My Palm Trees Are Dying!

I am hoping that it isn’t true, but unfortunately, it may be. Palm trees are native where it rarely freezes, and we experienced a very hard freeze on January 9-10, 2010. Temperatures dropped below 20 degrees Fahrenheit for three nights in a row and two of those nights recorded 15 degrees Fahrenheit in Lewisville. Most palm trees just aren’t made to survive this kind of cold.

Most of the palms planted in North Texas are Washingtonia Palms, commonly called Mexican Fan Palms or California Fan Palms. These palms are somewhat cold hardy, being native to Mexico and the southern portion of the Southwest United States. However, they are not able to withstand temperatures that drop below 20 degrees Fahrenheit for extended periods of time.

It has been a number of years since we have experienced this type of freeze in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. We have become accustom to mild winters and, as a result, we have seen a lot of palm trees planted. Unfortunately, we have been reminded that the winters in North Texas can be harsh at times and all of our palms are suffering the consequences.

There is little that can be done once the freeze damage has occurred. If the growing tip of your palm is still green, then there is a good chance that it will recover. If the growing tip (the new frond that is emerging at the top) is damaged, then the palm will most likely not make it. Prevention is the only cure and the only way to prevent freeze damage is to cover the growing tip and provide heat under the cover when the temperatures drop below 25 degrees.

Please call Tree Shepherds at 972-317-9598 or send us an e-mail if you would like an evaluation of the health of your palms and recommendations for treatment and ongoing care.

2/12/2010 update: There is a Washingtonia Palm in my neighborhood that is still green in the very center. This is a large palm that survived the hard freeze about 15 years ago. I am encouraged that the center appears to still be green, although I am observing it from the ground. We will see if there is a green shoot of a new frond appearing this spring when the weather warms up.

3/3/2010 update:  The Windmill Palms seem to have survived the freeze.  They are the most cold hardy of the Palms (down to 5-10 degrees).  Unfortunately, most palms planted in the DFW area are Washingtonian palms (Mexican Fan Palm) and many that I have looked at are may not survive the freeze damage.

4/17/2010 update:  Well, more Washingtonian palms are going to survive than I thought.  If you see green shoots coming from the top of the stem, the palm is going to survive.  The palm in my neighborhood looks very good, with good strong growth coming from the center of the top.

Scott Geer

Scott Geer

Scott Geer has a master's degree in forestry from Stephen F. Austin State University and is an ISA Board Certified Master Arborist.® He is also a graduate of the American Society of Consulting Arborists Academy.