Palm trees are typically associated with warm and sunny climates, but even some of those warm climates can experience a drop in temperature every now and then. So, if you're wondering whether palm trees could survive a freeze, you've come to the right place. We've researched the topic in depth and have an answer for you.
Some types of palm trees can survive a freeze. However, several varieties of palm trees cannot survive a freeze. For example, tropical palms will become damaged if exposed to temperatures below 45ºF. However, several species will survive temperatures as low as 10ºF.
Now you know that some palm trees can survive a freeze, but keep reading as we elaborate on this further. We'll discuss which palms are most likely to survive the cold weather and which ones won't. We'll also answer some other questions you might have about palm trees.
Palm Trees And The Cold
Florida is one state known for its abundance of palm trees, so let's discuss what happens to the palm trees in Florida if it gets below freezing.
According to the National Weather Service (NWS), south Florida sees a hard freeze once every 10 years. So what is a hard freeze? A hard freeze is when the temperature drops below freezing for an extended period.
The NWS sets the temperature for a hard freeze at anything below 28ºF. A hard freeze is enough to seriously harm or damage seasonal vegetation. Palm trees go dormant in cooler months and stop growing, but that doesn't mean they can withstand a freeze.
Which Palm Trees Can Survive A Freeze?
There are a number of palm trees that can survive a freeze. We won't list all of them, but let's go over several you might see here in the US.
Cabbage Palm Tree
Cabbage palms, also known as sabal palms, are one of the most common types of palm trees found in Florida.
Fortunately, cabbage palms can withstand extended periods of cold. Cabbage palms can survive temperatures as low as 10ºF. However, anything below this temperature can cause damage to the leaves of the palm.
Palms that have been damaged by the cold will have fronds that turn white and then brown and brittle. Damaged fronds don't always mean your palm won't recover, however. If the trunk is not damaged, your palm may still survive.
Paurotis Palm Tree
This palm isn't quite as hardy as the cabbage palm but can withstand temperatures as low as 25ºF. It's native to south Florida but can also be found in South America and the West Indies. If the paurotis palm is damaged in a freeze, its leaves will turn brittle and brown.
This palm actually prefers cooler climates and can withstand heavy snow and temperatures as low as 10ºF. It can be found in mountainous areas and at elevations over 6,000 feet. In the US, windmill palms can be found on the gulf coast, the entire west coast, and as far north as Virginia on the east coast.
Like the cabbage palm, the windmill palm will receive leaf damage once temperatures drop below 10ºF. Despite being susceptible to leaf damage at this temperature, it can survive temperatures as low as -10ºF.
California Fan Palm
California fan palms that are well established can withstand cold spells and freezes. These types of palms will start seeing damage to their leaves when temperatures reach around 15ºF to 20ºF.
Despite their cold hardiness, these palms will still do best in full sun. As their name might imply, California fan palms can be found in California. They are also seen in Arizona and Mexico.
Which Palm Trees Cannot Survive A Freeze?
Coconut palms, if you haven't guessed by their name, are the type of palm trees that grow coconuts. In the US, they can only be found in the tropical region of Florida. Coconut palms are more common in the tropics such as the Caribbean, South America, and southeast Asia.
This species of palm tree cannot handle cold weather. It may survive temperatures reaching as low as 30ºF but only if it is well established. If a coconut palm freezes, it'll likely not recover.
Areca palms are also more suited for tropical climates. While it is natural to Madagascar, these palms can be found in Florida and other tropical and subtropical areas.
It can also be grown indoors. It can tolerate cold down to 20ºF once fully matured. However, even at this temperature, these palms can receive leaf damage when exposed for too long. Often leaf damage can be left alone and new growth will push through.
How Do I Protect My Palm Trees From A Freeze?
If a palm becomes damaged from the cold, it may be as minor as foliage damage or as serious as the death of the plant. Cases in between, where a palm receives tissue damage from the frost, can result in a palm that's more likely to get a disease.
If you have a palm tree that is more susceptible to damage from the cold or a freeze, you may be wondering if there is anything you can do to protect them during a cold period. Well, fortunately, there is.
One way involves wrapping the palm trees with frost cloth or burlap. The fabric needs to be light enough to allow sunlight and air through. Covering the palm with frost cloth will help keep its surrounding soil warm so that the tree itself doesn't freeze.
Watering And Mulching
This might sound counterintuitive, but watering your palms heavily before a frost can help prevent your palm tree from freezing.
The more water your palm intakes before the freeze, the less susceptible your palm will be to the frost. Use lukewarm water if you can to also help warm up the ground surrounding the palm's roots. This will also encourage more water intake from the palm.
It's also a good idea to mulch your palm trees during winter. Adding a couple of inches of mulch can prevent a freeze from reaching as deep as it might normally which can help protect your palm's roots and trunk.
Adding lights to your palm tree can not only make it festive for the winter season but it can also help keep them warm enough to protect them during a frost.
Lights often generate heat, so your palms can be kept a few degrees warmer simply by wrapping them with lights. Newer lights often use LEDs that do not emit a lot of heat. If you can, use old holiday lights, as these will generate enough heat to protect your tree.
How Do I Treat My Palms After Freezing?
You might not notice that your palms are damaged after the freeze. It can sometimes take days for damage to present itself. Even if your palms are noticeably damaged, do not do anything right away. If the palm fronds are damaged, it's important to see if new ones begin to grow before removing the damaged ones.
Sometimes a palm is more severely damaged, which can result in the death of the plant. Even in these cases, it's best to leave the palm as is and wait to see if it grows. You might be tempted to fertilize the palms now, but you should only fertilize the plants in early spring to late fall.
How Long Does It Take For A Palm Tree To Recover From Freezing?
If your palm is damaged from a freeze, you may be surprised to know it can take some time for them to recover. It may take up to a year from the date of the freeze for your palm tree to recover. Keep an eye out for any new growth during this period.
By now you should have a good idea about whether a palm tree will or will not survive a freeze. Hopefully, our article has been helpful in informing you which palm trees can withstand the cold and which ones might need some assistance making it through the cold spell.
And if you own a palm tree that prefers a tropical climate, we hope you now have a better idea about how you can protect it from any cold damage.
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