Protecting Palm Trees in Winter

on December 8, 2016
Palm trees protected from frost

Palm trees and Florida are a classic landscaping combination. While there are many native species of palm that are perfectly adapted to our local weather, others require a little extra care when the winter cold sets in.

Gulfside Landscaping incorporates palm trees in many of our custom landscaping designs. Most species do well with our spring, summer and fall weather, and those that are native to our area or similar climates easily withstand the occasional cold snap that visits Northwest Florida. For the more sensitive varieties, it pays to take precautions to protect the palms in your landscape.

Using Palm Trees in Gulf Coast Landscape Designs

Over the years, we have used palm trees to anchor displays of verdant shrubbery and colorful tropical flower beds along paver paths and driveways. Palms also make excellent additions to hardscaped areas, including elevated beds with retaining walls and backyard patios surrounded by smaller species of palms.

However, the weather here in Pensacola and the surrounding areas presents a unique situation. In summer, we tend to get the full brunt of Florida weather, complete with the high temperatures and humidity for which the Sunshine State is known. Fall and spring usually bring mild temperatures that are great for most species of palms. In the winter months, we never quite know what we’re going to get.

There are plenty of times where we’ve seen the winter days start off mild, with light breezes and temperatures in the 60s. Within hours, however, cold fronts can move in causing the mercury to dip below the freezing point. A few years ago, we were even subjected to a punishing winter ice storm that brought down limbs and wreaked havoc on the more delicate species of palms and tropical plants in our area.

Cold Hardy Palm Trees

Using native species of palm trees in our landscaping designs allows our customers to rest easy when the forecast threatens sub-freezing temperatures. These hardy specimens have evolved to withstand the wide range of conditions seen in our area. For example, cabbage palms are native to the eastern US, and can handle cold temperatures as far north as the Carolinas. Its single trunk can grow as tall as 90 feet, but generally reaches around 30 to 40 feet.

Needle palms are another species native to Florida that are known to withstand temperatures as low as six degrees below zero. They tend to be short, stout and bushy, rarely exceeding eight feet in height. Needle palms prefer to grow in shady areas that have plenty of moisture and organic matter in the soil.

Pindo palms are native to South America, but do very well in Gulf Coast yards and planted areas. They can withstand hot and windy weather as well as the occasional dip into freezing temperatures. Pindo palms produce an abundance of edible fruit which is traditionally used in jelly recipes. This fruit can be a bit messy at the peak of the season, so they are best used in heavily planted areas rather than along paver sidewalks or outdoor entertaining areas.

Protecting Smaller Palms

For species of palms that are not as hardy as the above-mentioned varieties, there are several ways you can protect them from frost damage. Queen palms, for example, are easily damaged by freezing temperatures. To preserve these and other delicate palms, it is necessary to protect them when a frost warning is issued for our area.

For smaller palms, it is relatively easy to drape them with fabric, blankets or other coverings for protection from the cold. Adding a thick layer of natural mulch to the base of the trees can also help to keep the palm’s generally shallow root system protected. For taller trees, protecting them can be a bit more of a project.

Palm trees and a new paver drivewayProtecting Larger Palms

While our neighbors to the north use elaborate methods for wrapping up palms in multiple layers to survive the long and often brutal winter, we rarely must go to such lengths. Unless the forecast calls for day after day of temperatures below freezing, keeping the palm trees a few degrees warmer than the air will usually help them survive with little damage.

To do so, add a string of festive Christmas lights to the trunk and fronds of your larger palm trees (be sure to use traditional incandescent lights, not the newer LEDs which produce very little heat). This festive solution creates enough heat to keep the frost at bay, and who doesn’t love a twinkling palm tree to brighten a winter landscape?

Call Gulfside Landscaping to Create All-Season Landscape Designs

For a landscape designs that incorporate hardy palms, beautiful hardscapes and effective drainage solutions, call Gulfside Landscaping. Our design and installation teams have the experience and knowhow to create stunning settings that look great in any season.