Palm trees bring to mind warm temperatures and vacation type lazes under the sun. We are often tempted to plant one to replicate that tropical feel in our own landscape. Queen palms are hardy in United States Department of Agriculture zones 9b to 11, which allows them to thrive in the East Valley and much of Southern Arizona. Although Phoenix ranges from zones 9b to 10b, cold damage can be fatal in extreme winters. For this reason, properly caring for queen palms during excessively cold winters is a must to protect your investment.
Queen Palm Cold Damage
The queen palm (Syagrus romanzoffiana) is a distinct tropical tree that can grow up to 50 feet in height. It is easily damaged by temperatures below 25 degrees Fahrenheit (-3 C.). Winterizing queen palm trees that are at their mature height can be a great challenge. Smaller specimens can be protected from mild freezes. If exposure is not prolonged, queen palm cold damage may be recoverable. With a little extra care of your queen palms in winter, you can minimize the potential for damage from the cold.
The types of queen palm cold damage will vary due to the plants exposure and location. Low exposure will result in tattered and discolored fronds. More substantial damage will result in a condition called spear pull, where the frond easily slips out of the trunk when you pull on it. The stem will be soft and wet. This condition is not often recoverable.
More consequential is meristem death. This is when a freeze causes portions of the trunk to discolor and eventually start to rot. Fungal issues emerge shortly after and within months the fronds will all drop, the result of which is a complete loss. Fortunately, queen palms can recover from light cold exposure, which is usually what occurs across the East Valley. Taking a few simple steps in winter will enhance the plant’s chances of survival.
Winter Care For Young Queen Palms
Because they haven’t developed deep enough root systems to ensure the base of the plant survives, young palms face a higher risk for cold damage. Plants in containers can be brought indoors for winter. Those in the ground should be generously mulched around the base.
As an added layer of protection during freeze warnings, place a bucket or garbage can over the crown with holiday lights inside. The lights emit just enough warmth and the covering protects the fronds from cold winds.
Winter Care For Larger Palms
During harsh winter conditions, larger palms require more attention than smaller in size. Holiday or rope lights provide an element of ambient warmth. Just be mindful that LED lights emit substantially less heat that conventional lights. Wrap the trunk and the fronds. To make this more effective, build a makeshift scaffold around the plant. This will allow you to easily cover the entire plant in frost barrier fabric. This is an important part of queen palm winter care which is a highly effective measure against vitality loss.
There are also spray on products which help protect palms against freezing weather. Two of these products which I have found helpful are FreezePruf and Copper Fungicide spray. FreezePruf improves the palm’s natural cold tolerance by about 2 – 9F and enhances its ability to survive ice crystal damage. CopperFfungicide helps fight both bacteria and fungi. This is especially important considering the stress that queen palms experience and their increased vulnerability to bacteria and fungi as a direct result of extreme winter temperatures. When you are expecting cold weather, spray your palm with either one of these products few days in advance. Whichever method you choose, remember that a healthy queen palm will have the best chance of prevailing during harsh winter conditions. Follow in late summer to early fall with an appropriate fertilizer. Well-nourished trees are much hardier than nutrient deprived tissues.♥♥♥