Hillsborough Extension Garden Blog

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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.

 

Cold Hardy Palms – Part II January 10, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Hillsborough County Residential Horticulture @ 10:17 pm
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Petticoat palm (Washingtonia filifera) – This close relative of the common Washington palm used throughout Florida is, in my opinion, a much more attractive choice. Whereas one has to crane their neck to the sky to see the canopy of the Washington palm, the petticoat palm does not get as tall and has a much thicker trunk. W. filifera repeatedly survives dips into the teens and even several inches of snow, making it a favorite of cold-hardy palm enthusiasts. The dead fronds, if left on the palm year after year, will layer themselves neatly around the trunk, creating a petticoat, of sorts. Used most often out west in California, Nevada, Arizona and Texas, the petticoat palm could do quite well in central and north Florida landscapes.

Mazari palm (Nannorrhops ritchiana) – Native to Afghanistan, Pakistan and Arabia, the Mazari palm is a slow-growing, clustering palm (similar to the European fan palm) and is considered the hardiest of all palms. Its powdery blue-green fronds are an eye-catching accent in the landscape. Mazari palm does not have a crownshaft and its stem remains below ground. It has branches above ground and slowly develops a bushy, shrub-like appearance. Throughout its desert range, this plant’s fibers are used for weaving and rope manufacture.

 

Cold Hardy Palms – Part I January 5, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Hillsborough County Residential Horticulture @ 10:16 pm
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In most parts of the country, the mere mention of living in Florida conjures up images of warm breezes, sunny beaches, and palm trees. But not all palms can grow in all parts of the state; many of them are restricted to the southern reaches of the peninsula because of their low cold tolerance. So what’s a northern Florida homeowner to do?

There are a number of palms – some popular and some underutilized – that are suitable for hardiness zones across the entire state. Common palms used in many residential landscapes include the Washington palm (Washingtonia robusta), cabbage palm (Sabal palmetto), dwarf palmetto (Sabal minor) and saw palmetto (Serenoa repens).

The next 3 posts will be a series with descriptions of some other, less well-known palms that will tolerate the colder temperatures of central and north Florida.

Pindo palm (Butia capitata) – With striking blue-green, feather-like fronds, pindo palm is commonly used as a specimen plant in the landscape. Because of its high drought resistance, it is also regularly used in medians and parking lot islands. This plant is also known as the jelly palm for its edible fruit. Although the fruit color and taste differ from plant to plant, the best quality pindo fruits are very sweet with a pineapple/banana flavor. The fruit is used to make a very tasty jelly.

European fan palm (Chamaerops humilis) – Suitable as a container-grown or landscape specimen, the European fan palm usually grows in clusters, rather than with a single trunk. Native to the Mediterranean region, from the coast to over 3000 feet in elevation, this slow-growing palm does best in full sun. The palmate leaves vary in color and can be green, blue-green or silvery green. This variation makes for an interesting focal point in the home landscape. Dead fronds will remain on the plant, but can be pruned away to reveal a mat of dark fibers around the trunk. Be wary of the many fierce orange spines along each petiole, though.

 

A Stunning Fall Bloomer: Chinese Flame Tree (Koelreuteria bipinnata) October 10, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Hillsborough County Residential Horticulture @ 6:05 pm
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Source: TopTropicals.com

 

Driving along the roads the past few days, you can’t help but notice a tree that is awash in color — upright clusters of yellow blooms with rose-colored seed capsules — just in time for Fall. This stunning tree is commonly known as the Chinese flame tree. The botanical name is Koelreuteria bipinnata.

This broad-spreading, deciduous tree reaches a height of 40 to 60 feet and eventually takes on a flat-topped, somewhat irregular silhouette. It is often used as a patio, shade, street, or specimen tree. The small, fragrant, yellow flowers appear in very showy, dense, terminal panicles in early summer, and are

 

Source: Florida International University

 

followed in late summer or fall by large clusters of the two-inch-long “Chinese lanterns”. These papery husks are held above the foliage and retain their pink color after drying and are very popular for use in everlasting flower arrangements. The bark on Chinese flame tree is smooth and light brown when young, becoming ridged and furrowed as the tree matures.

Another Koelreuteria species, K. paniculata, is commonly known as the golden raintree and blooms in May and June. It is not as prolific a bloomer and does not have the upright branches characterisitic of K. bipinnata. Additionally, K. bipinnata has twice compound leaves, whereas K. paniculata has single pinnate compound leaves.

According to the University of Florida IFAS Assessment of Non-Native Plants, Koelreuteria paniculata is recommended with caution as a landscape plant in central and south Florida. It is not as aggressive in north Florida and is recommended there without concern. Koelreuteria bipinnata has not yet been assessed for invasive potential in Florida’s natural areas.

My personal experience with both Koelreuteria bipinnata in Hillsborough County has always been positive. The fall colors are a welcome sight to accompany the drier, cooler weather. As the rose-colored seed capsules come

 

Source: University of Florida IFAS

 

raining down onto the ground below, a curious creature appears. Resembling a stinkbug, the jadera bug is a scentless plant bug that congregates by the hundreds to feed on the seeds. Oftentimes, these bugs are not a pest, but can be a nuisance because of their large numbers in one area. I like them because in the process of feeding on the Chinese flame tree seeds, they prevent hundreds of seeds from germinating all over my yard.

But not everyone who has a Chinese flame tree is also graced with the presence of the jadera bugs. It is not known why the bugs will come to some trees but not to others. For those homeowners that don’t get the jadera bugs, they instead get lots and lots of seedlings popping up everywhere in their yard. This is a huge hassle, causing most people to have a love-hate relationship with this plant.

The next time you’re on the road, keep an eye out for a blooming Chinese flame-tree. I’ll let you judge for yourself.

If you already have one and want to share your experiences, leave a comment below. I’d love to hear from you!

 

 
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