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Ben in Norcal

Winterizing with Christmas lights or heat tape?

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Ben in Norcal

This thread is probably a little out of place given we're going to see 100 degrees the next couple of days. I guess I am thinking ahead.

As I add more marginal palms for my 9b climate (e.g. Archontophoenix maxima) - I am wondering what the best way is to give them the best chance every winter. Typically we don't see below 30 degrees (that was as low as we got last December during our one really cold snap) but it does happen. I have been reading threads about using heat tape with a thermostat, and various types of Christmas lights, to protect the trunk/growth point. I'll tie up the fronds (as I did this year), and know they may take some damage - but king crowns come back quick enough as long as I keep them alive. My cunninghamianas have made it several winters, and they are so cheap/locally available I am not worried about them...but maybe the maxima, a chamberyonia I am going to try, the B. alfredii, would potentially get this treatment.

What have folks found work best when you just need a few degrees of protection?

I have visions of extension cords all around my back yard in about 7 months...

Ben

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Alicehunter2000

Icicle lights around the growing point. Wrap with sheet.

If crown shafted palm...wrap thin sheet...then lights....then another sheet. It will keep the growing point nice and balmy...and look Christmasy to boot.

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Brahea Axel

This thread is probably a little out of place given we're going to see 100 degrees the next couple of days. I guess I am thinking ahead.

As I add more marginal palms for my 9b climate (e.g. Archontophoenix maxima) - I am wondering what the best way is to give them the best chance every winter. Typically we don't see below 30 degrees (that was as low as we got last December during our one really cold snap) but it does happen. I have been reading threads about using heat tape with a thermostat, and various types of Christmas lights, to protect the trunk/growth point. I'll tie up the fronds (as I did this year), and know they may take some damage - but king crowns come back quick enough as long as I keep them alive. My cunninghamianas have made it several winters, and they are so cheap/locally available I am not worried about them...but maybe the maxima, a chamberyonia I am going to try, the B. alfredii, would potentially get this treatment.

What have folks found work best when you just need a few degrees of protection?

I have visions of extension cords all around my back yard in about 7 months...

Ben

You're wasting your time, the return on investment from both the cost and labor is terrible. Once a palm has even 10 feet of trunk, any attempts at wrapping it and keeping it from freezing in a thermal belt within a Norcal USDA 9b zone is more work than it's worth, especially if you're concerned with only a few nights a year. You're looking at a days worth of work for one or two nights, totally not worth it, not to mention it's dangerous to climb into the crown.

Last Winter, I experimented with some infrared heaters placed on the ground but pointing up to radiate the energy into the canopy of the palm. This was far more effective. The infrared heats the fronds directly and prevents them from burning. propane infrared heaters are the most effective, but they're more expensive to run. 1kw parabolic electric heaters are equally effective, but they need to be placed slightly higher to transmit the same amount of heat, and you have to make a small modification to them to disable them from automatically shutting down when placed at a vertical angle.

Here is an example of the type of parabolic electric heater I am talking about. These will actually rotate like a fan, giving you even more coverage.

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Note that this technique DOES NOT WORK for USDA zone 9a. It's only effective to prevent cosmetic damage in a warm USDA 9b zone where 10a palms work most of the time but need that extra help during an unusually cold freeze. It works both for the maritime Central California/Bay Area's 9b zones and Central Florida's 9b zones. Here is a thread for using such a technique to keep a coconut intact in Central Florida: http://www.palmtalk.org/forum/index.php?/topic/39319-inland-central-florida-coconut-palm-in-ground-almost-6-years/.

Examples where this application works is prevention of cosmetic damage on archont., Newcal species, kentia and other Lord Howe Island and rhopies, and in Florida it works on coconuts and all the USDA 10a palms. It's also quite effective on keeping bananas from loosing a single leaf down to about 29F.

One more note: you must use an infrared heater, other types of heaters are completely ineffective. Infrared travels through the air and only looses power by spacial diffusion like short frequency radio waves and light, hence why the parabolic focusing mechanism is important. Propane is more effective because in addition to the infrared, there is considerable thermal heat that travels up into the crown from the heater itself since heat rises. Those same heat losses account for a factor of 10 increase in cost. One propane infrared drywall heater takes about $1-$2 to run all night whereas a propane tank costs around $30 worth of propane.

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Ben in Norcal

Thank you Axel for the in depth and helpful response! As I think you know, I'm solid/warm 9b and just talking about those few nights a year where things start getting a bit dodgy. I am confining my 10a "experiments" to a few key areas, all south-facing and near the house, so that should help too.

Is it alright to run those parabolic electric heaters outside? I like the idea of avoiding repeated runs to OSH for propane - the propane heaters also seem to have a tendency to go out.

Ben

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Alicehunter2000

Christmas lights are not a waste of time and can be put on today. No need to remove them as they are pretty small and not really noticed unless looking close at the crown growing point area. All that needs to be done is to plug them in and loosly wrap a sheet between the fronds to better hold the heat in. This is really about allowing a palm to survive an unusual event. It will not protect the fronds. I have used it for Bizmarkia in the past, but have learned that Bizmarkia can survive some pretty extreme 9a temps and protecting the fronds with a tarp is probably more beneficial. I wish I would have wrapped Christmas lights on both my queens and C. alba's as I think they would have survived....hindsight.

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Tropicdoc

Axel, your reality checks are always good. Here, I think Walt, in Lake Placid, FL (supposedly 9a) has a coconut that he keeps alive with heat tape, and I think he would disagree with you.

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Brahea Axel

Axel, your reality checks are always good. Here, I think Walt, in Lake Placid, FL (supposedly 9a) has a coconut that he keeps alive with heat tape, and I think he would disagree with you.

You and David missed the point. I never said that wrapping a trunk with heat tape, xmas lights or whatever else doesn't work in 9a. My point was that for Ben in a thermal belt within 9b, the ROI for such an approach is poor. The technique I suggested is best for 9b climates but is ineffective in a 9a climate. In 9a, heat tape, xmas lights and wrapping is definitely worth it and works.

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Tropicdoc

Oh, yes, I missed that point. And its a good point, because I was tempted to try the infrared deal after seeing that cocos in central florida. Any of these methods wont get you a beautiful frost-tender palm in 9a, but could save a specimen in the event that we have a really bad winter down here, allowing a palm to recover over the ensuing years. I just spent a lot of money on a 2 butia x parajubaea. I wont let them see frost until grown up a little and then I will have at least a few icicle lights near the spear ready to go in case we have some crazy 8b event.

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Brahea Axel

You should search PalmTalk about butia x parajubaea hardiness. I saw a couple of 9a reports that were not so good. For palms that costs more than $200 a piece, better have some protection system ready.

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