Help - Winterizing Bananas/Windmill Palms

theyardmanOctober 23, 2007

Last summer I bought my first windmill palm. It made through last winter down to -1 two days in row (coldest week in 22 years).

However, I bought another Fan Palm and planted two banana trees.

How do I winterize these plants (both the palms and bananas)?

Just a fluke last year that it made it, it was buried inthe only snow we got last year during the deep freeze week.


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blondboy47(z6b(almost 7) ON,Canada)

You say another Fan Palm, do you mean a Windmill palm (trachycarpus fortunei)?

Here's how we protect our palms here in S. Ontario. These are last winter's pics. We haven't done any protecting yet as it's too early. Probably over the next couple of weekends.

Washintonia Robusta. Last winter, it was small. This year, it grew like crazy... I'm afraid now! LOL

Smaller palms

To heat the insides, I use cheap hair blow dryers from Walmart. I get the ones that have settings as low as 400 watts (the ones that have a low of 800 watts are too hot and use too much electricity.) At 400 watts each, you can connect 3 on the same HEAVY DUTY line.

I use a thermostat and make my own plug/thermostat/wall socket.

PLEASE NOTE, I'm only showing what I do. I am not recommending or suggesting anyone do the same. If you do, do so at your own risk. I have over 30 years of experience in the field and while my design may not look real cool, it's very safe FOR ME!

NOTE, the plug in the example is not the type I really use. I use one of those very thick, yellow, 3-pronged, heavy duty plugs. Just can't find the correct photo of it.

    Bookmark   October 24, 2007 at 8:03AM
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Re: the bananas.
It depends on what kind of bananas and when you planted them.
If they are hardy and you planted them in enuf time to get established, you would leave them outside with a leaf cage.
Otherwise, you can store them dormant by digging up the corm after the first light frost. But I would only do that if the corm is big enough (don't ask me how big).
In my case, I just dig up the plant, pot it, and keep as a houseplant.
(check out the bananas forum)

    Bookmark   October 24, 2007 at 2:09PM
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Neither of the above mentioned options seem practical. Is their anyway to mulch and cover them. Neither are over 3 ft. tall?

Do I still need to add the string lights element with much mulch and opaque covering?

Please advise

    Bookmark   October 25, 2007 at 4:21PM
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wingo_43(z7b GA)

Other than what blondboy and seahorse have suggested, there aren't too many options left...welcome to the wonderful world of growing palms and bananas in a zone where they were never intended to grow.........

as for the bananas, as seahorse mentioned, wait until the first frost, cut the stalk off about a foot above the ground. Then mulch heavily with leaves/straw. With luck, they'll come back next spring.

Same with the palms. Use polynet fencing or chicken wire to build a round circular cage around each palm, then fill with leaves and/or straw. Use a tarp or plastic sheeting to keep excessive rain from getting the mulch waterlogged.

You can try just string lights, but not sure if this will generate enough heat to do the job. You mentioned these windmills have already survived -1 temps. Were they protected? There's a good chance they may need nothing more than a good, thick blanket wrapped around them on the coldest nights.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2007 at 7:24AM
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Thanks Wingo 43,

The very small one made it last year because it was buried in a the only snow drifts we had last winter when the lows dropped to the single digits for 3 nights in a row and the highs actually stayed below 20F for 4 days straight (coldest week in 35 years).

The bananas were planted in April 07 and the Chinese Fan Palm in May 07. Both flourished this very long summer. But reality is setting in this week. We may even get our first frost by next weekend. We've evaded that. Our lost frost was amazingly the first week of April and our first frost may be in November. That certainly would've never happened when I was a kid.

It is said that this area has seen the greatest shift in actual average temps over the last 10-20 years on the plantet. In Detroit Area, we actually love this global warming stuff. In 2004, the USDA changed our hardiness zone from 5 to 6; so now we are the same as parts of TN, GA, AR, and TX. Amazing!

    Bookmark   October 26, 2007 at 3:24PM
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Well, it looks like it's time to winterize the palms. I've put a circular chicken wire frame holding an old throw rug around the Trachy. Once it gets even colder I'll add some leaves and dark visqueen over the whole thing to keep it dry.

Next, I'll heavily mulch the musas and put black visqueen over the whole thing, spike it down and hold it with bricks.

Does this seem logical to anyone who's done this already?

    Bookmark   October 30, 2007 at 1:37PM
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I have grown palms and bananas in zone 3-4 in Northern Utah for over 10 years. I have an 8' Windmill Palm, two 6' Mediterranean Fan Palms that produce seed, and a smaller Pindo Palm, all grown from small one or two gallon size nursery plants. They are all very green and healthy. I have seen no better looking palms of this size and type in California or anywhere else. For winter protection I have built boxes from 2 inch thick blue-board styrofoam. The only heat the palms get is from two screw-in flourescent light bulbs, so they don't put out a lot of heat, and there is no real jump in my electrical bill. They have survived winters here down to -39 degrees F. I can always submit pictures if you wish.

    Bookmark   December 5, 2007 at 4:46PM
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yes pics,especially when they in the winter cover!

    Bookmark   December 5, 2007 at 5:03PM
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arctictropical - nicely done. You can't get out of here that easy. Tell us about your shelters. how big are they? and do you leave the palms covered all winter long or do you open one side during warmer sunny winter days, etc. THANKS.

    Bookmark   December 5, 2007 at 9:05PM
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more... more.... more.... !!

    Bookmark   December 6, 2007 at 12:01AM
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blondboy47(z6b(almost 7) ON,Canada)

So, no light? no real heat? do you infuse the roots with some kind of Antifreeze?

Do you monitor the temps inside? If so, what is the real low it gets inside?

That reminds me. I need to take pictures this weekend of the structures we've build.

The one for the Washy in the middle of the yard (picture here) is much higher than the picture of last year. It's scarey. The little mini house thing is gone as now we have new, larger palms in that area. Will post pics this weekend if I think of it.

Isn't this all so much fun? ):/

    Bookmark   December 6, 2007 at 7:21AM
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The extent to which some palm enthusiasts go to protect their plants is awesome. My weather preparations don't go beyond the annual spraying with an antidessicant and some mulching. I haven't tried really to overwinter palms. I have had everything in large containers (of course my winter prep time goes into dragging large containers into and out of garages and basements, etc.). This year though, I am experimenting with two beautiful, large trachycarpus palms (about 4-5 feet tall). They've grown too big for the biggest of my containers and I figured they might begin showing signs of suffering if they had to go through a long, hot summer in undersized containers.

I planted both of them in front of the house (faces S, SE) in mid July. I'll probably apply some added mulching. Currently there is no snow and snow cover is highly unpredictable around here (could be none, could be waist deep). I realize that snow is a good mulch for many plants. Is this true for hardier palms as well or is piling any available snow just making the surrounding soil excessively WET??) So far (realize winter hasn't really begun), they look terrific. Stunning especially after a couple of light snowfalls coated the fronds. I think they should be okay without additional protection. I might wrap blankets around the trunks if the weather gets brutal but right now they are soaking up the sun with temps in the 40's. My other concern is their proximity to the house--less than two feet away from the bricks or elevated porch. I don't mind trimming away some fronds if they interfere with the house and figured the closer location would give greater winter protection. Good luck and Happy Holidays!

    Bookmark   December 8, 2007 at 9:38AM
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I just took a peak under the blanket and black covering over my Trachi. It looks unscathed so far. We've had two nights go down to 20deg and 3 days haven't even reached freezing. However, with the southern exposure, should I be concerned about it getting too warm in there? I don't want to trick it back into growth.

When should I remove the structure of black water proof cover over chick wire cage over blanket wrapping?

I'm guessing that it might be once we start getting progressive days over 60 deg again (May March) with lows typically in the 20's to 30's.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2007 at 1:45PM
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arctictropical. Thats awesome! I do wish to see pics! PLEASE?! You can post them here and on my forum. Pennsylvania Cold Hardy Palms. Link below.

Here is a link that might be useful: Pennsylvania Cold Hardy Palms

    Bookmark   December 12, 2007 at 5:00PM
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JohnnieB(Washington, DC 7a/b)

Zone 3-4 and -39 degrees, huh? I guess it's possible, with major protection. So is Mr. Arctictropical ever going to come back and show us the photos that HE offered to post, and that several people have enthusiastically requested?

    Bookmark   December 13, 2007 at 11:36AM
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Sorry for the delay in replying! Over ten years ago I originally built two 4x4 sytrofoam boxes with 2 inch blue board styrofoam used in home construction, and regular pine lumber. I put a couple of clear plastic panels in the top with a dead-air space in between. I've since then built two more boxes and added two feet on to one of the original boxes. I gave up on the clear plastic panels and put a solid top on the boxes. The plastic panels probably loose too much heat. Anyway, I currently have an 8x4 foot box, a 6x4 foot box and two 4x4 boxes. They are all painted white and I cover the boxes with clear plastic to keep the winter elements away from the boxes. Some have two screw-in flourescent light bulbs. The larger ones have three. I use large eye screws, plastic twine and tent pegs to keep the boxes from blowing over in the wind. I leave the boxes on until April or May. When I pull the boxes off in the Spring, the palms are as healthy and green as when I put the boxes on in the Fall. My electrical bill doesn't seem to jump up any more than maybe a dollar or two each month. I use a tractor/loader to lift the two largest boxes over the palms. If I build any higher boxes, I will probably make one side of the box with a removeable panel so that I won't need to raise the boxes with a tractor. I'd be glad to attach pictures but have no idea how to attach them. Can anyone help?

    Bookmark   December 13, 2007 at 1:25PM
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Go to Photobucket get a free account. Upload the pictures from your computer. Copy the html link and paste it right in the message box. Or you can put the link to your photobucket account in the optional link url box. Once you do it the first time its really easy after that. It just sounds complicated. I'll put the link to Photobucket below so you can sign up. Its free and easy.

Here is a link that might be useful: Photobucket Homepage

    Bookmark   December 14, 2007 at 3:51PM
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Central_Cali369(Sunset Z9, Fresno, CA)

Arctictropical, Id really like to see your palms. As a californian, i find it hard to believe that a mediterranean fan grows better in N Utah than in central or southern CA, since we do, after all, have a medditeranean climate. Where in CA did you see these palms? In northern CA,they may not look great, but in central and southern CA, they look great. People here dont generally plant Trachys, since there exist more tropical and subtropical options, but there is a trachy about two blocks from my house that is about 20 feet high. This is what Trachys look like in Cal.

Med Fan Palms


Theyardman, i would go with the heavy mulching idea. That is usually the way i protect my plants when frost threatens, but i cant give you any more advice since ice never had to deal with more than a light frost.

    Bookmark   December 14, 2007 at 7:52PM
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Central_Cali369(Sunset Z9, Fresno, CA)

Woops! here they are again:

Trachycarpus fortunei

Butia capitata (pindo)

Mediterannean Fan Palm

    Bookmark   December 15, 2007 at 12:46PM
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absolutely gorgeous !!

    Bookmark   December 17, 2007 at 12:56AM
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