How to protect your palm tree during winter

oktober 6th, 2017 · No Comments

PhotobucketWinter is coming. After protecting the banana plants, we have to start thinking about what winter protection our palms need. Of course, the method used depends on many factors. First of all, of course, the winter itself.


The harsher the winter, the more precautions need to be taken. Unfortunately, this factor is difficult to predict in advance. So the best way is to keep a good eye on the weather forecast. This factor can also vary considerably from one year to the next. In 2007 we had almost no winter and the winter of 2008 was extreme with temperatures up to -18°C (-0,4°F)! The winter protection is best done just before the persistent frost. It is therefore impossible to set a fixed date for this. You’ll have to observe, assess and, if necessary, adapt. If the temperature rises slightly again, the winter protection is best removed (partially) for optimum air circulation.

Species & emplacement

Next, the species and the position also play an important role. Some palms can endure frost, even without protection. Often these are species that grow naturally at high altitudes. However, other species require adequate protection. The age of the palm also plays a role. Younger palms need more protection than older palms. The specified frost resistance is therefore only indicative! The position also has an important influence. Moisture and wind are the biggest culprits. During the winter months, a dry, sheltered spot close to a south facing wall can help you save many degrees! Too much moisture can adversely affect the hardiness. Make a conscious choice when planting your palm. A slight winter wind causes an increased evaporation. Because moisture absorption is a problem during the winter months, due to frozen groundwater, the palm will ironically be able to dry out. The position must also be sufficiently draining. Otherwise, if the groundwater freezes, the roots would freeze.
Palms in a pot are of course much more prone to frost, and a dark colored pot proves its advantage by warming up faster in the sun. In case of severe frost, it may be wise to bring the pot in.

Protection methods

In addition to these described factors such as the type of winter, the type of palm and the location, the choice of winter protection is entirely at your own convenience. Experience, judgement, budget and available space obviously also play a role here.

Without protection

This method requires no further explanation. For certain species, a protection is indeed unnecessary as long as winter does not become too severe. The advantage is that the air circulation remains optimal. During these humid months of the year no excessive luxury. You can also enjoy the palm during the winter months. The disadvantage of course is the risk that the palm will suffer too much frost, which may result in death.

Suitable species e.g.:
Trachycarpus fortunei (-18°C), Trachycarpus wagnerianus (-18°C)


By applying a layer of insulating organic material at the base of the palm, the roots are protected against the cold. Use airy materials such as dry leaves, straw, branches of coniferous trees, bark or chips. In addition, the mulch layer will be transformed into humus, which will improve the soil structure. Only when it is long damp it is necessary to make sure that the mulch layer does not rot. If necessary, remove the material temporarily until it is dry again.

Suitable for all species.

Protecting the heart and protecting the whole palm

The heart of the palm is the most vulnerable part. This is where the new leaves are formed. If the spear is damaged (spear rot) it becomes very difficult to save the palm. Extra attention to protect the spear is therefore recommended. Moisture in particular is a problem here. By placing an umbrella above the palm, the moisture problem is easily solved. Use an umbrella with sturdy ribs or a beach umbrella. This last one is very strong and also cheap. Place a plastic sheet over it to make it waterproof. Then attach the handle of the umbrella to the trunk. Afterwards, connect a few ropes from the tip to anchor points around the palm to prevent the umbrella from being blown away.



As temperatures drop further, the leaves can be bound together upwards. The tied up leaves is less frost sensitive, evaporates much less water and thus suddenly forms a protective layer for the spear.

After tying together the leaves, the trunk and petioles can also be protected by wrapping with fleece cloth, jute or reed mats. For additional insulation, this protective layer can be filled with straw or dry leaves. Christmas lighting can also be placed around the protection. This way the temperature can be kept slightly higher. Avoid direct contact with the spear and leaves to prevent them from burning.

Plastic film is not suitable as a protective layer directly applied on the leaves because it does not breathe. The condensation formed can freeze, so that the protective layer will have the opposite effect. Always use breathable materials. Only the top of the wrapped palm must be covered with a waterproof material. This way, the insulation material remains dry. Also provide an opening between the roof and the sides for good air circulation. If the temperature permits, it is definitely recommended to ventilate from time to time.

PhotobucketSome hobbyists build a whole construction to protect the palm. The possibilities are countless with sufficient creativity.

Suitable species e.g.:
Chamaerops humulis (-12°C – 10,4°F), Trithrinax campestris (-12°C - 10,4°F), Brahea armata (-10°C - 14°F) , Butia eriospatha (-12°C - 10,4°F), Jubeae chilensis (-15°C - 5°F)

The following species are regarded as very hardy but due to our humid winters they are only half as frost-resistant in our conditions:
Nannorrhops ritchiana (-20°C – -4°F), Rhapidophyllum hystrix (-20°C - -4°F), Sabal minor (-20°C - -4°F)

In milder winters or with a very good protection also suitable for:
Phoenix canariensis (-6°C – 21,2°F), Washingtonia robusta (-4°C – 24,8°F), Livistona chinensis (-6°C - 21,2°F), Raphis humilis (-4°C - 24,8°F)

A cubicle in 6 simple steps

1. leaves tied up 2. light tube placed 3. wooden frame placed

4. roof placed 5. other plants fill the empty space 6. shrink foil around the cubicle with open space on the bottom and the top. Only when severe frost is announced bubble wrap plastic is fixed on top for the time the frost persists.

Indoor hibernation

PhotobucketThis method is of course only applicable for the palms that are kept in pots. The palm gets a spot in a heated greenhouse or indoors. Preferably, the temperature should remain as low as possible, but of course it should still be above the minimum limit of the palm species. For tropical species, this minimum temperature can be quite high, but for most species an unheated space in the house is sufficient. During this period, the palm goes into a resting period. The water gift must therefore be reduced as  evaporation is also reduced. A too wet soil can cause root rot. If the palm is placed in a heated room, the humidity must be monitored carefully. A dry air, caused by central heating, makes the palm much more sensitive to pests such as lice and spider mites. This can be remedied by regular spraying of the palm. It is also recommended to place water bowls. In addition, the lack of light in the home is also a problem. Only the places close to a window offer just enough light in these dark winter months. However, pay attention to direct sunlight due to the burning of the leaves.

Suitable species e.g.:
Phoenix roebelenii (-1°C – 30,2°F), Bismarckia nobilis (10°C – 50°F), palmseedlings


The above methods give an idea of how best to protect the palm. However, this is never a guarantee of success. As mentioned earlier, there are too many factors involved. Also the appropriate species are only an indication. When winters are more severe, the most hardy species must also be well protected. In case of doubt, it is best to consult other enthusiasts or feel free to contact us.

© La Palmeraie

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