Sabal Palmettos at DE and MD beaches

wetsuiter(7b/8a)November 2, 2011

This particular hurricane-cut Sabal Palmetto at a Garden Center outside of Bethany Beach, Delaware has been discussed on this forum two or three times before. It was planted three or four years ago by the original owner of the Garden Center. I believe it was winter protected that first year, but the new owners of the Center haven't protected it.

When I first learned about it when I joined this forum, I went down to see it in person back in March and it didn't look very happy. Most of the exposed fronds were brown; the only green was from one of the hurricane cut leaves and a tiny bit of green emerging from the center. But I checked on it a few times this summer and it in did show slow signs of growth, which is encouraging. Hopefully, it's putting more energy into its root system (severely cropped during hurricane cutting) and it'll push out more fronds next summer, provided it survives.

While extensively researching Sabal Palmettos on line, I read that hurricane-cut palms are not a good choice for planting in marginal areas (like here). This Sabal kinda illustrates that. Palm Growers in NC and SC say that smaller pot-grown palmettos with healthy roots and crowns make a better plantings in areas like this (or say, inland NC).

This palmetto has three things working against it in our area: 1.) Being hurricane cut, 2.) being about three miles inland from moderating effects of the ocean in winter, and 3.) being out in the open (no buildings or trees or fence anywhere near it). All things considered, this palm is showing some promising signs of recovery since I first started visiting it. This winter may make or break it, but I honestly believe it has a better chance of survival down here, than the ones that were up in Washington, DC at the Scottish Rite Temple.

Alex asked me to take some photos of it:

After visiting the garden center, I stumbled upon another Sabal Palmetto at a miniature golf course in Ocean City, Maryland--literally a few feet south of the DE/MD state line. The mini golf is typical of the ones around our beach resorts, with lots of big tropical palms planted to attract the tourists. But I did notice a few hardier varieties at this course too--notably, medium Windmills and a Washy. One good-sized "Sabal Minor" caught my eye and I stopped the car and got out. Closer inspection showed that the leaves were Costa-Palmate, a dead giveaway that this was a young Sabal Palmetto, not a Minor. The palm looked like it had wintered over a year or two as there were some brown tips. It is much better protected (than the one at the garden center) by a short wall, it is closer to the moderating effects of the ocean and is not hurricane cut. I was pretty glad to see this, as I'm interested in trying some larger Palmettos in my garden. The relative good health of this small sabal also supports what I've read on palm growers' websites stating that smaller, pot raised palmettos with healthy roots and crown are a better choice for marginal areas.

The first and last photo below really show the Costa-Palmate nature of the top left and right-most fronds.

And just for grins, here are some of the two dozen or so Sabal Palmettos sprouting all over my garden beds. After a gathering trip south, I carefully planted some in palmetto seeds in pots and broadcast the rest into my garden beds back in March. Every time I do some gardening, I'm finding another one or two. It'll be very interesting to see if they make it through winter this year.

Some potted Palmetto seedlings next to ones coming up in the garden for comparison. The pot-raised ones are smaller and greener, but the garden sprouted ones grew faster and taller.

This past weekend's weather really illustrated how our location on the DelMarVa coast really protects us from much winter precip. While just an hour north of me they were seeing snow with temps in the low 30s, it was in the low 50s here at the beach most of that day and it never dropped below 42 that night (pretty much like what was happening in VB temperature-wise). Hope everyone further north has their power on and the snow is melted.

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jimhardy

Nice informative post....and I think your right,
this winter may"make or break" it.
Hopefully the former and it can recover some
of it's long lost fronds!

    Bookmark   November 2, 2011 at 10:29AM
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dixieboy

Wetsuiter, i know things are a little different here in inner coastal Carolina but i couldn't agree with you more, most of the time but not all the time i can tell the difference in grown from seed or a small container than from HC transplants from mostly Fl.

These are HC transplants 30 miles inland in Washington NC that turned out very good in about 4 years but they are in the minority mostly. ( again, some look good but others.....)

I have a special feel for our butia because i've watched it grow from a small container.

Same for this SP.

A special feel for this one that popped from seed.

    Bookmark   November 2, 2011 at 11:51AM
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brooklyngreg(7a NYC coastal plain)

Nicely done. Thank you for the details.

The Garden Center palm as you noted has too many strikes against it. Its just beginning to recover and BOOM, here's another winter. If it had at least a bud wrap, or building to protect it from the north wind it may survive long term. I speculate that the palms in DC that are planted on the south sides of buildings may actually have a better chance depending how close to the building they are. The closer the better(warmer).

    Bookmark   November 2, 2011 at 11:54AM
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wetsuiter(7b/8a)

Greg, from what I heard here, the H-C Sabals in DC didn't survive and have been replaced by windmills which will do better. H-C palms arejust a bad choice for these latitudes. Sadly, nice-sized pot-grown palmettos are expensive and hard to come by.

I've been fascinated by SPs for a long time. More so since doing a lot of on-line research into their hardiness and range. One historical account said a cluster of them grew in Chincoteague, Virginia (55 miles south of me as the crow flies, half way to VB) when the first colonists arrived.

    Bookmark   November 2, 2011 at 12:52PM
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cfa_li(z7/8 Queens, NY)

SP's are what got me interested in palms, they're still among my favorites. I love that they're creeping up the Atlantic Coastline, I know in order for one to even have a chance here it would have to be a hardier variety (not from FL) and be in a super microclimate (or just protected).

I really hope this one makes it.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2011 at 11:55AM
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wetsuiter(7b/8a)

Dixieboy, where in Eastern NC are you? I did a drive down the DelMarVa into Eastern NC in the Spring and made a stop in Edenton. Beautiful area. You're likely a solid zone 8b there, while I'm at the far north end of 8a, so there is a marked difference. You have better recovery after a cold snap and warm up earlier in the spring. That was very apparent when I traveled south last March. It was only a 4 hr drive to Edenton, but all the trees were in bloom and there were lots of big windmill palms and a few sabals.

I too like that s. palmetto is creeping up the Eastern Seaboard. Look at what's going on in Virginia Beach. But varieties such as Bald Head Island or Sabal Birmingham would do better in 8a or 7b. But they're harder to come by.

I've also read that seedlings will often be more cold tolerant than the parent plant if they are grown in a colder area. My Savannah-grown seeds that sprouted in my Delaware beach garden may prove or disprove that.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2011 at 12:41PM
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dixieboy

I'm farther south than Edenton (not sure of the mileage) & a more saltier environment. (Eastern Beaufort county)
One thing you need to be aware of is that s.palmetto loses hardiness once a trunk forms & puts the center grow'in area exposed above ground to the cold. (Seed grown & smaller container grown specimens)
Most s.palmettos here & along the coast survived the artic blasts of the 80's.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2011 at 1:22PM
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wetsuiter(7b/8a)

I'm familiar with Beaufort, NC. Beautiful area, and milder still than Edenton for sure. I've heard of the freeze of 1989 on Gary's Garden Center website. Minus 4 in New Bern is unbelievable. I doubt it ever has gotten that cold here in the past 30 years. Anything below 20 is unusual for us. Went to 17 or 18 two nights last Winter.

Interesting point about being less hardy as their trunk lifts the growing bud out of the ground. I still think it's worth experimenting with here.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2011 at 2:33PM
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dixieboy

Ocean City Md. -2 degrees 1982 Weather underground.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2011 at 3:45PM
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wetsuiter(7b/8a)

Yeah, I remember that cold snap. I was doing a college internship at the NWS at the Wilmington, Delaware Airport. Dropped to about -6F there. I'm surprised OC or the DE beaches saw sub zero. But again, that's 30 yrs ago. Anything freaky is possible when it comes to Mother Nature.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2011 at 7:05PM
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wetsuiter(7b/8a)

Dixieboy, How did you find that information on Weather Underground? I can't seem to find historic data there.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2011 at 7:18PM
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    Bookmark   November 3, 2011 at 9:54PM
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dixieboy

Another one, look at climate.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ocean_City,_Maryland

    Bookmark   November 3, 2011 at 10:00PM
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brooklyngreg(7a NYC coastal plain)

I agree, H-C palms are a poor choice for these latitudes.

    Bookmark   November 4, 2011 at 2:07PM
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Loveplants2 8b Virginia Beach, Virginia

Hello Everyone,

Hi Wetsuiter,

Love all of the information and the pics!!!

Great job on the seedlings too!

I think all of your experiments are remarkable and i applaud you for seeking how far we can push the limits...

That Sabal at the Garden Center could easily be saved it they took 10 minutes to prepare it. What a shame that noone there can take the time to protect this investment.

It wants to survive..it looks healthy to me and just needs a little attention..

Hi DIxieboy!!!

Big fan of yours here!!!!

Love the look of "the low country" always have!!!

How did you make out with Irene?

Did you have water all in your yard? Im sorry if i missed any post that you made reguarding this ..

Take care,

Great job Wetsuiter!!! : ) oh..i did use those pics for my Christmas cards last year!!!

Laura in VB

    Bookmark   November 4, 2011 at 9:16PM
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dixieboy

Hey Laura, hope you are well, i've not posted about Irene on this board but she did a number on us in this particular area, a cat 1 storm that did cat 3 damage, never before with all the storms that we have gotten in our life time did about 70 to 75% of our homes recieve tide water intrusion also a never before storm surge of 15'. Here are a few pics-

We think a piece of pier was slam'in against the house & with much wave action punched a hole in front allowing water intrusion from sea spray. ( we got out of dodge during the storm) We are in repair from water intrusion plus structural damage.

This is our storage building in back of the house, the other one was completly destroyed.

This is my cousins storage & his other one was destroyed also.

An example of some of our yard plants, our agave completly washed or floated back in our woods, some palms damaged, others look half way decent.

    Bookmark   November 5, 2011 at 2:32PM
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Loveplants2 8b Virginia Beach, Virginia

Hey Dixieboy,

I am so sorry to see all of the destruction that Irene did to your beautiful paradise...

What strength the water has and the true force of mother nature can never be taken for granted.

Oh My....

Im so glad you all left...

The house and material things can be replaced..

You and your family cannot!!

Glad you are ok!!!

Take care,

Laura in VB

    Bookmark   November 5, 2011 at 8:23PM
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dixieboy

Thanks Laura, on a side note, recent pics of the washingtonias around the point from us came through the howling winds & brunt of Irene with flying colors! 2 pics

    Bookmark   November 6, 2011 at 9:17AM
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wetsuiter(7b/8a)

Since a few older threads have been dredged up recently, I thought I'd provide an update.

The large hurricane cut sabal depicted in the first pics was winter wrapped by the new owners of this garden center. Good news for its recovery and long term survival. It survived unwrapped last year's winter which was a bit more severe than this with one 8" snow and a few smaller ones. This mild winter would have been the better year to be unwrapped, but this should nudge it along.

The smaller sabal palmetto at the golf course (apparently it too is in Delaware, not MD. A few yards north of the state line) is doing great. Not any burning even from a few nights in the mid teens. There are also some unprotected Washys there doing pretty well with minor leaf damage.

The palmetto seedlings in my garden are mostly doing very well unprotected. Three of the most exposed (no mulch, or shrubs nearby an in full sun) suffered leaf burn, but are still very green at the bottom of the leaves. This confirms what I've read. In nature, young sabals that grow under the shelter of parent plants or group forest ground cover are the ones that survive cold snaps. Also read that sabal seeds won't even sprout in the open, exposed full sun.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2012 at 9:26PM
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tropicalzone7(7b)

Glad to hear they are doing well! Its been a mild winter so Im sure they enjoyed the break!
One of my pindo palms was not heated this year (just put a garbage bin over it on the coldest nights) and so far it seems alive. I wasnt actually expecting it to survive with that little protection (and of course its no guarantee that the spear wont pull in the spring), but luckily I have a much healthier and faster growing pindo that I did protect well and it shouldn't have any problems in spring (I hope not anyways!). My Frostproof gardenias werent protected this winter at all and they are nice and green.

Its been a pretty good winter for zone 8 plants so those Palmettos in DE should make lots of new fronds this summer! And Im pretty sure that Sabals will sprout in Full sun since in Florida they sprout just about anywhere (the middle of lawns, the cracks between sidewalks, sometimes even inside a pit of a live oak tree! But in nature, they definitely do grow in shade when young the majority of the time (sometimes when they grow along the edge of a forest, they will be in full sun, and eventually they do outgrow most of the trees in the forest and reach full sun!).
Thanks for the update! Take some pics when the weather gets warm again if you get the chance!
-Alex

    Bookmark   February 7, 2012 at 10:13PM
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wetsuiter(7b/8a)

I'm glad you read this thread Alex. I took the initial pics at your request, but I was surprised you didn't comment on the first round. You always comment! Lol!

    Bookmark   February 8, 2012 at 4:43PM
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Potomactropics(7b - Potomac,MD (Great Falls))

Looking at the pictures of the Washingtonia, I am curious what kind they are...Mexican or California. I am going to attempt to push these next winter with a ton of protection. I would like to know which is hardier.

From the looks of it, this is a 8a/b zone and I would only have to protect it by 1 zone.

Thanks

    Bookmark   February 9, 2012 at 4:46PM
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wetsuiter(7b/8a)

An after winter update on the above sabal palmettos.

So sad to report that the hurricane cut palmetto didn't make it according to the guy who planted it. I had high hopes since this was such a mild winter even with two, short mid-teen cold snaps. It was not killed by the winter, rather than inappropriate, over protection by the new owner. Apparently she wrapped it in plastic with xmas lights right on the fronds, so it got cooked! So sad. If she had just ignored it like last winter, it would've done fine and likely added more fronds this summer. My friend said she is clueless with semi tropicals and doesn't listen to advice.

The small palmetto at the mini golf course looks great. I really think more 10 and 15 gallon potted palmettos need to be tried here. It's the best option for marginal areas according to Gary's Nursery in New Bern, NC. It's a shame they've not been available locally.

Finally, the experimental palmetto seedlings that I scattered all over my garden survived exceedingly well with out any protection other than leaves that fell around them. Two or three that were most exposed and open on the west side of the front porch suffered burn. But all if them are very green at the baseses of their strap leaves and new straps/spears are emerging.

I'm so disappointed about the HC palm, needless to say.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2012 at 12:10PM
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