Can mule palms survive temps between 10f - 15f?

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I'm curious how mule palms faired during  the recent record cold week in the SE US.  Temps at my location dropped to 12f twice in one week, with highs in the 30s. For those who experienced similar temps, especially in the Carolinas, how do your mule palms look? I'd love to hear from you. Thanks.

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Mine (about 3' tall) looks very dead at ~14F without protection.  Aiken SC.

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Sorry to hear that. I have several large Pindo palms that I was growing in a low lying area that are completely burnt. Others growing on well drained soil look great. I've been here 12 winters and this past week was the most damaging cold event yet. Any Pindos that die will be replaced with Palmettos. Even in low lying areas they were unscathed. I think Mule palms should be reclassified as zone 9a palms.

 

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I think it's hard to classify mules to a specific zone due to their variability.  I believe some get more of the Butia traits (cold-hardiness) whereas others get more of the Syagrus traits.  Size/age of the palm and duration in the ground will have impact as well in addition to typical winter weather conditions (wet rain/snow cold vs. dry cold, frost vs. non-frost).  I'm not in the SE, but mine (unprotected) experienced a dry 20º F ultimate low last week following 36 consecutive hours below freezing and it experienced some spotting on the leaves and the spear is strong.  I've had it for almost 4 years from a 3-gallon size and this was the first sign of any cold damage, but it was transplanted to its current location only 5 months ago.  Several years ago I lost a small Butia at 15º that was planted in clay for 10 months.  I currently have an even smaller Butia that has only been in the ground 5 months with no damage whatsoever.  Donnacreation, it's interesting that you have noticed a difference in hardiness due to soil type - I'm sorry to hear that you lost so many large pindos.  :( 

Jon

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Thanks Jon,  I'm growing 2 super mule palms in containers. In theory, they should be a little more cold hardy than standard mule palms.  I still don't think they're cold hardy in zone 8a, but I was feeling optimistic when I ordered them last May. I'm shocked that my Butias are completely fried. These palms have been exposed to 10f temps twice in the past 11 yrs and they weren't damaged.  They were getting big - 4-5 ft of trunk.  I'm especially worried about their survival because we still have a lot of winter left.  I'm at the mercy of Mother Nature, and frankly I'm feeling nauseous. I wonder if it would be beneficial to treat them tomorrow with copper fungicide or hydrogen peroxide. I also wonder which is preferable, hydrogen peroxide or copper fungicide?

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I'm not familiar with the "super" mules, although I think I've read a different post here that mentioned them.  Hopefully they are more hardy, but I agree with you that it's unlikely they are hardy to 8a (10º-14º) - at least not for several years.  Perhaps a large that's been in the ground awhile one could be, but it will be good to hear what the experience is for the mules of the member in Summerville from the other post.  I was surprised to see the damage in his photos, but maybe his have more of the Syagrus traits?

You ask a good question - I've only used hydrogen peroxide after a spear pull, but it's only happened a couple of times.  Perhaps someone else could answer better regarding the copper fungicide, but it would probably better to post a photo or two.  Did your pindos have a spear pull?  They are pretty tough and might still survive if the rest of winter cooperates...let's hope for the best!

Jon

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Donna, I have two of these super mules too - but my general understanding now is that they're probably (BxJ)xB (e.g. "BxJ F2") crossed with a queen - with very little Jubaea in them.  When I bought them I was under the impression they were 25% Jubaea e.g. (BxJ)xS. 

After last week I'm not sure if I want to plant them here or not.

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I plan to let mine grow a few years until they're too big and heavy to move around anymore. Per the SC motto - While I breathe, I hope. As for my fried Butias, not so much hope.Jon, I'll post a pic soon. There's no spear pull yet. Summerville is close to Charleston and at least a half zone warmer than me.

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Geez... I have had Butia only have tip burn in 12 degrees F here in Virginia near my house... I can't wait to see the pictures, hopefully they come back! It is a shock that Butias burnt in South Carolina... 

Edited by PalmTreeDude
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10f will kill smaller butia as we lost about 100 at that temp.  Mules are not 8a palms even when large.  Mattndallas had a mule with significant trunk (4-6') that only survived after he cut about a foot of trunk off after the 2011 winter and he probably never got below 12f up where he was at.  I lost a trunking mule at 12f myself.  I

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I started planting them on a flood plain with poor drainage 11 years ago. I found that Butias grow faster with damp roots, and because I'm in central SC, I didn't think cold hardiness would be an issue. Years ago, when they were much smaller,  they survived 10f with very little damage. I'm so shocked and sickened I could barely sleep last night. It had to be the duration of the cold that damaged them so severely. My husband vetoed the idea, but I'm ready to sell and buy a condo.

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4 hours ago, donnacreation said:

I started planting them on a flood plain with poor drainage 11 years ago. I found that Butias grow faster with damp roots, and because I'm in central SC, I didn't think cold hardiness would be an issue. Years ago, when they were much smaller,  they survived 10f with very little damage. I'm so shocked and sickened I could barely sleep last night. It had to be the duration of the cold that damaged them so severely. My husband vetoed the idea, but I'm ready to sell and buy a condo.

Donna, I understand your frustration and disappointment.  But hang in there - this kind of event is not likely to occur again anytime soon (hopefully!)  And I still think there's hope for your Butias to come back.  I'll be praying for you.  :)

Jon

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I would say that Mules are a solid zone 8b palm. I have two that are about 7 feet tall and they have been through temps in the upper teens several times with barely any damage. They haven't experienced temps below 15F yet so I could be in for a nasty surprise one day. 

I do make sure that their crowns stay dry if a freeze is expected after rainfall but other than that I use very minimal protection. My Queen palm is totally fried after last week but the Mule nearby is in perfect shape so I'm optimistic that it's going to do well here long term.

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Thanks Jon. I'm unable to downsize my pics, so I can only enter 1 at a time. 

Palm freeze damage Jan 2018 001.JPG

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You can easily downsize pictures in Microsoft paint. Just open the image in paint, use the selection tool to select the entire picture, then click resize. Pretty straight forward and effective at lowering picture "size" and space used. 

Edited by mdsonofthesouth
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Shot of spear. Some spears are still green. I got spoiled all those yrs I was on Daves Garden entering pics - no need to downsize.

Palm freeze damage Jan 2018 003.JPG

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I had to drive from Sumter,SC to Columbia and Lexington today, and I was checking out Butias along the way.  I noticed several really old, large Butias in Sumter County that were slightly burnt. One Butia growing half a mile from me was unscathed, yet 2 houses down I saw a Butia that was almost as burnt as some of mine. These were all growing on well drained soil. I saw very little damage in Richland County (Columbia) and absolutely no damage in Lexington County. Sumter received a rare snowfall last week that Columbia didn't get. Snow cover for 4 nights caused our temps to drop 5-6 degrees colder than Columbia. Columbia is a bigger town and has a larger urban heat island effect, too. After inspecting my large Butias today, I do think they will survive if remaining winter temps get back to normal. An early spring is my most fervent wish.

 

Edited by donnacreation
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I agree - they likely will survive, although you will have to put up with some ugly for awhile.  I'd keep a close eye on the spears for any pull and treat with the hydrogen peroxide (or copper fungicide?) if they pull.  The green spears are a good sign.  :)  If you get more cold rain you could maybe cover the crown to keep it dry?  They are big but not impossible to cover - it would take some work.  Keep us posted!

Jon

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Just one more pic showing how a Windmill  palm and young Palmetto planted along side another fried Butia sailed through the severe cold.

Palm freeze damage Jan 2018 009.JPG

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Those butia will just about completely defoliate and still have funky spear just like ours did last year. Its pretty early to already see big butia that damaged though. Ours took about 3 weeks before they totally burnt and none of the spears turned brown or burnt. Good news they will just about grow a new crown in a year so no big deal.

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@nitsua0895 Are you covering your Mules in any way when they experienced high teens to prevent rain/ice from getting on them?  

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@donnacreation and yet the windmill looks unscathed! Cant wait til mine arent tender anymore!

 

5 hours ago, donnacreation said:

Shot of spear. Some spears are still green. I got spoiled all those yrs I was on Daves Garden entering pics - no need to downsize.

Palm freeze damage Jan 2018 003.JPG

Ahh well if you want a quick tutorial on how I do it I can certainly show you. Pretty easy once you do it once.

 

Edited by mdsonofthesouth
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Thanks for the encouragement, Texas. We will probably have a low one night next week around 18f. I don't think the upper teens will do much more damage. Large Butias are incredibly tough.

Nitsua, it sounds like Montgomery is zone 8b. I'm impressed you're growing a Queen palm there. It sounds like your mule has more Butia characteristics.Next time you have temps around 12f, I'd love to see what your mule palms looks like. Of course I hope you never get that cold. Thanks for your input.

 

2018 snow 009.JPG

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Thanks for the tutorial offer, mindofthesouth. I didn't get much sleep last night fretting over my Butias. I'm going to retire for the evening. My nephew promised to drop by tomorrow to show his feeble aunt how to downsize. Thanks again and have a good night.

 

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Donna, I believe the duration of cold and freezing soil for prolonged periods of time is why our palms are suffering so much. The soil here in Greenville was frozen for at least three days straight and that’s very rare. Keep us posted on your Butias! I’ll have to check on my local large Butias and see if they’re defoliated. 

 

To answer the orgininal question: No they will not survive. The syagrus dna makes them too sensitive to cold to survive 10-15F. Most Butia even struggle at 15 and 10 by themselves. 

Edited by Brad Mondel
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I agree, Brad. I know someone in Charleston I will give one of my super mule palms. The other will be my sacrificial lamb. I wonder how many folks in zone 8a have bought these Mule palms and lost them. I remember 7 or 8 years ago, when I was a Daves Garden member and frigid air was on the way, there was a guy up in Greenville, SC, who was building a wood structure around his large Mule palm and heating it. Of course it will never be cold hardy.  I wonder if he built a highrise structure around it this go round. The only additional trunking palms I'm going to plant are Palmettos and Windmills. I've had it with "marginal" palms, including Washingtonias, that always eventually die in my zone 8a garden.

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I’ve had it to, I’ve spent so much money on these palms and they just die or get set back for a long time. I think I’ll be getting Sabal Birmingham, Sabal brazoriensis , Large palmettos and Butia x Jubaea hybrids whenever I purchase a home. These will be full proof for sure in zone 8a. 

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16 hours ago, TexasColdHardyPalms said:

@nitsua0895 Are you covering your Mules in any way when they experienced high teens to prevent rain/ice from getting on them?  

Yes and I'm covering mine right now to keep it dry before the next few nights of freezing weather. Wednesday morning is now forecast to be 17F so I'm considering using a heater inside the small enclosure that I'm building around it. 

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I am sensing a lot of negative energy in this thread.....  There are a lot of cool stuff that is 100% zone 8a hardy.  Don't forget about the trithrinax, brahea, nannorhorps's, C radicalis, Silver med fans and silver saws out there in the world that need a home, or the folks that grow them that need to feed their family....

In all seriousness I have pivoted to a 90% Butia/Jubaea hybrid crop from now on.  

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I would love a Butia x Jubaea hybrid, if it's fully cold hardy (no heroics necessary). According to Dave's Garden, this hybrid is only cold hardy to 8b.  I've found much of Dave's Garden cold hardiness info is incorrect. Have you seen any since our arctic blast? Also, where would I buy this hybrid? I bought a small Sabal Mexicana 5 or 6 yrs ago that is a very slow grower compared to our Sabal Palmetto. I'm dreading having to cut the fronds from my 18 sagos. They're all fried too. ughh....

2018 snow 018.JPG

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@donnacreationI have 22 decent sized JxB F1 hybrids and a handful of BxJ F1's that have never burned here.  I also sell 1G hybrids as well that we ship all over the country and I can tell you that once they get to a 15G size they will not burn nor die at 10F. This years winter storm that the SE has experienced happens all the time here in Dallas and we are accustom to it and only the absolute toughest will survive out here.  I lost 75% of my 15G Jubaea, 100% defoliation and spear pull and a BxJ right beside them never burned or had any spear issues at all at 11-12F with 48+ hours below freezing.  Large trunking butia Catarensis 100% defoliated and Odorata 75% defoliated, while a few 45G size plants died in the ground.  I assure you we have tested these hybrids and they are in every single respect superior to either of their parents, unlike Mules.  Most years our Sagos 100% burn out here.  About 1 out of 3 years do they stay green through the winter.

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Thanks, Texas. Sorry I'm Debbie Downer these days. I just want my darn Butias to become lush and green again. I'm amazed at how cold and hot Dallas can get. You're absolutely right - if a palm can survive a cold winter in Dallas I'm confident it would be fully hardy here in central SC. (Thank you Appalachian Mtns for protecting us from single digits.) I'll be contacting you in early March concerning your hybrids for sale. Thanks again.

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Mature Butia aren't slow and can take a major defoliation every few years without too much issue but if it occurs year after year they will weaken and succumb, which is why they can handle a 7B winter but aren't close to zone 7 hardy.  All of mine grew about 20-25 fronds this year so about 50-75% of the canopy is back in just a years time.  We were very shocked last January when everything defoliated or died here.  

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I was thinking about that,Texas.  I hope next winter is mild. It's going to take a couple years for these palms to fully recover. After observing more Butias in my area (they're everywhere because they're considered bulletproof and usually survive even as young inexpensive palms w/o any protection) I'm realizing there's a lot of variability when it comes to their cold hardiness. I had no idea! I noticed today some old -50 yr+-Butias that were very burnt, except for one that looked very good. They were planted in a group and all were the typical blueish green except one that was noticeably greener. The green Butia was more cold hardy, which surprised me. I've noticed the blueish powdery Euro fan palms are more cold hardy than the green. Go figure.

 

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That green one may have been an Odorata as they are hardier than Catarensis (capitata florida grown).  The silver Odorata are the hardiest pure Butia (I do not have a large Yatay to test)

Butia is a very variable genus anyway but there is a lot of variability to Washingtonia Filifera in leaf hardiness as well.  Some smaller ones burn at 18F and die and some wont burn at 7-10F all from the same seed batch.

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I bought 2 large Washingtonia robutas 9 yrs ago. They were very heavy and I had to have them professionally installed. I even wrapped them with warming Christmas lights and frost cloth the first 2 winters. They grew beautifully another  4 mild winters and I thought they were big enough to survive an arctic blast. I was wrong - both of them died. I've read California filiferas are at least 5 degrees more cold hardy than Washingtonia robustas. Nurseries around here don't sell filiferas. A cold rain is forecast for Wednesday followed by a low around 18f. My poor Butias. The NWS was wrong when they predicted a warmer than normal winter for the SE US.

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They were very wrong. I was expecting to not have to protect anything this winter and I may lose alot this year. Even my bulletproof crepe myrtle and other native type plants might be damaged....

Edited by mdsonofthesouth
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I've seen queens survive 15 degrees Fahrenheit,so mules should also be able to do so.I think they can survive in a cold 8b climate if they are protected until they get atleast 6-7 feet of trunk.

Here in a usually cold 9a they grow with very few problems,but thankfully so far we haven't dipped below 29 degrees.

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2 hours ago, donnacreation said:

I bought 2 large Washingtonia robutas 9 yrs ago. They were very heavy and I had to have them professionally installed. I even wrapped them with warming Christmas lights and frost cloth the first 2 winters. They grew beautifully another  4 mild winters and I thought they were big enough to survive an arctic blast. I was wrong - both of them died. I've read California filiferas are at least 5 degrees more cold hardy than Washingtonia robustas. Nurseries around here don't sell filiferas. A cold rain is forecast for Wednesday followed by a low around 18f. My poor Butias. The NWS was wrong when they predicted a warmer than normal winter for the SE US.

W. filifera is significantly hardier than robusta. In fact they’re darn near invincible in arid climates. Problem is, they don’t do nearly as well in wet and humid climates. I wonder if you could get your hands on some filibusta’s. That might be the best choice if they are available. 

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Donna there is a huge filifera here at Greenville tech that does great. It’s been here a long time. I have a small filifera I ordered from Texas that made it with zero protection. 17AF44FE-5FA6-4B0B-A58C-6A91751B8CA4.thu

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