Hillsborough Extension Garden Blog

Solutions you can use for your gardening problems.

Cold Hardy Palms – Part III January 14, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Hillsborough County Residential Horticulture @ 10:19 pm
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Needle palm (Rhapidophyllum hystrix) – Usually found in the understory of rich hardwood forests throughout the southeastern United States, needle palm can be adapted to full sun conditions in a landscape. This clustering palm is essentially trunkless and will send out several fronds from a fiber-matted crown near the ground. The fronds are deeply divided, with a dark green color above and silver below. The farther north in the state this palm is planted, the slower it will grow.

Windmill palm (Trachycarpus fortunei) – A native of China, the windmill palm is capable of withstanding fairly severe freezes with no damage. On the other hand, it is short-lived in hot tropical climates. The single, erect trunk appears to be wrapped in burlap and does well in small spaces, since it is slow-growing. Windmill palm does best in partly shady, well drained soils with above average fertility, but it will survive in almost anything except perpetually soggy conditions. In warm temperate zones, this palm provides just enough of a tropical accent to be warranted a necessary plant for the Florida landscape.

Although many palms look like trees, they are actually more closely related to lilies, grasses, irises, orchids and bromeliads. All these plants belong to the division of flowering plants known as monocots. Knowing this is important for the proper care of palms, since the future of a palm stem rides upon the continued health of a single actively growing bud. If this bud, known as the “heart” of the palm, is killed or severely damaged, the entire palm is doomed to eventual death.

The 2010 winter season was a real eye-opener for many homeowners that were growing palms well out of their recommended hardiness zones. If you lost palms to the cold, consider these hardy options in the coming year to maintain your little piece of Florida paradise.

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3 Responses to “Cold Hardy Palms – Part III”

  1. L. Jones Says:

    Thanks for the info. I have grown needle palms in pots and they looked healthy for a little while but they needed to in the sunlight.

  2. NatureGuy Says:

    I grew some Trachycarpus fortunei’s in Portland, OR, for several years (& they’re still growing.) They require some protection from severe freezes when still young plants (up to 3-4 ft), but afterwards nothing more is needed. There are older specimen plantings of this particular palm in various locations in Portland—and elsewhere in the Pacific NW (Seattle, locks area) How readily they will grow here in the Tampa Bay area is yet to be determined.

    • mdabreau Says:

      There are a very small number of nurserymen growing and selling this palm in the Tampa Bay area (and nearby). I’ve seen it do quite well for several years in a couple yards in central Florida.


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