Cold Damaged Palm Tree Care

I get a lot of emails from palm tree owners, asking for advice on how to save cold-damaged palm trees. In my previous article, called Palm Tree Cold Protection, I’ve outlined few steps you can take to protect your palm trees before freezing temperatures are reached. Today, I will tell you, what you need do to save your cold-damaged palms.

The most important and the most vulnerable part of the palm tree is the bud. Bud is where new leaves emerge. If the bud tissue of the palm has NOT been severely damaged, the palm should recover and start producing new leaves during the following summer. New emerging leaves might be deformed, partially brown or have other abnormalities. It might take from 6 months to one year from the freeze for the palm tree to recover. If the bud tissue has been severely damaged, the palm might not survive.

Step 1: Determine level of injury

First, you need to determine the level of injury. To see how extensive the damage is, gently pull newly emerging spear. Sometimes, new spear is very loose and pulls out easily. Check to see if the bud is still alive. If it is green, the palm tree can be saved.

Step 2: Pruning

Next, prune only dead branches and remove all the dying leaves around the bud, so it can dry out. Don’t cut back leaves with brown tips, since palms still extracts nutrients for new leaves from dying fronds. Be careful not to over-prune. The more green leaves you remove, the less food the palm can produce. Pruning too many leaves will only add to the stress.

Step 3: Liquid Copper

Now, we need to protect the palm from bacterial and fungi attack. Spray the palm with liquid Copper Fungicide. After the stress from the freeze, palm trees become more vulnerable to bacterial and fungal infections. Copper Fungicide has a unique formula that helps fight both. It should be applied no more than twice, 10 days between each application. Drench the bud of the palm with liquid copper using the force of the spray to clean it. This should reduce the chances of bud rot due to microorganisms.

Applying Copper Fungicide around the base of the palm will suppress development of the root diseases. One of the products I found to be very effective is Bonide Products Copper Fungicide. It works very well against fungi and bacterial.  Since it’s made from natural product you can use it for organic gardening.

Step 4: Fertilizing

Few words about fertilizing. Do NOT fertilize your palm trees right away, wait until late summer or fall. Most people start fertilizing as soon as they see brown leaves. Fertilizer is NOT plant food. Despite it saying “Palm Food” or “Plant Food” on the labels, fertilizer is a mixture of nutrients used to make soil more fertile and promote plant growth. Plants produce their own food, using water, carbon dioxide and solar energy. Think of the fertilizers as vitamin supplements. You can’t make a sick, diseased, malnourished person healthy with vitamins. When you start fertilizing your sick palm tree, you are asking it to start growing, which creates even more stress on the poor tree. Wait till late summer or spring and apply slow release fertilizer. For more fertilizing tips read my Fertilizing Palm Trees article.

Step 5:  Freeze Protection Spray

If there are more freezing days coming your way and you worry about palm trees getting even more damage, protect it by spraying it with Freeze Pruf. This amazing water-based, eco-safe spray enhances the plant’s natural mechanisms to resist freeze damage, shielding it from ice crystal damage, and increasing its ability to survive cold temperatures by reducing the freezing point of water inside the tissues of the plant.

It actually improves healthy plants’ natural cold tolerance by approximately 2° to 9° F. It’s like moving your temperature zone 200 miles south! The biodegradable formula is designed to resist washing away by rain or snow and application lasts up to 4 weeks with normal precipitation. Freeze Pruf is very easy to apply and is safe for kids and pets.

To save cold-damaged palm tree you need to have a lot of patience. Don’t give up and remember that sometimes the damage is so severe, there is nothing you can do. By the end of spring you will have an idea weather you need to replace your palm.

If you don’t live in the warm climate and still want to have beautiful palm trees in you backyard, you would love this book “Betrock’s Cold Hardy Palms.” It has comprehensive profiles for 82 palm species capable of growing in climates colder than USDA Hardiness Zone 10, including 286 color photographs.

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15 thoughts on “Cold Damaged Palm Tree Care”

  1. I have a European Fan Palm that was hit hard by an ice storm in Ga last year. The main stalk appears to have died. (it did not put out any green this year na dthe leaves all died) I do have the pups or suckers that are still green. Have I lost this palm or is there still hope?

  2. about 2 months ago a tree company came in to prune this 40 foot palm tree and the guy removed all the old growth about 10 feet under where leaves are growing about 25 feet from the base. How can we save it

  3. something is causing my palm leaves on my adonidia to drop. I did see a black rat jump out and wonder if they are chewing the branches, At the rate they are dropping, I am afraid I will lose the trees. Any help you can give would be appreciated.

  4. I just unwrapped my windmill palm from winterizing. He’s still a little guy. He has about 3 brown fronds on the outside, all the rest and in the middle are still green. I live in Illinois, zone 5. I was thinking about putting 1 jobes 10-5-10 by trunk to give it a boost. Thoughts? Tips?

  5. I HAVE A 1APPROX 15 FT QUEEN PALM I PLANTED LAST SPRING.. IT WAS DOING GREAT AND SPROUTING NEW FONDS. AND THEN WE HAD THE FREEZE IN HOUSTON ..IT WAS AROUND 17 DEGREES FOR ONE DAY… AFTER THE FREEZE THE PALM STILL LOOKED OK …HOWEVER AFTER SEVERAL WEEKS THE FONDS ON LOWER PART OF PALM DIED… i PRUNED THE PALM AND THERE WAS STILL SOME GREEN IN THE CENTER COMING OUT ..BUT NOW THERE IS NONE. MY NEIGHBOR HAS A SMALL QUEEN ABOUT 8 FT FROM MINE ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE FENCE AND HIS LOOKS OK… ANY THOUGHTS ON WHAT I CAN DO OR DO YOU THINK MY PALM IS DEAD.? IT WAS DOING SO WELL.. I HATE TO GIVE UP ON IT…

    YOUR ADVISE IS GREATLY APPRECIATED

    Regaards

    Robert Hughey

  6. I have a beautiful Mule Palm. (4 yrs old) Up to a month ago It was fine. I had some people trim brown branches as I could not reach them. I came home and now the palm is dying. All the branches on one side are brown. We sprayed it with Copper Fungicide but it is still dying. What can we do?

  7. How long do you wait to see new growth? You say summer – does that mean waiting until June 21 or later?

  8. my palm tree with a triple palm was damaged. one of the palms was broke by a fallen tree. I tied it up but it didn”t
    seem to help at all. all frones were dead and the damaged palm seems to be dead. What can i do with the repair.

  9. My Bismarck Palm which I planted 10 months ago was hit by the frost. All of the fronds are brown except for the very beginning of the fronds where they spread out from the base. There is a new spear that emerged before the frost. It appears to be green when I gently open the spear itself. What should I do?

  10. I have several queen palms that just went through a hard freeze. All of the fronds on all the trees are now beige/light brown not just the tips. Do i prune them all or just the older ones? I also have Phoenix palms that are also burnt/ frozen. Do i prune all the brown frm them as well?? PLEASE HELP!

  11. HELP I live in Asheboro NC near greensbor and my palm is in bad shape.
    I think it is a windmill palm but I could be wrong. It’s about 10 feet tall and the cold and snow really did a number on it. I don’t know if I should remove all the damaged frawns or leave to top ones until warmer weather? I know nothing so anyone who can guide would be greatly appreciated

  12. In south Louisiana I have 12 mature queens. We had 2 days of temps in the teens at night and below freezing during the day. After a couple weeks all the founs turned brown. Do you think my palms are dead? Is there Anything I can do to help them?

  13. Our foxtail palm took a hit with the cold this winter, all the crimes are brown we had one new shoot started before the cold hit, the outer cover is brown but there is green poking thru and we green color in the trunk, what can we do to save it? Does Epson salt water work?

  14. Hi Susan. I’ve read through your blog about caring for palms from a cold freeze. As you know and are probably overwhelmed with emails from this past years freeze our palms aren’t doing well here in central Florida. We have 2 foxtails that were planted by a nursery last May that are having a hard time coming out of it. They were beautiful till the freeze came through. I spoke with the woman at the nursery and she told me to trim them back to the last frond and to clip the tip of it to help it open. She also told me to fertilize and water it. I’ve done all those things but they are still in stress. The trunk is still very green. I’ve noticed the rest of the foxtails in our neighborhood, the trunks are brown or black. We wrapped ours with a blanket during the freeze. Any chance our foxtails will come out of it or do you feel they are too far gone? Thanks for reading and I hope to hear from you.

  15. Mature queen palms 8 years old in the ground last freeze lost all fronds trunk is solid it’s been 8 months no green no rot apparent how to resolve

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