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Small vs Larger palm for zone pushing

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Ok sorry if this topic has been beaten to death, but I am coming up short with google queries. Late last summer I planted a 3 gallon chamerops humilis I bought on a whim at HD that has been nearly unprotected (incandescent rope light around the soil not touching the plant and mulched up a little) in my zone 7a. Its doing very well and actually never stopped growing through winter. It saw brief lows bellow 15F and one extended sub 20F for a couple days with some minor burning but no pull and good growth. So a 3 gallon grown in Miami did well in z7a which seems to contradict some peoples theories. 

 

Well fast forward to last week I bought, again on a whim (see a theme? lol), a Livistona chinensis again from HD and again grown in miami. Well it was on sale and at least 4-5ft tall and might be a bit of a push compared to the chamerops, but is also much larger. Some people seem to think larger are better suited for cold and some say the best way is to put a seedling in and protect it and acclimate over its life (going to do this with some sabal palmetto seedlings my grandma brought me). Either way there will be protection for the first 2-3 years and even protection for freak cold snaps that come after that point. Also will be buying trachycarpus fortunei regular and Bulgarian which is where Im conflicted. I can order 3.5in potted bulgarians for $20 grown in Northern NC (very close climate to mine) or I can spend alot more on 3-4ft established trachycarpus fortunei that were seeded in Alabama (same ground frost depth, but ultimately milder in winter) but sit on the Delmarva peninsula the rest of their lives. 

 

So here I am first day of spring and I cant make up my mind on whether to buy 6 3.5 in potted vs 1 larger specimen. Im not in it to get instant gratification, rather I want the palms to survive and be best suited for long term plantation. So which would yall recomend, smaller or larger plants for zone pushing?

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Welcome to Palm Talk!  Your'e in the right place for sure.  

 

Without knowing where on the DelMarVa you are in MD, and not knowing which zone exactly you are in, (7a or 7b) it makes it a little tougher to help.  As far as your Chermrops,  Unless you keep that protected each winter, or it is near the south side of a building, I would not count on it having a long life.  A hard winter will likely zap it.  The farthest north I have seen these successfully tried outdoors is VA Beach, and they are not bullet proof there either.  They are marginally less cold hardy than T. Fortunei. but not so much that they are not worth a try where you are.  In your zone I would also site T. Fortunei along the south side of a building.  I don't think Windmills are fully hardy in open areas all alone until  you get down to far southern tip of DeMarVa, and the whole tidewater Va area.  If you were to do one out in the open you could prob get away with minimal protection most winters and have it do fine. There are some exceptions to this depending on location though, even as far north as the DC area, but even then I have never seen them ore than 10-15' out from a structure of substantial size.  Near a building on the south side no protection needed at all where you are.    The two species that ware likely bullet proof for you are Sabal Minor (Dward Palmetto)  and Rhapidophyllum Hystrix. (Needle Palm) 

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Im not on Delmarva, rather thats where I might buy my trachycarpus. Im actually deep in the Piedmont region of Maryland in a solid 7a zone. I'm pushing my chamerops for sure, but as you see in my avatar that's my palm and how it looked for 95% + of this past winter. I know we have had our mild times, but we also have had record setting lows and more cold than most admit. Bellow is a better picture of how its been for the majority of a western howard county winter! It never stopped growing btw! Honestly I chalk it up to the fact that we have long hot humid summers (LOTS of sugar build up!) and most temps in the winter are above 25F, but again it saw bellow 15F and quite a few teens and low 20s as you see it in the picture. Reason why it was exposed to such low temps is because I got caught off guard while out of town and the wife reported the temps....I thought it would be toast being the first year in ground. 

 

The other picture in my garage is the Livistona chinensis that i got from HD and the final picture is the one sent from the nursery in Salisbury, MD of the size Im considering for the trachycarpus. I am just wondering if I should get seedlings and work them up or buy established plant and protect them for the first few years. Ill continue to mulch and rope light wrap til the end of time but REFUSE to perma wrap my palms, as well as Ill do a green house setup for my hard zone pushing palms (e.g.  Livistona chinensis, chamerops humils and sabal palmetto) when it drops bellow my comfort zone. 

 

Last image are the sabals my grandma brought up from Leesburg where she reports several freezes each year to me. These will definitely be protected more aggressively. The only reason the Livistona chinensis is in the garage now is it was terribly dry and I am trying to nurse it til I plant here in the next day or so...thinking friday might be the day it gets put in the ground! Oh btw all these palms will be within 10 feet of my house with semi optimal placement. The euro is on the northwest side so totally not ideal yet after what its seen I have a newfound respect for this little guy...especially for $20 at HD on a whim! Hoping to get more if they have them in stock as well as some blue ones. 

 

So do yall think I should get a whole mess of small palms and work them up or buy larger palms and acclimate them?

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Edited by mdsonofthesouth
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Welcome to PalmTalk. I applaud your interest in palms for your area. I grew up in No. VA and lived there over 40 years and remember the climate well. Your area of western MD has much colder winters than I grew up with. You say you are 7a but my son in Rockville is in borderline 7a/6b. S. minor and needle palm might survive where you live long term but may need protection during the coldest part of winter. L. chinensis hasn't a prayer of a chance against your winter - better to keep it as a house- or conservatory plant during winter. S. palmetto is not as hardy a S. minor but is so slow growing that you can protect it for years. I can't speak for Trachycarpus as I can't grow that genus but it has possibilities for you. Good ahead and experiment.

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I used to work in fairfax county and its about the same there as here from my experience, save for snow. We might get a inch or too more but not much colder. The coldest we got this winter was 12F for a few hours with most weather being 22F-25F and above. The last 3 or 4 winters here in the piedmont have been record setting cold which worries me, but the euro fan pulling through is a huge motivator to push some palms farther. But I can tell you after living in a 6B part of my county that despite getting slightly more snow my current house is very much a 7A and milder/warmer in comparison. Its actually astonishing monitoring the temps as I go west. I see the temp at my 7A work and 7A home the same while 60% of my drive its noticeably cooler.  

 

I do plan on getting either plain trachycarpus or the Bulgarian variation which some say are hardy to 7a. These are the palms I plan on doing little to no protection for once acclimated with the 8a palms getting more protection and being watched like a hawk on cold snaps. I have heard that Livistona chinensis doesnt start to burn til teens or low 20s which is fine since Ill likely protect it at those temps and really those arent very common and almost always nighttime lows. 

 

Still wondering about seedlings vs grown specimens for hardiness and zone pushing if anyone has insight on this.

Edited by mdsonofthesouth
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The thing to remember about zones is that they are not guarantees but variables. I'm listed for zone 10a. This last winter I measured z11a. Great deal, right? Well, yeah, except in 2010 I experienced several nights of z9b, including one after a day of ice cold rain. I lost 30+ species of tropical palms that winter. My gardens were decimated. Ever since I keep my uber tropicals in containers on rolling dollies on my back lanai. I haul them indoors when forecasts are below 40F. They will never be planted because some year those 9b temps will clobber me again. As I said, have fun and experiment but know someday the polar vortex will send you greetings.

As for seedlings vs larger plants, that depends on your patience, cash flow and willingness to hunt around. Larger palms give you instant gratification and are not as fragile as seedlings. However, Sabals and needles are so slow growing that you will wait years for them to reach appreciable size and they can be hard to find at nurseries and big box garden centers. Then again, seeds or seedlings are relatively inexpensive and easy to send. There are great people on this forum who might be willing to send you free seeds. If you have specific wants for larger plants you can request someone pm you a quote. Just go to the Palm Exchange for both. And you can also troll eBay for opportunities - but beware! Some sellers are ignorant, unethical or predatory and may outrageously overcharge you for common stuff like Washingtonias. Also be wary of independent online sellers, i.e., "Real Palm Trees", that tout common junk palms for $100s.

Finally, consider going on palm safaris in your area and the Washington Metro area. Focus on independent nurseries as they are most likely to offer unusual palms. A few years ago when I visited my old stomping ground in S. Alexandria off Rt 1, I visited a nursery that sold large Trachycarpus (4-5' tall) in pots (I can't remember if they had smaller ones). Price: $100s but for instant gratification size. I considered one to put in my son's yard in Rockville but as they were somewhat hazardous and my son and daughter-in-law had two small sons, I backed off. If I'd still lived in the area I'd have bought one.

And invest $40-50 in a good palm book. My palm bible is "Encyclopedia of Cultivated Palms" by Riffle, Craft & Zona.

 

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5 hours ago, mdsonofthesouth said:

I used to work in fairfax county and its about the same there as here from my experience, save for snow. We might get a inch or too more but not much colder. The coldest we got this winter was 12F for a few hours with most weather being 22F-25F and above. The last 3 or 4 winters here in the piedmont have been record setting cold which worries me, but the euro fan pulling through is a huge motivator to push some palms farther. But I can tell you after living in a 6B part of my county that despite getting slightly more snow my current house is very much a 7A and milder/warmer in comparison. Its actually astonishing monitoring the temps as I go west. I see the temp at my 7A work and 7A home the same while 60% of my drive its noticeably cooler.  

 

I do plan on getting either plain trachycarpus or the Bulgarian variation which some say are hardy to 7a. These are the palms I plan on doing little to no protection for once acclimated with the 8a palms getting more protection and being watched like a hawk on cold snaps. I have heard that Livistona chinensis doesnt start to burn til teens or low 20s which is fine since Ill likely protect it at those temps and really those arent very common and almost always nighttime lows. 

 

Still wondering about seedlings vs grown specimens for hardiness and zone pushing if anyone has insight on this.

I wouldn't get too use to the 8A stuff. As others have tried to point out, unless you do some serious protection some of your palms, will be annuals. And zone 7A by definition means an average winter low of 0-5f so I wouldn't exactly say most your winter weather is 22-25f. That would make you 9A. Good luck with those averages long term. Not trying to be a downer, but I've seen this movie before.

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7 hours ago, PalmatierMeg said:

The thing to remember about zones is that they are not guarantees but variables. I'm listed for zone 10a. This last winter I measured z11a. Great deal, right? Well, yeah, except in 2010 I experienced several nights of z9b, including one after a day of ice cold rain. I lost 30+ species of tropical palms that winter. My gardens were decimated. Ever since I keep my uber tropicals in containers on rolling dollies on my back lanai. I haul them indoors when forecasts are below 40F. They will never be planted because some year those 9b temps will clobber me again. As I said, have fun and experiment but know someday the polar vortex will send you greetings.

As for seedlings vs larger plants, that depends on your patience, cash flow and willingness to hunt around. Larger palms give you instant gratification and are not as fragile as seedlings. However, Sabals and needles are so slow growing that you will wait years for them to reach appreciable size and they can be hard to find at nurseries and big box garden centers. Then again, seeds or seedlings are relatively inexpensive and easy to send. There are great people on this forum who might be willing to send you free seeds. If you have specific wants for larger plants you can request someone pm you a quote. Just go to the Palm Exchange for both. And you can also troll eBay for opportunities - but beware! Some sellers are ignorant, unethical or predatory and may outrageously overcharge you for common stuff like Washingtonias. Also be wary of independent online sellers, i.e., "Real Palm Trees", that tout common junk palms for $100s.

Finally, consider going on palm safaris in your area and the Washington Metro area. Focus on independent nurseries as they are most likely to offer unusual palms. A few years ago when I visited my old stomping ground in S. Alexandria off Rt 1, I visited a nursery that sold large Trachycarpus (4-5' tall) in pots (I can't remember if they had smaller ones). Price: $100s but for instant gratification size. I considered one to put in my son's yard in Rockville but as they were somewhat hazardous and my son and daughter-in-law had two small sons, I backed off. If I'd still lived in the area I'd have bought one.

And invest $40-50 in a good palm book. My palm bible is "Encyclopedia of Cultivated Palms" by Riffle, Craft & Zona.

HA!  I know that nursery well!  They do have an awesome selection of palms and especially large trachys.  They sell them up to 15 or more feet tall. Its called Holly Woods and Vines. Ive purchased from them before. In summer they get massive pigmy date palms.  I had one from there for several years.   I too have that same palm book.  Its awesome! 

I agree with your assessments above about the area and the types / sizes of palms.   I for some reason thought that the OP was on the DelMarVa.  Hoco is a whole different ball of wax.    The only palm that is likely bullet proof there would be Needle Palm. (R. Hystrix).  Chamerops will die unprotected there when we get an actual winter here.  That will have to be permanently protected.   A windmill might survive close to the south side of a sizeable home.  There is (was?) one in Sterling VA that was there for 25 years unprotected and it grew taller than the 2 story house, so those could be possible for you.   Id def protected it unitl its got some good size though.  Seedlings are not likely to make it through any winter that is normal for you, unless fully protected.   

I do commend you on trying though!  with some good solid knowledge and protection of your palms you can do wonderful things.  Ive seen people grow a windmill to 20 feet in northern Minnesota.  Of course it was protected every year with a custom built easy to remove and replace green house, but it worked beautifully.   I doubt youll need that level of protection most winters, so you can prob do a lot more.   Let us know what you decide.  

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