How Should I Protect My Palms In The Winter?
A timely reminder of how to look after your 'babies'
in the coming months.
Martin Gibbons, c/o The Palm Centre, London, UK
Chamaerops No.32 Autumn 1998
Woops! Just a bit too late with the winter protection.
However, Trachy's will suerly recover.
After the confidence of spring and summer many of
us start to ask the same question at this time of the year. Here
is a guide to what to do to look after palms outside during the
Palms outdoors in small and medium pots are best brought
into the protection of a shed, garage or unheated room for the winter.
If none of these is available then at least move them to the lee
side of the house to protect them from north and east winds. Larger
plants in big pots which cannot be easily moved should be treated
as palms in the ground.
Small palms in the ground can be completely covered
during the coldest weather, by literally burying them under a pile
of dry, dead leaves. It's easy to remove this during mild spells
and will successfully keep off the wind and the weather. They seem
not to object to being in the dark for a few weeks at a time, but
do uncover them when weather conditions allow.
With the exception of proven 'hardies' such as Trachycarpus
and Chamaerops, medium and large palms in the ground should have
their leaves tied loosely together with garden netting or string,
and should then be wrapped in an old blanket or hessian held in
place with clothes pegs. If you feel that the plant cannot support
the weight of a blanket (especially if wet) then knock 2 or 3 bamboo
canes into the ground around the plant to take the weight. Bubble
plastic can create condensation and should be avoided. A plastic
cover over the top of this will keep off the rain, but leave the
bottom open so that air can circulate. Rot probably kills more palms
than cold. Again, this simple covering can be removed during mild
At the same time, the ground around the base of the
plant should be covered to a depth of a foot or more with some kind
of mulch: dead leaves, wood chips, chopped bark etc. to keep the
ground from freezing.
The above, simple protection measures are usually
all that is required for average cold-hardy palms in average winters,
but if severe weather threatens or if your palms are more tender
to cold, then something more elaborate can be considered. Semi-permanent
structures can be built to enclose your palms and should be prepared
well in advance. These usually consist of constructions of timber
covered with a double layer of polythene, one stapled to the inside
of the frame and one to the outside. The top should be sloping so
that rainwater will be shed. The palm will be snug in here for the
entire winter if necessary. In extreme cases, an electric fan beater
can be slipped underneath and set to keep the temperature just frost
free. However, electricity in the garden can be dangerous so such
an arrangement should be carried out by a qualified electrician.
Don't be alarmed by reference to electric beaters
and permanent structures for protection. In most cases, simple shelter
from the elements is all that is required, and then only for the
coldest periods of the winter, typically two or three weeks a year.
It seems a shame not to carry out these simple precautions and to
leave the palm to take its chances. Half an hour's work can make
all the difference during those coldest two weeks and your palm
will then be there for you to enjoy for the remaining 50.
Damage by cold usually does not show up for a few
weeks after the event, and is usually apparent by the centre spear
rotting and coming away with a slight tug. Larger plants have 2
or 3 further spears 'in reserve' as it were and the loss of the
centre spear does not necessarily mean the loss of the plant. However,
some quick thinking and first aid may well mean the difference between
life and death. If the very centre spear pulls out leaving an evil
smelling hole, pour in a strong mixture of Benlate or other fungicide,
then cover the plant to prevent the ingress of rain. If more than
the centre pulls out and it starts to look really serious, proceed
as follows: Take a sharp saw and cut off the top of the plant, including
all the leaves. Cut further slices off until you are down to solid
wood, OR scoop out the centre rot with a spoon and pour in the Benlate.
Keep the plant dry, and your fingers crossed. Many apparently 'dead'
palms have been saved by this prompt action.
13-07-20 - 13:39GMT
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