Top 5 Factors Affecting Cold Hardy Palm Tree Growth

Most palm trees can be only seen in tropical climates. But luckily, there are also palm trees that comfortably grow in subtropical and temperate climates. You will be probably surprised to find out that there are even palm trees that can survive in the area with subzero temperatures and snowfalls. These palm trees are very cold hardy.

To grow cold hardy palm trees successfully in cold climates, you need to consider 5 main factors that affect their growth: species of palm tree, palm tree acclimatization, palm tree health, palm tree maturity, and palm tree root system.

Species of Palm Tree

Not all palm trees can tolerate cold temperatures the same way. Since palm trees have originated from different countries, they have different hardiness. The best way to determine the lowest temperatures that palm can tolerate is by looking at its natural habitat.

Millions of years in the same environment, have let palm trees to adjust to the reoccurring weather conditions making some palms more cold hardy than others. That being said, palm trees native to the Mediterranean region are more cold hardy than palms that are native to warmer climates such as Fiji. When choosing a palm tree for your climate, make sure to check its cold hardiness.

Palm Tree Acclimatization

Because palm trees are becoming more and more popular, many palm tree nurseries grow thousands of palms trying to keep up with the demand. Usually, all species are grown in the same location. Since most of the nurseries are located in the warm climates, those palm trees will hardly ever see temperatures below freezing. If you buy one of the cold hardy palms that have never experienced cold weather and plant it in the colder climate, it will not survive.

Cold hardy palms need to be acclimatized so they can better tolerate cold weather. Acclimatization, also known as acclimation or winterization, should be done slowly to avoid a state of shock.

While some nurseries will acclimatize cold hardy palms before selling it to the customers from northern regions, others just don’t have time. This is another reason to buy palms from well known and trusted palm nurseries that care about quality of their trees instead of just trying to make money.

Palm Tree Health

Another important factor in the successful palm growth is its health. The healthier the palm the more chances it will survive cold winter temperatures. Since palm trees go through multiple phases of acclimation and de-acclimation throughout the year, providing them with enough nutrients during warm months is the key. I always recommend using a good quality slow release fertilizer and not a cheap one that will be washed away after a few rain falls. This will give palms enough time during warm months to absorb all the nutrients and prepare for the winter.

Research showed that mid-winter fertilization has no effect on the palm survival rate. As it gets colder, palms start to enter a hibernation phase where their photosynthesis process slows down and lesser nutrients are absorbed. It is important for the palms to acclimate slowly because if you live in a warm climate and it gets a sudden freeze, your palms are not prepared and might not survive.

Palm Tree Maturity

Mature palm trees have more chances of surviving a cold weather because their trunk is thicker, they have more leaves to protect the most important part of the tree, which is the bud, and their root system is more extensive. Some cold hardy palms even develop a husk, an outer layer of fiber that protects their trunk from cold. Young palms with thinner bark and smaller root system just not strong enough to recover from cold weather.

Palm Tree Root System

That brings us to the last factor I’ve already mentioned above, the palm tree root system. The older the palm is and the longer it has been growing in the same location the more extensive is its root system.

Another thing to keep in mind, if you transplant a mature palm to a new location and don’t give it enough time to establish enough roots before the cold weather, it might not survive. That is why it is recommended to plant all the palms in the spring so they have enough time to develop the root system.

~Susan Brian

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