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How To Assess Cold Weather Damage to Palm Trees

Updated on February 11, 2010

 Take a close look at the palm tree's terminal bud to see if it is still green or if it was frozen during the cold period. The terminal bud is the very center of the top of the tree. It is where the new fronds emerge. It is also the most vulnerable part of the tree during a cold period because if the terminal bud freezes, then the tree's chances of recovery are very slim to non-existent. If the bud is still green, then it means that once the tree gets over its period of shock it should gradually begin to produce new green growth from within the terminal bud. Most palms are hardy to 25F, a few, even lower.

If the terminal bud still looks viable, read below.

I would also give the tree a spraying with Liquid Copper Fungicide. When a palm tree is under stress from frost or freeze damage it becomes more vulnerable to other fungal and bacterial infections. By spraying the tree, especially the terminal bud area, with a preventative treatment of Liquid Copper you can reduce the potential for other diseases attacking your tree. The Liquid Copper spray can also be used as a protector against future cold damage. When you are expecting a cold period, spray the palm tree with the liquid copper a few days beforehand. The liquid copper spray increases the density of the tree's dermal layer and adds a little more cold tolerance.

In the future you may also want to take a few steps to avoid serious cold damage to your palm trees when you know cold weather is expected. As noted above you can spray the tree with liquid copper. You can also spray the tree with No Wilt. No Wilt, when sprayed on trees, forms an invisible film on the fronds which helps to reduce cold weather damage on palm trees.

During cold periods, cover the tree - especially the terminal bud - with a light fabric winter sheet. Simply drape the material carefully over the top of the tree, ensuring protection is focused on the terminal bud. If the freeze is extreme, several light bulbs can be placed beneath the cover or even a small heater. However, use extreme caution when placing any heating source under the cover. Heat sources should be kept away from both the tree and the covering material. The TreeHelp Cold Weather Tree Blanket on average can increase the cold tolerance of a tree by about 6 to 8 degrees Fahrenheit. Tree blankets should only be used continuously for up to 3 days at a time. If they are used for an extended period of time, they should be removed during the day to provide the tree with warming sunlight. Never use plastic covers on a tree to provide cold protection; always use a breathable fabric specially made for tree protection.


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