How to Keep a Palm Tree Alive in the Winter?

Whether your palm trees are in a pot or a part of your landscaping, they can add tropical charm to your home. Palm trees, when fully grown can be quite hardy and resistant to varying weather conditions. Although this is the case, you may be wondering how you can prepare your palm tree for the winter.

Palm trees grown in the ground can be kept alive in the winter through methods that involve wrapping the tree with heat tape, burlap, non-LED Christmas lights, or creating insulation from the frost using chicken wire and other leaves. Palm trees grown in pots can be transferred indoors and kept in a well-lit area for the winter. 

There are a few other details about your palm trees worth knowing to help winterize them, such as the type of palm tree and if it has been exposed to cold temperatures before (most larger palms have).

Are Certain Palm Trees Hardier than Others?

With over 2500 species, most palm trees prefer tropical humid climates to thrive in, however, there are a few species that remain hardy in freezing temperatures and light snow. It should be noted that palm trees overall will not do well where the ground freezes solid for weeks at a time.

Some of the species of palm trees that do tolerate lower temperatures (20 degrees Fahrenheit or lower) include the Lady Palm, the Puerto Rican Thatch Palm, the Date Palm, the Queen Palm, the Everglades Palm, the Cabbage Palm, varieties of the Fan Palm, and Saw Palmetto.

Read our list of 12 palm trees that can survive cold winters by clicking here.

You will also find that palm trees that are larger with well-established root systems will be more cold resistant. When purchasing a palm tree, be sure to look for these features.

Can Palm Trees Survive in the Cold Winters?

Palm trees are associated with warm vacation destinations for a reason as most species prefer humid, tropical, or sub-tropical climates to grow in. When selecting a palm tree, you should ensure that you select a species suited to the climate in your area. Surprisingly, there are a few species of palm trees that can survive mildly cold winters and light snowfall.

With proper protective measures, the hardier varieties of palm trees can survive through the winter, though it should be noted that there are no varieties of palm trees that can survive areas where the ground freezes solid for weeks at a time.

How Cold Can Palm Trees Survive?

Out of the aforementioned palm trees that tolerate lower temperatures well, some can better survive colder temperatures than others. The Puerto Rican Thatch Palm can survive temperatures as low as 28 degrees Fahrenheit. The Lady Palm and Date Palm can survive temperatures as low as 18 degrees Fahrenheit.

The Queen Palm, the Everglades Palm, the Mexican Fan Palm, and the Californian Fan Palm can all survive temperatures as low as 20 degrees Fahrenheit. The Cabbage Palm can survive temperatures as low as 15 degrees Fahrenheit.

The European Fan Palm can survive impressively at temperatures below 5 degrees Fahrenheit. The most cold-hardy palm tree of all is the Saw Palmetto variety, able to survive below zero degrees.

Should You Wrap Your Palm Trees in the Winter?

One of the best ways to protect your palm tree in the winter is to wrap it. Depending on the temperature, you may just wrap the truck or the entire plant including the fronds. Wrapping your palm tree protects it against cold damage caused by frost and elements that could cause the outer layers to freeze such as snow and sub-zero temperatures.

How Do You Wrap Palm Trees for the Winter? (Or a freeze)

There are a few wrapping methods you can use to protect your tree in the winter or during a cold snap.

1. Wrapping Palm Trees with Burlap

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Just before the first frost, you can wrap the trunk of your palm tree with burlap. If the temperatures will be below freezing, it is best to wrap it in a few layers of burlap starting at the base of the palm tree and wrapping it to the top. If the fronds are exposed at all, you can cover them with a plastic bag to insulate the plant entirely.

The burlap should be removed as soon as the weather warms up so the palm tree can continue to habituate to its environment.

2. Wrapping Palm Trees with Heating Tape

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First, you should tie the fronds of your palm tree together vertically. After the fronds have been bundled together, you can wrap heating tape (found at most hardware stores) starting at the base of the palm tree working your way up to the fronds. Be sure to leave the thermostat out at the base of the tree.

After the heating tape has been applied, you can wrap a few layers of burlap around your palm tree, securing it with duct tape. If the fronds are sticking out at the top, you can insulate them further with a plastic bag however, this should not be an issue with bush size palm trees.

3. Wrapping Palm Trees with Pipe Insulation

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You should apply mulch to the base of your palm tree to protect its roots then wrap the trunk and fronds with pipe insulation to protect it in the winter. After wrapping the trunk and fronds in pipe insulation, fold the top over to keep water from getting into the insulation. When the weather warms up, be sure to remove all of the insulation and mulch so your palm tree can habituate to its environment again.

Related Questions

What is the Chicken Wire Method of Protecting Palm Trees?

If you live in a climate that becomes mildly cool but not freezing to the point that you need to fully wrap your palm tree, you can try the chicken wire method to protect it. Apply four stakes in the ground around your palm tree in a square formation, careful not to damage any roots.

Once the stakes have been placed, create a 3-4-foot-high wall of chicken wire around the base of your palm tree to create a basket of sorts. You can then fill the chicken wire basket with leaves collected from the ground of other plants to form light insulation and protection against frost for your palm tree. Once the weather warms, the leaves should be removed.

Can You Winterize Your Palm Trees with Christmas Lights?

A unique and festive way to winter-proof your palm trees is with Christmas lights. This method only works if done with traditional incandescent lights. LED lights will not be effective at keeping your palm tree warm.

This method also works to protect the leaves of your palm trees. Simply bundle the leaves together vertically and wrap the bundle with a string of incandescent Christmas lights. You can also wrap the trunk of the tree in lights. When turned on, the warmth emanating from the lights will be enough to keep your tree comfortable.

Does Adding Mulch Around the Palm Tree Base Help?

Adding mulch around the base of the palm tree can help protect the roots from freezing throughout the winter. Simply add a layer of mulch to the base of the palm tree, adding more if you see any roots peeking through the soil, and leave it there until the weather warms up. Once the weather has warmed up and any threats of frost have passed, you can remove the mulch. In this video, you can see how mulch is used to protect palm trees along with wrapping techniques.

Moving a Palm Tree Indoors for the Winter

If your palm trees are growing in pots, you can simply move them indoors before the first freeze and keep them in a warm, well-lit area until the weather warms up and all threats of frost or freezing have passed.

Final Thoughts

Keeping a palm tree alive in cool climates can be quite the feat, giving you a reason to show off your green thumb and your thriving plants. With proper protection and picking out hardy palm tree species, you can ensure a stronger tree each growing season.

Read our related article How Tall Do Palm Trees Grow here!

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