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Mule Palm Experiment

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87E525DF-42CA-4F38-8EEE-68A34A6B1DF8.thumb.jpeg.6fcaeb8906fb48cc09f4d5a2b0870467.jpeg 

5 years ago, before I knew much about palms, I got a mule palm as a 2 leaf seedling. I read that they were hardy to zone 8a, and given I am in that zone, I thought it would be a good choice. I did not realize that many mules do not survive zone 8a winter temperatures, and definitely not record lows in my area.

I decided to plant it anyway last week, and protect it when temperatures reach 18-19 degrees, which happens a couple of times in a typical winter. The soil in my area is extremely poorly draining clay, so I decided to plant it in a mound. About 1/4 of the rootball is below the normal soil level. The reason it is hurricane cut is because of a fungal issue.

Any tips would be appreciated!

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Allen

You can probably get it by for a few years till it gets too big to protect.  They grow fast.  You will need a cage/box around it  in Jan/feb at least.

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sevapalms
54 minutes ago, Allen said:

You can probably get it by for a few years till it gets too big to protect.  They grow fast.  You will need a cage/box around it  in Jan/feb at least.

That’s true. This definitely won’t be a long term plant, just something to enjoy for a few years. I’ll likely have a thermocube heated box or cage around it for some or most of January/February due to the repeated threat of extreme cold spells. Thanks for your advice!

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NCpalmqueen

Nice hybrid.  As others have said, it grows so quickly it will be too hard to protect in a few years.   But like you, I like enjoying them while they are living and pretty.    Best of luck with it. 

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sevapalms
13 minutes ago, NCpalmqueen said:

Nice hybrid.  As others have said, it grows so quickly it will be too hard to protect in a few years.   But like you, I like enjoying them while they are living and pretty.    Best of luck with it. 

Thank you! Hopefully the next winters will be relatively mild to extend its lifespan, but you never know.

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SEVA

I would think you could keep this alive as long or longer than my queen.  I didn't even attempt to protect the fronds this past winter, but plan to next winter.  For the trunk, I just wrapped it with burlap and lights with a thermocube.  No cage or box around the trunk on my queen, but they would likely prove beneficial for protecting the fronds.

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sevapalms
52 minutes ago, SEVA said:

I would think you could keep this alive as long or longer than my queen.  I didn't even attempt to protect the fronds this past winter, but plan to next winter.  For the trunk, I just wrapped it with burlap and lights with a thermocube.  No cage or box around the trunk on my queen, but they would likely prove beneficial for protecting the fronds.

I hope I can keep it alive! I really like this palm. I think keeping the fronds helps the plant and makes it look better, so I think a box is a good idea, or at least a careful wrapping job with the fronds tied up. To protect it, I think I’ll use a 20/30 thermocube(or a 35/45 one for long cold spells), heat tape, and a box or blankets and burlap.

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SEVA
7 minutes ago, sevapalms said:

I hope I can keep it alive! I really like this palm. I think keeping the fronds helps the plant and makes it look better, so I think a box is a good idea, or at least a careful wrapping job with the fronds tied up. To protect it, I think I’ll use a 20/30 thermocube(or a 35/45 one for long cold spells), heat tape, and a box or blankets and burlap.

I agree.  Preventing damage to the fronds will certainly result in a healthier and aesthetically pleasing palm.  I tried wrapping the fronds in the past with burlap and lights, but the fronds became moldy and had some burn from direct contact with the lights.  The reason for their extended period being wrapped up the past few winters is due to being away for school, but I will be graduating this summer and should be around more to unwrap during extended periods of warmer temperatures.  I would definitely consider a caged wrapping/ box or something to allow a space of air around the fronds.  I am not set on what I plan to do just yet, but I still have time.  I use a 35/45 thermocube for the queen.

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sevapalms
12 minutes ago, SEVA said:

I agree.  Preventing damage to the fronds will certainly result in a healthier and aesthetically pleasing palm.  I tried wrapping the fronds in the past with burlap and lights, but the fronds became moldy and had some burn from direct contact with the lights.  The reason for their extended period being wrapped up the past few winters is due to being away for school, but I will be graduating this summer and should be around more to unwrap during extended periods of warmer temperatures.  I would definitely consider a caged wrapping/ box or something to allow a space of air around the fronds.  I am not set on what I plan to do just yet, but I still have time.  I use a 35/45 thermocube for the queen.

Congratulations on graduating soon. It’s good you’ll be able to take care of the palm and will be able to let it air out during warm periods in the winter. I don’t know what thermocube to use yet or how what method I will use for protection, but as you said, there is time before winter.

Edited by sevapalms
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Allen

My potted one I bring in under 25F to be safe.  I don't know how they do with ice though.   Mature ones are supposed to take down to 14F but I don't know when they lose fronds so I'm not sure a 20/30 thermocube will do it because temps could sit at 20F ish without it turning on.  Thermocubes have a few degree variance.   I think mine had some cold damage to fronds (Small spots) even in the 25F range.

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sevapalms
10 minutes ago, Allen said:

My potted one I bring in under 25F to be safe.  I don't know how they do with ice though.   Mature ones are supposed to take down to 14F but I don't know when they lose fronds so I'm not sure a 20/30 thermocube will do it because temps could sit at 20F ish without it turning on.  Thermocubes have a few degree variance.   I think mine had some cold damage to fronds (Small spots) even in the 25F range.

I think I’ll cover it with an umbrella somehow in cases of freezing rain, sleet, or rain before a freeze to protect the spear. I think that the 20/30 one may be too cold for a mule too. I think the 35/45 may be a better choice. I’ll have to experiment with different temperatures to see the effect on my plant. I think ~20 sounds about the limit before moderate damage besides spots begins to set in, but I’ll have to see whether my plant is more or less susceptible to cold damage than that.    

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Jhonny
On 5/21/2019 at 5:21 PM, sevapalms said:

I think I’ll cover it with an umbrella somehow in cases of freezing rain, sleet, or rain before a freeze to protect the spear. I think that the 20/30 one may be too cold for a mule too. I think the 35/45 may be a better choice. I’ll have to experiment with different temperatures to see the effect on my plant. I think ~20 sounds about the limit before moderate damage besides spots begins to set in, but I’ll have to see whether my plant is more or less susceptible to cold damage than that.    

How has it been holding up?

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Collectorpalms

Here is my experience After 14.5 degrees and 3 winters ago, and now a heavy snow event followed by re-freezing into ice.

I have lost 1 medium mule due to frozen tissue at the base. There was a gigantic hole on the base, now after the snow ice event it is officially going to be pulled out. All broken fronds. 
I also have an older mule that has some frozen trunk rot at the base ( the north side). I have one broken frond. 
 

i have various other hybrids I’ll have to see how they do after this winter. So far a low of 26 during this event, but the 5.5 inches snow/ice here has stayed for 3 days in shaded areas. I think this is 50 year event.

I think they may have over-sold mule as a fool-proof 8b palm. I think they are marginal 8b in the very warm areas, and may be killed by 8a winters.
I think a mature mule in the southern USA 8b can handle most winters, smaller mules you might lose. Obviously duration of freeze and siting make a huge difference. 
 

Here is a mule, it is gluten for Heavy wet snow. It has around 6ft of trunk. 

770ADEBA-7064-4025-A26D-872AD0C7A93F.png

Edited by Collectorpalms
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Chester B
4 hours ago, Collectorpalms said:

I think they may have over-sold mule as a fool-proof 8b palm. I think they are marginal 8b in the very warm areas

I know people that share this sentiment.  The one nursery by me that has them puts them in the greenhouse over winter, his thoughts are that they aren't hardy to our PNW 8B winters.  I have two, both pretty small and one was planted out last spring.  So far this winter has been exceptionally mild, according to the records we've had one night down to 29F, although on my own instruments I've seen 29F 2 or 3 nights, so not exactly challenging weather. Time will tell I suppose.

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Allen

I've got a 10 footer here in 7a that so far has been easy to protect.  Only had to do it twice so far and I think I went overboard even then.  I just protect at 20 or below.  it's had snow and cold so we'll see how it turns out.  The fronds are easy to tie on these at least so far.  I hope to get a few years out of it.

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Collectorpalms
1 hour ago, Allen said:

I've got a 10 footer here in 7a that so far has been easy to protect.  Only had to do it twice so far and I think I went overboard even then.  I just protect at 20 or below.  it's had snow and cold so we'll see how it turns out.  The fronds are easy to tie on these at least so far.  I hope to get a few years out of it.

When I say fool-proof, I mean they sell them now at Lowe’s as cold hardy into zone 8a Texas. I believe 14F is what they promoted them as at their launch in Florida. ( I’ll look At  my Lowe’s tag to see if they say HOW cold hardy ) So I am referring to the average shopper, not a palm fanatic that will go extra lengths to protect one. At least they go a little overboard with labeling Pygmy Dates at hardy from 30-40F. 
Dont get me wrong, any young palm can die early and any weather event can be extra bad. 
I am Texas very southern Zone 8b, they are just barely hardy enough for me to recommend to people with a caution. They won’t survive The 1980s like Sabals, a few Washingtonia filifera and hybrids and canaries.

Edited by Collectorpalms

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Allen
32 minutes ago, Collectorpalms said:

When I say fool-proof, I mean they sell them now at Lowe’s as cold hardy into zone 8a Texas. I believe 14F is what they promoted them as at their launch in Florida. ( I’ll look At  my Lowe’s tag to see if they say HOW cold hardy ) So I am referring to the average shopper, not a palm fanatic that will go extra lengths to protect one. At least they go a little overboard with labeling Pygmy Dates at hardy from 30-40F. 
Dont get me wrong, any young palm can die early and any weather event can be extra bad. 
I am Texas very southern Zone 8b, they are just barely hardy enough for me to recommend to people with a caution. They won’t survive The 1980s like Sabals, a few Washingtonia filifera and hybrids and canaries.

I think long term they are a 9a palm, I wasn't disputing that.  Zones can be funny, I am 3 zones lower than you but for this same event my low was 22F with 2 inches of snow, only a 4F difference.

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sevapalms

It’s been about 2 years since I planted this palm, so I think it’s a good time to post an update. It’s grown from about two feet tall to about four feet, and is definitely healthy (aside from a fungal leaf spot problem that doesn’t seem to be going away). We’ve definitely been lucky here in terms of lack of cold snaps over the past two winters. It hasn’t gotten below 20 degrees since I planted the palm, so I’ve never needed to protect it. It hasn’t suffered any cold damage. I hope to enjoy this palm for a few more years until it eventually becomes too big to protect and a severe cold spell comes along!

8E47D476-AE45-4F65-9B69-7CB621E5C550.jpeg

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sevapalms
On 1/12/2021 at 9:57 PM, Jhonny said:

How has it been holding up?

Last winter and this winter it was just fine! Last winter it only snowed once and was relatively mild. This winter it snowed a couple of times, and there was a consistently wet and cool period from January to February, but it never got cold enough that I had to protect it. I was concerned that it would suffer from some issues due to the wet and cold this winter, but at this point it seems to be relatively healthy.

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VA Jeff

Isle of Wight, VA

This was given to me as a strapling by Merrill Wilcox many years ago.  It would be double or triple the size if it had been growing in Florida in the ground, instead of a large container albeit still too small.  Hasn't been protected for a few years, but I know how to protect it if needed.

mule palm.jpg

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atlamtapalms

In my experience the foliage is tender as a queen. The foliage gets beat up under 20f easily.

It’s the Butia in the stem that makes up the ground. Question is for pushers would be how much of a beating can the foliage take every year long term.

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sevapalms
22 hours ago, VA Jeff said:

Isle of Wight, VA

This was given to me as a strapling by Merrill Wilcox many years ago.  It would be double or triple the size if it had been growing in Florida in the ground, instead of a large container albeit still too small.  Hasn't been protected for a few years, but I know how to protect it if needed.

Wow, I haven't seen any other mule palms in the ground north of southeastern NC that are as big as yours.

21 hours ago, atlamtapalms said:

In my experience the foliage is tender as a queen. The foliage gets beat up under 20f easily.

It’s the Butia in the stem that makes up the ground. Question is for pushers would be how much of a beating can the foliage take every year long term.

Agreed. We've been extremely lucky in my area to avoid damaging temperatures for the past several years, but if there comes a period of several cold years where the palm experiences temperatures that could cause it to become continuously defoliated, I think it would struggle to survive without significant protection.

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Collectorpalms
On 5/9/2021 at 9:46 PM, atlamtapalms said:

In my experience the foliage is tender as a queen. The foliage gets beat up under 20f easily.

It’s the Butia in the stem that makes up the ground. Question is for pushers would be how much of a beating can the foliage take every year long term.

I don’t recall my mules ever defoliating. But my queens did occasionally, but always had some green. Doesn’t matter now, all dead. I had been warned the electricity might not stay on, so I never provided heat. Sure enough, we lost electricity for 4 days in rolling blackouts.

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GregVirginia7
On 5/21/2019 at 5:21 PM, sevapalms said:

I think I’ll cover it with an umbrella somehow in cases of freezing rain, sleet, or rain before a freeze to protect the spear. I think that the 20/30 one may be too cold for a mule too. I think the 35/45 may be a better choice. I’ll have to experiment with different temperatures to see the effect on my plant. I think ~20 sounds about the limit before moderate damage besides spots begins to set in, but I’ll have to see whether my plant is more or less susceptible to cold damage than that.    

You may try a shepherds hook (I used a 6’ one) that you can wire the umbrella to. I tried this to keep my Mediterranean Fan dryer this past winter and it gave me a framework to attach the frost cloth to...had some lights around the circumference of the drip line and some around the crown...worked out well but winters have been mild enough lately that I don’t think it was necessary, though your palm’s sensitivity may be more pressing...here’s the structure...looks morbidly shroud-like but I assure you, the Medi is alive and on its 8th year in ground...

EB522472-8D39-4331-A8D9-CE491AF4F3B6.thumb.jpeg.d753b785ee4350bfc8eaacc7a693b57a.jpeg

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vistaprime

hi, why does everyone say you can't protect a mule as it gets bigger. I am in zone 6a and will be planting a mule if grows to 20 feet it will be protected. I call in professional landscapers with ladders and winter tree protection experience.  If it gets to 30 feet which is unlikely in my zone due to the shorter growing season, the landscapers will come in with a scissor lift. I just  don't get talk about you have get rid of a mule or any palm that's needs winter protection because they are too big. Just call for back up.

Edited by vistaprime
it had a double quote

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Allen
1 hour ago, vistaprime said:

hi, why does everyone say you can't protect a mule as it gets bigger. I am in zone 6a and will be planting a mule if grows to 20 feet it will be protected. I call in professional landscapers with ladders and winter tree protection experience.  If it gets to 30 feet which is unlikely in my zone due to the shorter growing season, the landscapers will come in with a scissor lift. I just  don't get talk about you have get rid of a mule or any palm that's needs winter protection because they are too big. Just call for back up.

Because the fronds get too big and hard to physically wrap.  You won't be able to keep one in 6a unless you build a big structure around it after a couple years.  You are 3 zones out which makes protecting this palm difficult.  Have you protected other easier palms like Trachycarpus for several years in your zone?

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Collectorpalms
1 hour ago, vistaprime said:

hi, why does everyone say you can't protect a mule as it gets bigger. I am in zone 6a and will be planting a mule if grows to 20 feet it will be protected. I call in professional landscapers with ladders and winter tree protection experience.  If it gets to 30 feet which is unlikely in my zone due to the shorter growing season, the landscapers will come in with a scissor lift. I just  don't get talk about you have get rid of a mule or any palm that's needs winter protection because they are too big. Just call for back up.

If you have the budget of Disney World, why not. There is not enough supplies to save everything during a record cold spell here. People in the south are more worried about staying alive.

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Collectorpalms

I would think you would need heated soil cables as well. The drasctic cold soil, will certainly send it into decline even if the trunk is protected.

6a been there done that.

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ahosey01
On 1/13/2021 at 10:08 AM, Chester B said:

I know people that share this sentiment.  The one nursery by me that has them puts them in the greenhouse over winter, his thoughts are that they aren't hardy to our PNW 8B winters.  I have two, both pretty small and one was planted out last spring.  So far this winter has been exceptionally mild, according to the records we've had one night down to 29F, although on my own instruments I've seen 29F 2 or 3 nights, so not exactly challenging weather. Time will tell I suppose.

Have heard this also.  Think they might be fine in dry 8b climates.  I imagine one doing fine in Kingman, for example.  Quick dips to 8b temps, then into the 50s in the day.

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JLM
5 hours ago, vistaprime said:

hi, why does everyone say you can't protect a mule as it gets bigger. I am in zone 6a and will be planting a mule if grows to 20 feet it will be protected. I call in professional landscapers with ladders and winter tree protection experience.  If it gets to 30 feet which is unlikely in my zone due to the shorter growing season, the landscapers will come in with a scissor lift. I just  don't get talk about you have get rid of a mule or any palm that's needs winter protection because they are too big. Just call for back up.

As a zone pusher, we like pushing the zones but when it comes to spending a bunch of money on it, its just not worth it anymore. Let the cold kill it, then replace it with either the same thing to start fresh or something else just to fill the hole.

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Jesse PNW
3 hours ago, JLM said:

As a zone pusher, we like pushing the zones but when it comes to spending a bunch of money on it, its just not worth it anymore. Let the cold kill it, then replace it with either the same thing to start fresh or something else just to fill the hole.

That's my plan with Queens.  You can buy them cheap when you're on vacation in Florida (which my family does annually), they grow fast, they can last a few years here I think- protect as needed.  Then they'll get too big to protect, and die, and I'll have a new batch ready to go in the ground to take their place.  

I get it, you can do that with Mules as well.. it just sucks planting such an expensive palm as essentially a glorified annual.  Well they're expensive up here anyway.  I know you can buy them in the big box stores these days, down in Florida anyway. 

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vistaprime
3 hours ago, JLM said:

As a zone pusher, we like pushing the zones but when it comes to spending a bunch of money on it, its just not worth it anymore. Let the cold kill it, then replace it with either the same thing to start fresh or something else just to fill the hole.

I get that but that's a different story. Saying we won't pursue winterizing in cold zones as palms grow due to costs involved is different from saying once cannot winterize like it cannot be done. If I have to, I will hire a construction team to set up scaffolding for winterizing as my palms grow.

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JLM
8 hours ago, vistaprime said:

I get that but that's a different story. Saying we won't pursue winterizing in cold zones as palms grow due to costs involved is different from saying once cannot winterize like it cannot be done. If I have to, I will hire a construction team to set up scaffolding for winterizing as my palms grow.

I find that hard to believe. If you're that invested you might as well grow Royals and Foxtails while you're at it. I personally will not spend hundreds every winter to protect a palm that can be replaced in the Spring. I only do C9 lights, sheets and maybe plastic on the colder nights when i have to protect my palms, but i will probably not do anything more than that. I get 10F higher inside the wrap with this method which will be good down to 10F technically if that difference holds. But, if you have the money to spend thousands on protecting a palm, in which there is never a guarantee that the protection will work, then nobody can stop you. Any zone pusher takes a risk when wrapping a palm, from burning the fronds with lights to the wrap not working well enough. There are too many risk factors with protecting palms to spend a lot of money on IMO.

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JLM
8 hours ago, Jesse PNW said:

That's my plan with Queens.  You can buy them cheap when you're on vacation in Florida (which my family does annually), they grow fast, they can last a few years here I think- protect as needed.  Then they'll get too big to protect, and die, and I'll have a new batch ready to go in the ground to take their place.  

I get it, you can do that with Mules as well.. it just sucks planting such an expensive palm as essentially a glorified annual.  Well they're expensive up here anyway.  I know you can buy them in the big box stores these days, down in Florida anyway. 

The 6 gallons are still $80 in the big box stores though. Queens are dirt cheap down here, $15 for a 2.25 gallon. Not bad IMO
My Foxtail experiment has been going well so far, however we havent been hit with real cold yet. Luckily the Foxtails are not all that expensive, i think they're $15-$20 for the same size as a Queen here. I want to get a Mule, and hopefully it would have several years to thrive before we get cold that threatens it.

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Jesse PNW
1 minute ago, JLM said:

The 6 gallons are still $80 in the big box stores though. Queens are dirt cheap down here, $15 for a 2.25 gallon. Not bad IMO
My Foxtail experiment has been going well so far, however we havent been hit with real cold yet. Luckily the Foxtails are not all that expensive, i think they're $15-$20 for the same size as a Queen here. I want to get a Mule, and hopefully it would have several years to thrive before we get cold that threatens it.

Yeah queens are a dime a dozen.  I didn't grab any Wodyetias but they were cheap as well.  Next time I'll grab a few.  

The mule should last longer of course so there is a level of return on having a more expensive palm.  Plus Mules just look so darn good.  There's lots of folks who hate queens, and although they're beautiful and exotic to me and I'd be happy to have some, I hear their points and I might feel differently if I lived in Florida.  Mules however, I think I've only ever seen one post where someone (From a much warmer zone) said that mules were ugly. 

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JLM
Just now, Jesse PNW said:

Yeah queens are a dime a dozen.  I didn't grab any Wodyetias but they were cheap as well.  Next time I'll grab a few.  

The mule should last longer of course so there is a level of return on having a more expensive palm.  Plus Mules just look so darn good.  There's lots of folks who hate queens, and although they're beautiful and exotic to me and I'd be happy to have some, I hear their points and I might feel differently if I lived in Florida.  Mules however, I think I've only ever seen one post where someone (From a much warmer zone) said that mules were ugly. 

That same person probably saw one that leaned heavily on the side of a Butia. Green Butia is just not nearly the same as Silver/Blue. Cant have a Butia without that awesome blue color! I agree, Mules look amazing!

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vistaprime
4 hours ago, JLM said:

I find that hard to believe. If you're that invested you might as well grow Royals and Foxtails while you're at it. I personally will not spend hundreds every winter to protect a palm that can be replaced in the Spring. I only do C9 lights, sheets and maybe plastic on the colder nights when i have to protect my palms, but i will probably not do anything more than that. I get 10F higher inside the wrap with this method which will be good down to 10F technically if that difference holds. But, if you have the money to spend thousands on protecting a palm, in which there is never a guarantee that the protection will work, then nobody can stop you. Any zone pusher takes a risk when wrapping a palm, from burning the fronds with lights to the wrap not working well enough. There are too many risk factors with protecting palms to spend a lot of money on IMO.

oh trust me, I have no plans to put in a tree to dig up 10 years later. It's staying in the ground and will be winterized no matter how big it gets.  That being said, I wouldn't put trees in that are zones 9 or above so that's why I am not planting any queens or coconuts or anything to that extent. Winterizing a zone 7 or even 8 b in 6a is one thing, but winterizing a 9b or 10 in a zone 6a is a huge risk. Green Dragan is in my area and he 's doing just fine 30 years on of planting palms and he's a little colder than me in zone 5b. He built huge tall  glass enclosures for his palms and invested quite a bit of money. He's has no queens or coconuts or Royal palms. But he does have Washys and Trachys and Chinese fan palms and Pindos and he's still protecting them in his custom made glass enclosures decades on.  Only ones I would plant are Washys, Trachys, Mules, and Pindos.  But I only have plans to plant just two  trees. My yard will not be filled with trees that leave me racing around in 15 years to winterize. I will have two and at the most three, so no matter how tall they get they will be winter protected and heated.  And considering my brother in law works in and runs a construction company, no the scaffolding and scissor lifts will not be an issue.

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sevapalms

The most snow it’s ever seen! About 3-4 inches. Shouldn’t get down below the low 20’s tonight, so I don’t plan to protect it as of right now. If temperatures start rapidly plummeting tonight, I have a thermocube, lights, and cover just in case.B9AC97F8-E202-413E-B873-015F7C2C93CF.thumb.jpeg.1a658e980cf80d8bf0445527a98e4f12.jpeg

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Fallen Munk
On 12/17/2021 at 3:22 PM, vistaprime said:

hi, why does everyone say you can't protect a mule as it gets bigger. I am in zone 6a and will be planting a mule if grows to 20 feet it will be protected. I call in professional landscapers with ladders and winter tree protection experience.  If it gets to 30 feet which is unlikely in my zone due to the shorter growing season, the landscapers will come in with a scissor lift. I just  don't get talk about you have get rid of a mule or any palm that's needs winter protection because they are too big. Just call for back up.

I just have a team come in and move them to my indoor basketball court.  Just kidding, but it must be nice.

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