused by the wind. They rebounded rather nicely and are doing well.

    Bookmark   October 7, 2007 at 12:58AM
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I have a 3 footer in ground. I've moved it 3 times in the last 3 years, so it really hasn't had a chance to establish itself too well. The coldest I let it get before covering it is down to 10 degrees. Last winter was very cold, we saw temps down to -5 on one night, as well as 4 other nights with temps in the negative single digits, all within about a week. I monitored the temperature inside the enclosure, and the coldest my trachy saw was 6 degrees twice. Had some crisping of older fronds, but new fronds were fine. I uncovered it at the end of February, but had spear pull in April. It has now recovered and is growing. I'm in zone 6 Southeast Michigan.

    Bookmark   October 7, 2007 at 11:17AM
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I live in Atlanta. We saw 8º a few years back with a couple days continuous below 32º. I never have trouble with T.fortunei once they reach calibre.

They are cold hardy when seedlings, but when the bud first initiates about ground level they will pull a spear for 2 or 3 winters at about 20º. Once they reach normal trunk diameter (probably 14" to 16" of trunk height) they're fine to 5º.

    Bookmark   October 7, 2007 at 1:52PM
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I have a few differnt trachys some smaller ones I have had for 3 years maybe 1 ft each and larger ones about 8 ft over all in the ground 2 years all have lived through teens and single digits for very long durations like a week at a time and no problems at all. All I do is cover them to keep rain and sleet off them. Rain and sleet do more damage then then single digit temps. I read somewhere that japanese or chinese scientist did a study and found that trachys are the only palm, that can and does go dormant. Anyone else ready that? I wish I could remeber what article it was.

    Bookmark   October 7, 2007 at 3:52PM
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I live in very SE Michigan in a microclimate near Lake St. Clair. Last year we had the coldest week in 15 years. Althought I cover my Chinese Fan Palms to keep out dampness, I only chicken wire and Oak Leave protect it from after Christmas to late Feb/early Mar. I lost some of the outer leaves, but the rest of it did great and grew a couple feet this year. My 1 year old seeding made it with no protetion. So I would say it can make it in Central FL.

My Musa Bajoo also did very well this year after a very difficult first year in the ground.

    Bookmark   October 7, 2007 at 10:44PM
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the_virginian(Zone 7 NoVA)

I know of one Windmill palm that has taken several nights below zero with no damage. Once they get to be a certain size in the ground they can be really hardy.

    Bookmark   October 8, 2007 at 11:39AM
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JohnnieB(Washington, DC 7a/b)

Cycadjungle, I can confirm that my own windmill palms have survived lows of 6 and 7 degrees, and numerous lows in the low teens, based on temperature measurements in my own back yard. My dwarf windmill palms, T. wagnerianus, have survived these temperatures with minimal damage and no spear pull, with only a heavy mulch for protection. My T. fortunei has taken considerably more damage (including spear pull 3 winters in a row) but has recovered each time. Many people cite 5 degrees as the temperature below which established windmill palms generally start suffering damage (although I haven't been able to test this myself) and exposure to temperatures below zero usually causes extreme damage or death.

As for the windmill palm that "has taken several nights below zero with no damage", see the linked discussion (on another discussion board) for the actual facts about this particular palm. In the follow-up discussion note especially the comments by Mark, the person who originally planted and grew this palm, who stressed its sheltered location and does not believe that the palm ever experienced subzero temperatures.

Here is a link that might be useful: Trachycarpus hardiness in northern Virginia

    Bookmark   October 9, 2007 at 9:47AM
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What is spear pull? Just curious, and maybe something I should know growing fan palms in Michigan.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2007 at 12:42AM
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blondboy47(z6b(almost 7) ON,Canada)

Spear pull is when where the newest center spears (that eventually mature into the fronds) get rotton at their base and pull out. It leaves a hole in the palm for a while and the palm will take quite a while to recover.

Most will recover though, while some, if the rot is extensive, will not.

There are some things that can be done to minimize the damage or in some cases (and with some luck) avoid it altogether.

First, around this time of year, would be to spray some copper-based fungicide into the base of the spears.

Then, allow the area to dry out. Try to figure out some way to keep moisture from re-entering the spears' base.

Here, we actually cover our palms so they keep dry.

We've also learned, from experience, when giving them water throughout the winter, to ONLY put the water on the soil and NOT on any of the fronds. Any water on the fronds will trickle down into the spears.

Hope that helps :)

    Bookmark   October 11, 2007 at 7:04AM
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the_virginian(Zone 7 NoVA)

JohnnieB: The weather station says otherwise and yes it is in a sheltered location, but I seriously doubt that if the temperature got down to -11F as was cited in Sterling, that it was 5F or warmer in that site. The snow cover and mulch, plus the age of the palm helped it weather such a cold event. I know you doubt it or don't believe it, but that is your opinion, you were not there to take a temperature reading at the site to either prove or disprove the temperature that the palm took. It is highly likely based on the facts that it did take a temperature close to -11F, maybe not at the rootzone where it counts, but it nevertheless has survived this and other very cold temperatures.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2007 at 11:19AM
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I know that your friend has probably already planted his windmill palms.

I don't think it is unrealistic to expect to provide some protection to a young palm. Yuccado, which is a very reputable nursery in Hempstead, TX protect their young hardy palms for the first two years. They get covered at 32 degrees. At 26, they get double covering.

I find that an appliance box makes a pretty handy cover for those colder than average nights.

Here is an excerpt from an article from Raulston Arboretum in North Carolina:

Fall - in dry climates palms can handle lower temperatures than in areas where rain may fall in crowns and freeze around the one growing point. This was beautifully shown by two Windmill palm (Trachycarpus fortunei) plants in the arboretum - one in the open and one in the visitor center (overhead cover but no temperature protection). It rained heavily all day and that night temperatures fell to 10 degrees Fareinheight (coldest of winter) encasing everything in ice. The covered palm survived and the one with the wet crown died. We also had severe damage on the large Agave which in previous winters had tolerated 10 degrees and lower with no injury at all - likely for the same reason. Incidentally - the hardiest palms for use in N.C. are the Mediterranean Fan Palm - Chamaerops humilis, Needle Palm - Rhapidophyllum hystrix and Windmill Palm - Trachycarpus fortunei. For best results they should receive shade during winter months and a roof overhang may prevent crown freezing. West of Charlotte in the town of Shelby there is an old planting of Windmill palms now about 16' tall which certainly have endured 0 degrees or lower temperatures over the years.

I think the "shade during winter months" says a lot. Although, it is much easier said than done.

Desication and sunburn following cold damage is the main problem I have encountered with plants. Shade will not only protect the plant, but will also allow it to heal.

Here is a link that might be useful: Friends of the Arboretum Newsletter August 1983

    Bookmark   January 10, 2008 at 6:20PM
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This is the first year mine have been in the ground. Have had them for several years now and planted them when they got too big for any containers. I live in Northeastern NJ (zone 7). December had been wet, cold, with some heavy ice. The lowest it's been is about 15 F. but wind chills were around 0 F on a few nights. The plant is unprotected but I did spray with an antidessicant in the fall. The last week or so has been very mild 50's-60's and it seems to be pushing some growth. They are on the south side of the house in full sun. They have shown little ill effects. I love these guys. They do slow down in hot weather (unlike most palms) but grow relatively quickly in the cooler months. Even though absolute minimums are important, maybe equally important is the DURATION of these cold temps (i.e., 5 degrees for a night or two may not be fatal but weeks on end might be a different story). PS. I also have the wagnerianus in the ground, and they are supposed to be even hardier than fortunei (and a lot of folks consider them to be more attractive than the fortunei).

    Bookmark   January 10, 2008 at 7:20PM
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Hi Tom,

Just some background. I live in Ontario, Canada, near Ottawa. It is USDA zone 4a (each winter usually reaches -30F at least once). The winter is usually snowy, cold, and lasts from November to April.

I ran some experiments with trachies (seedlings from Vancouver plants) over the last few years. I planted 3 seedlings under the roof overhang at the side of the house 2 years ago. I covered them in a blanket in late fall, then basket and leaves, and topped with a blanket. The snow covered that. In the spring I uncovered the plants while the ground was still frozen (April). They were in excellent shape with minor leaf burn. They continued to grow well all summer. That was not a particularly cold winter, but I am USDA zone 4 nonetheless. I posted that experiment on this site before.

Then last year I tried a new experiment.. I covered the plants in straw, then a blanket. It was a very warm fall, so much so that I decided to uncover them in December for fear of too much warmth and no air/light. They were gone! Animals had gotten in and eaten them completely.

This year I have tried again with new seedlings. I placed a styrofoam dome over the plant and allowed the (excessive) snow to cover it. We had several feet of snow on top of the plants. But in the past week we had a freak thaw with rain and most of that snow disappeared. I lifted the styrofoam dome and the trachy looked perfect. The spear may even have grown a bit. I have replaced the cap again and will leave it until April (as most of the harsh winter is still to come).

So I believe that the seedlings are actually quite hardy, perhaps because the bud is below or at ground level. I would not try wintering the trachy here without cover. But with ample protection from ice and severe cold, the trachy seems perfectly capable of withstanding frozen ground and freezing temperatures. I can take a picture and upload if you like.


    Bookmark   January 11, 2008 at 3:22PM
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Trachys are pretty tough plants. I had 1 that experienced spear pull last year . (it got down to 8 degrees) but i moved it and it has rebounded quite well. As i have said before it's all about putting them in good draining ground.

    Bookmark   January 12, 2008 at 12:38AM
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Windmill palms don't do well in humid So Fla (zone 10). I bought six and two died within a month. Nurseries here don't sell them; growers say that they don't like the hot humid weather. Not surprisingly, Walmart sells them here. Right next to the roses, which don't grow in So Fla either.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2008 at 9:16PM
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