In praise of Christmas lights

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Well I have always been skeptical of the use of Christmas lights, especially when I have seen story's of people burning their palms. I also thought that those little lights just don't put off enough heat to do much good. Well after putting outdoor "Icicle" style lights around my Bizmarkia spear and trunk and wrapping over the top of the lights with kingsize bed sheets, today I checked to see if it was warm. What I found was a pleasantly warm trunk and spear area. The lights did not burn my hand....just warm.

I would estimate temperature around the immediate area at anywhere between 85-95 degrees, which I don't think would be too hot, especially considering the fronds have been between 24-40 degrees. Has anyone measured the temps of Christmas light wraps? This has been a real eyeopener for me. I really thought putting lights on trees was a time consuming and difficult procedure, however it was anything but. Very simple, especially with the "icicle" style of light.

We will see if using this method will be beneficial to saving a marginal palm. These particular palms were not wrapped until my temps went down to around 24-26 degrees. Another note is that I have left the lights burning for 2 days (day and night)....I will take them off tomorrow when temps are not expected to freeze at night.

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It really seems to be a good solution.

My problem is my marginal palms are too big for that.

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We've never put lights on our palms, but, this New Year, for only two days, we put them on and enjoyed the new year celebration with the palms on the beach lit up! I am happy to say that we didn't have to put them on for the heat! Peter

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I too was surprised by the amount of heat that can be generated (and trapped by blankets) by xmas lights. A couple of years ago I put a wireless remote sensor inside a palm that I wrapped. It was a 5-6' overall height teddy bear that was tied up, wrapped with one 50 count string of lights, wrapped with a thick bed comforter and then wrapped with a tarp. It was wrapped up pretty tight. The temp got down to 27 outside with about 6-8 hours below freezing and ranged from 85-95 inside the wrapping.

I learned my lesson the hard way about the rope type lights. I had a bunch of S. palmetto seeds that I had gathered from a tree in a parking lot that I wanted to germinate so I thought it'd be a good idea to add some heat. I put a 10' string of rope lights in the bottom of a big fishing cooler. The seeds were in several ziplock baggies as well as a few clear plastic containers that were used to package spinach at the grocery store. I put a towel over the lights and set the seed containers on top and closed the cooler. The next morning the thermometer inside read 145 and all of the plastic containers had completely melted! Live and learn.

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This is my first year using christmas lights for heat. I have 6 bananas, 1 king palm, 4 queen palms, and 10 P. roebelleniis all grouped together. I keep the lights on 24/7, but when it gets cold, I cover the whole group with frost cloth. The thermometer inside the cloth is usually about 5 degrees warmer. No damage on any of the plants yet.

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Well I have always been skeptical of the use of Christmas lights, especially when I have seen story's of people burning their palms. I also thought that those little lights just don't put off enough heat to do much good. Well after putting outdoor "Icicle" style lights around my Bizmarkia spear and trunk and wrapping over the top of the lights with kingsize bed sheets, today I checked to see if it was warm. What I found was a pleasantly warm trunk and spear area. The lights did not burn my hand....just warm.

I would estimate temperature around the immediate area at anywhere between 85-95 degrees, which I don't think would be too hot, especially considering the fronds have been between 24-40 degrees. Has anyone measured the temps of Christmas light wraps? This has been a real eyeopener for me. I really thought putting lights on trees was a time consuming and difficult procedure, however it was anything but. Very simple, especially with the "icicle" style of light.

We will see if using this method will be beneficial to saving a marginal palm. These particular palms were not wrapped until my temps went down to around 24-26 degrees. Another note is that I have left the lights burning for 2 days (day and night)....I will take them off tomorrow when temps are not expected to freeze at night.

David, It's the rope lights that we need to stay away from. I've literally broiled a few trunks into steaming mush with those. The mini-lights are harmless and provide some protection from cold. The rope lights get way too hot though, so beware.

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Thanks for the warning Jim. Yes, the lights I used were those "icicle" type multicolored outdoor mini lights. You can let these lights burn for days and still hold them in your hand with no noticeble heat. That's what supprised me. When I wrapped the lights with a sheets....wow! significant heat generation, but not burning hot. Just a really deep warm heat. I'm sold.....I think :)

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Christmas lights have helped save my Coconut so far this winter here in southern CA. The heating cable is helping, too! The soil thermometer says he soil about 8 inches deep stays about 68 F.

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It takes some experimentation, and sometimes palm loses, to get the right combination of lights or heating cables. I use both.

I mainly use the EasyHeat heating cables rated at 7 watts/LF. I have 24 ft. length and 40 Ft. length cables. While the cables aren't hot, they can burn certain palms if they stay on for hours on end. Mainly, I've scorched tender crownshaft palms, plus I just the other day scorched leaves and petioles on my bottle palm (first time I used heating cables on it.)

On palms that may be scorched, I will cover them with something that won't allow direct contact of the heating cables, and that will help diffuse the heat.

My theory (and it's worked so far) is that if the palm is too big to protect the fronds, at least use string lights or heating cables (with insulative wraps) to at least protect the trunk and growth bud. No sense having the entire palm cold damaged -- or killed. And the palm, I believe, will make a better recovery come spring.

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Those of us northern zone pushers, trying to grow palms (and often succeeding) in places most people think palms would not have a chance, have been using xmas lights for years, if not decades. It can be a tricky business though. In my experience, I have found that timers on the lights can often be your best friend. I have scorched a windmill because I left the lights ON, and the temp went up to about 34F outside, and the palm was in bright sunshine, and inside of the plastic that wrapped the pot and trunk, it got up to probably 120F for a brief period. The palm declined, but the growth spear and newest leaf seems fine and very healthy. Mind you, this was a very small palm. I have since put a timer on the palms, and the lights go off right about 8am, which is about the time the sun begins to hit them. The only time I will leave the lights on during the day, is if the air temps are going to stay in the teens or low 20s.

Another thing to consider when using xmas lights, is to NOT USE LED (Light Emitting Diode) xmas lights. While they are great for decorating and use far less energy, they do NOT give off any real usable heat. There is no "filament" that produced light, and thus they do not heat up much at all. You need to use the incandescent lights in order to get usable heat from the bulbs.

LEDs have been around since the 70s, however they have largely only been used in electronics as "indicator" lights, indicating such things as 'power on'...etc, so they are definitely not NEW. However, the technology behind them has really advanced, allowing us to now produce LED's not just of multiple colors, but of no color as well, and at much brighter light intensities than those old LED "indicator" lights. When I worked for the US Dept. Of Energy several years go, they would put up big displays, especially at christmas, touting LED's as the wave of the future. I was exposed to LED for use as decroative, and interior lighting quite a bit before the general public. LED's, as many of you know now are being used for everything from interior lighting, vehicle lighting (interior and exterior) and of course, one of the first places many noticed them, in traffic signals. While I am a proponent of it, the use of LEDs for things that require some heat, just wont work. For instance, there have been news stories starting to crop up, about stoplights becoming caked with snow, and thus the "light" being blocked out. Im not sure why no one foresaw this problem coming, but LED's just do not get warm enough to melt snow or ice, thus leading to the problem in many northern cities where lights are going "out" because of snow simply caking in them and blocking the light. So now most of these lights will have to be retrofitted with some sort of low voltage heating element to warm the lights just enough to melt snow/ ice in frigid conditions. The reason I bring this up, is that some have made the mistake of using them to attempt to protect their palms, and found that these lights do almost nothing to add any sort of protection, and have lost palms due to cold / freezing.

So, just make sure you are purchasing / using the (now becoming old fashioned) incandescent lights for your protection methods, because "christmas lights" are just not simply "christmas lights" anymore. =o)

Edited by DCA_Palm_Fan
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