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What does Citrus reflect, as a Zone Indicator for Palms?

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sipalms

What does the existence of, and type of citrus growing in an area, suggest about the types of palms that can be grown?

Much debate (and debacle) on these forums is around temperature/rainfall/sunshine averages and extremes for various areas, and their ultimate say on the zone that an area is in, and what should be able to be grown there. This has resulted in many claims by members in zones similar to the zone where I am here, areas like the UK/Europe and Pacific Northwest.

This has also led to some creative zone-labelling e.g. Mediterranean /subtropical climates at high latitudes.

Well, this past weekend I just happened to be at a house around the corner from mine helping a neighbor with some tree branches, and much to my surprise and astonishment came across his great big lime tree which was heavy with fruit. The owner was none the wiser as to its rarity, as it must have been planted long before he was there, he said go for gold and help myself (Gin&Tonic + Key Lime pie on the menu for the next week now).

It is fully exposed to the elements, apart from a spindly cordyline above, and bit of wind protection from the nearby fences. The brick wall of the house is several metres away and is facing SW so not even optimal for radiant or stored warmth here in the southern hemisphere. It wouldn't even get full sun all day in winter due to trees along the fence behind, yet is fully exposed to all the frost and supposed cold this climate throws at us in winter. And definitely no frost cloth used.

Large in ground fruiting lemon trees are aplenty here, I have also sighted grapefruit plus the odd pomelo and mandarin, but this is the first time I've seen a large, in ground fruiting lime tree fully exposed. 

It got me thinking, what does this say about the unique factors of a climate/location, and the impact on palms that could be grown? 

I believe, a lot. For example;

  • Sunshine hours annually, particularly in winter - required to keep the foliage healthy, for photosynthesis, and particularly for the development of healthy normal fruit. This is probably the most important of all factors, likewise for palms.
  • Sunshine after a frost - not just to melt ice but immediately warm the tree up.
  • Sun angle - in winter this would have a greater warming and photosynthesizing effect, hence the success rate would decrease as the latitude increases.
  • Duration of freezing temperatures - e.g.'fine weather frosts' for a few hours overnight/before dawn (less damaging) vs 'cold snap frost' starting in the evening and lasting well into the following day/s (much more damaging)
  • Reliability, consistency, and duration of summer warmth - e.g. consistent mild to warm to hot summer temperatures, rather than one off bouts of extreme hot weather preceded and followed by cooler/cloudier weather (as would be the case in many other parts of New Zealand's South Island, and the likes of the UK). This would also have an impact on the tree's ability to 'thrive' rather than simply 'survive'.

Much of the above probably explains why the likes of Queens, Bangalows and Nikau can survive and thrive here, sometimes seemingly against the odds.

By all accounts I believe this is a variety of a Tahitian Lime, 'Bearss'. One of the more cold-hardy varieties, yet still less hardy than all other types of citrus according to UCA Riverside!

What are your thoughts on citrus and palms? 

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The light (on my screen anyhow) makes them look kinda yellow. But for those wondering if it is a lemon, here's a lemon from my own tree, on top for comparison ;-), you can see the colour and size difference. And, BTW, the tree in the background of these last pics is a laurel, not the actual lime tree. Sorry for confusion.

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Chester B

As far as I understand that variety of lime is one of the hardiest citrus (can survive zone 9a) aside from things like kumquat and more obscure fruit (which I do have).  Local specialty permaculture nursery by me sells them and lists them as a zone 9 plant.  I keep that same variety of lime tree and it seems to survive my 8B winters with some damage.  I got sick of dealing with scale over the winter so I've left it outside in a pot, on a balcony, in full shade and subjected to constant wind and rain and it would take it.  It seems to want to live so this year I trimmed back the winter damage and planted in probably my best microclimate and it has taken off.  

You should stick one in the ground I bet you'd be surprised by your success.

Edited by Chester B
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sipalms
1 hour ago, Chester B said:

As far as I understand that variety of lime is one of the hardiest citrus (can survive zone 9a) 

Yes, you could be right. But this case in point is not just surviving in 9a, it's full on thriving! I guess what I'm trying to get at in the above is the factors other than outright minimum that can cause a citrus like this to thrive, and what it could potentially mean for palm growing as well.

1 hour ago, Chester B said:

You should stick one in the ground I bet you'd be surprised by your success.

I actually already have, planted it last year, but have had it covered with frost cloth this winter. Maybe next winter I won't bother. It had already flowered by autumn but I cut them all off to give it a chance to grow rather than putting all its effort into fruiting.

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JLM

Dancy Tangerine has done well for me here in zone 8. Its a zone 8 tree, but still gets a little damage on the top of the canopy from prolonged frost events. This last winter had some dead stuff on it that i had to cut off. Its grown so much this summer though. Not getting much crop from it though, didnt produce too many flowers this year. It actually went completely unprotected this last winter, and considering it had no protection, i'd say it did fairly well.

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Silas_Sancona
6 hours ago, JLM said:

Dancy Tangerine has done well for me here in zone 8. Its a zone 8 tree, but still gets a little damage on the top of the canopy from prolonged frost events. This last winter had some dead stuff on it that i had to cut off. Its grown so much this summer though. Not getting much crop from it though, didnt produce too many flowers this year. It actually went completely unprotected this last winter, and considering it had no protection, i'd say it did fairly well.

If it is growing -like a weed- lush and green, but producing few flowers, it likely needs more K ( Potassium ) which supposedly helps keep any winter damage you might experience to a minimum later..  Had the same issue w/ some Meyer Lemons years ago. After reducing Nitrogen and upping the K, each plant produced 50lbs of Fruit, ..each..  later that year.  Both were no taller than about 7' and kept rounded.. maybe 8ft or so across.

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JLM

It had some weedeater accidents and new limbs starting growing out of the wounds, should i leave them or cut them off? Also not much fruit on it this year, but will hit it with some fert whenever i can get my hands on some. Do you think palm fert will be ok for it? Im not sure if there is a difference but thats all i have right now.

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Silas_Sancona
4 minutes ago, JLM said:

It had some weedeater accidents and new limbs starting growing out of the wounds, should i leave them or cut them off? Also not much fruit on it this year, but will hit it with some fert whenever i can get my hands on some. Do you think palm fert will be ok for it? Im not sure if there is a difference but thats all i have right now.

Palm fert should be fine, as long at the K is good ( ie something like a 8-2-12 ratio ) Check to see if your Dancy is grafted ( you should be able to see a knuckle ( where the root stock was grafted to the chosen variety ) low on the trunk. ) If any shoots you're seeing are growing from there, remove them. If the tree isn't grafted, might still remove any suckers you see to near the base to keep the tree uniform, and keep suckers from trying to dominate as they grow ( this can happen on grafted citrus pretty often ) . 

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JLM
1 minute ago, Silas_Sancona said:

Palm fert should be fine, as long at the K is good ( ie something like a 8-2-12 ratio ) Check to see if your Dancy is grafted ( you should be able to see a knuckle ( where the root stock was grafted to the chosen variety ) low on the trunk. ) If any shoots you're seeing are growing from there, remove them. If the tree isn't grafted, might still remove any suckers you see to near the base to keep the tree uniform, and keep suckers from trying to dominate as they grow ( this can happen on grafted citrus pretty often ) . 

Is 6-1-8 good?

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Silas_Sancona
7 minutes ago, JLM said:

Is 6-1-8 good?

That will work, but i honestly like using something containing a K ratio around 10-15%, applied 3x per year.

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Tyrone

I’ve got a Kaffir lime and it took my -2.5C with absolutely no damage. It’s grown mainly for its leaves for Thai cooking (green coconut curry) but is always loaded with fruit. It never shows even the slightest damage. I always thought it was the most tropical citrus. I could be wrong though.

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sipalms

I'm not exactly sure what this is, but it's a pretty decent sized citrus of some sort that I noticed this afternoon. The fruit colour looks yellow in the light, like lemon, but the shape is more Mandarin or maybe some kind of grapefruit.

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palmsOrl

I still have a Kaffir lime (Citrus hystrix) that I grew from seed germinated in 2013.  My intention was to try my hand at some Thai cooking with homegrown ingredients.  I may get back to that one of these days.  By the way, the word "Kaffir" means something REALLY bad and hateful in South Africa (and maybe other countries?), the equivalent of the "N-word" in the United States.  So, we should probably just call it makrut lime or Thai lime for the sake of any members from there.

Anyhow, I would say oranges are a good indicator of zone 9b in Florida.  They can certainly survive for extended periods in 9a and in the past the range of oranges grown commercially extended into Northeast Florida and I even read that in centuries past that oranges were grown as a crop in coastal South Carolina and Georgia.  Still, I think the safe bet is to assume 9b, as the trees themselves take severe damage from temperatures in the low 20s.

-Michael

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Xenon

Kaffir lme/makrut (Citrus hystrix) is actually a lot hardier than it seems, I'd put it in a tier near lemon and grapefruit. I believe as far citrus goes, the hardiness scale is something like this lime>citron>lemon, pomelo>grapefruit, orange>orange>mandarin>kumquat.  In Texas, I generally lime as an indicator of a warm, upper-end 9b (the royal palm zone?). Large orange and grapefruit trees indicate solid 9a and roughly follow the distribution of queen palms.  Maybe lemon for 9 a/b border, which roughly translates to pygmy dates? 

I don't think citrus hardiness scales well to palms though, especially at the more tropical end. They seem a lot more cool tolerant as a whole and can't be used to scale the heating requirement needed by coconuts, Adonidia, and even royals. 

Edited by Xenon
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JLM

Tangerines got to a decent size already, more than i thought there was on the tree. Some of them are already beginning the slow and painful several month long ripening process. Some are starting to turn yellow, but its a very faint shade of yellow. I love seeing the tangerines on the tree when they are orange, they stand out so much and gives this tree the spotlight.

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Silas_Sancona
1 hour ago, Xenon said:

Kaffir lme/makrut (Citrus hystrix) is actually a lot hardier than it seems, I'd put it in a tier near lemon and grapefruit. I believe as far citrus goes, the hardiness scale is something like this lime>citron>lemon, pomelo>grapefruit, orange>orange>mandarin>kumquat.  In Texas, I generally lime as an indicator of a warm, upper-end 9b (the royal palm zone?). Large orange and grapefruit trees indicate solid 9a and roughly follow the distribution of queen palms.  Maybe lemon for 9 a/b border, which roughly translates to pygmy dates? 

I don't think citrus hardiness scales well to palms though, especially at the more tropical end. They seem a lot more cool tolerant as a whole and can't be used to scale the heating requirement needed by coconuts, Adonidia, and even royals. 

Would agree on most of this.. though, w/ Limes at least, i might place Key Lime ahead of others like Bearss Seedless in terms of frost / freeze sensitivity.  Both can be grown back in San Jose, but could not keep Bearss in stock there.. Might have been the #1 Citrus we'd have to order quantities of each week compared to most others, except Lemons.

Will add, if Limes could be viewed as a signal one could get away w/ palms/other stuff in the " Royal Palm Zone " category... Outside of members like @Jim in Los Altos, other non-palm talk / exotic fruit tree collectors in my old neighborhood, San Jose is wayy behind the curve, and missing out on a lot of great options ( palms/etc )  lol

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Jim in Los Altos
3 hours ago, Silas_Sancona said:

Would agree on most of this.. though, w/ Limes at least, i might place Key Lime ahead of others like Bearss Seedless in terms of frost / freeze sensitivity.  Both can be grown back in San Jose, but could not keep Bearss in stock there.. Might have been the #1 Citrus we'd have to order quantities of each week compared to most others, except Lemons.

Will add, if Limes could be viewed as a signal one could get away w/ palms/other stuff in the " Royal Palm Zone " category... Outside of members like @Jim in Los Altos, other non-palm talk / exotic fruit tree collectors in my old neighborhood, San Jose is wayy behind the curve, and missing out on a lot of great options ( palms/etc )  lol

So true up here. There are very few options when shopping for palms other than the typical Kings, Queens, Pindos, etc. There’s Flora Grubb in SF and Golden Gate Palms in Point Richmond near Oakland. Both are 50 miles from me here in Los Altos. The palm nurseries 40 miles to the south of me in Gilroy pretty much sell the more common stuff with maybe a couple of surprises now and then. The other option up here is ordering palms from Southern CA and there’s one grower from the San Diego area who makes periodic deliveries up here and has exotic hard to get palms and in large sizes as well as small. 

I have 135 species of palms in my landscape. If I had more room, I’d likely have twice as many species but very few homeowners here bother with anything other than Home Depot or Lowe’s palms. My neighborhood has a variety now since I’ve been adding rarer palms to my designs but nothing that is difficult to care for. Lots of Parajubaea in the neighborhood now and some are getting BIG. 

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Silas_Sancona
19 minutes ago, Jim in Los Altos said:

So true up here. There are very few options when shopping for palms other than the typical Kings, Queens, Pindos, etc. There’s Flora Grubb in SF and Golden Gate Palms in Point Richmond near Oakland. Both are 50 miles from me here in Los Altos. The palm nurseries 40 miles to the south of me in Gilroy pretty much sell the more common stuff with maybe a couple of surprises now and then. The other option up here is ordering palms from Southern CA and there’s one grower from the San Diego area who makes periodic deliveries up here and has exotic hard to get palms and in large sizes as well as small. 

I have 135 species of palms in my landscape. If I had more room, I’d likely have twice as many species but very few homeowners here bother with anything other than Home Depot or Lowe’s palms. My neighborhood has a variety now since I’ve been adding rarer palms to my designs but nothing that is difficult to care for. Lots of Parajubaea in the neighborhood now and some are getting BIG. 

Yep.. and that's part of the challenge there.. Most people are exposed only to what HD or Lowe's sells.. A lucky few know where to obtain more interesting stuff but it's the common things like Queens, Canaries, and Mex Fans that people see everywhere and assume are the only options which will survive there, so less common things, many of which would also do fine in the South Bay, end up being overlooked/ trialed. Most would never think all the Majesties or Kentia sold in the " Indoor Foliage" section at HD/Lowe's would survive ( likely thrive ) in their yards. 

Doesn't help either that most people's lots are on the small/ really small side, limiting what you could plant. That said, as you and other collectors there have demonstrated, plenty of interesting options that fit into smaller spaces as well.





 

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NOT A TA

Part of the reason the selections are limited is because the "average" customer wants a guarantee. So nurseries and big box stores carry stock that's most likely to survive KNOWING people won't plant them correctly  in ideal locations OR maintain them properly.  This is true for all kinds of plants, not just palms.

In the case of plants that MIGHT be on the edge of zone pushing in a certain area the retailers also don't want to lose their inventory investment to an unusual cold snap so the better ROI is to stick with bulletproof plants.

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Silas_Sancona
8 minutes ago, NOT A TA said:

Part of the reason the selections are limited is because the "average" customer wants a guarantee. So nurseries and big box stores carry stock that's most likely to survive KNOWING people won't plant them correctly  in ideal locations OR maintain them properly.  This is true for all kinds of plants, not just palms.

In the case of plants that MIGHT be on the edge of zone pushing in a certain area the retailers also don't want to lose their inventory investment to an unusual cold snap so the better ROI is to stick with bulletproof plants.

Perhaps, though i'm highly suspect of ( and try to avoid/ sway others from )  any nursery who does not properly educate their clients,  or " Guarantees " their plants ..Most ridiculous sales ploy ever, lol  Nothing is guaranteed.. Not plants, their time ( or your time ) on this planet..

..As far as demand, know for certain, there is plenty of demand for something different... and too many " Old School" nursery people stubbornly clutching onto tired old plant selections..  who grumble when any ideas bordering on "thinking outside the box" are even floated, unless it's the latest Flowering Annual ( 'Uuge  waste of money ) Japanese Maple, Camelia, Azalea selection or ..Roses:sick:. Roses are a pain in the -- and personally torture level boring.. Most varieties of the other 3 plant types hate the soil, sun, and increasing heat/ drought episodes in that part of CA.. Add Sudden Oak Death to the mix, which kills most of those things, -and can't be stopped- and it's kind of dumb to be promoting such things.. same w/ over used palms like Queens, Canaries ( too big and dangerous for a majority of yards there anyway ) and Washingtonia ( teeth mashing weeds there too ).   Things like Brahea, Bismarckia, Sabal, Mules, etc.. are just as drought tolerant, easy, but much more interesting than the first 3.. Slowly becoming more common out there thankfully..  Should be happening at a faster pace though.

Added to a mental list of other examples, it was an experience when ordering some 15 gal Tabebuia -to plant myself- that demonstrated just how intentionally un- informed some supposedly long timers in the nursery business can be. Telling someone  " Oh, you know those will likely die here right.. It's too cold..." when X plant is perfectly hardy -and has done fine since planted -in 2013- is not a smart business move.. and not someone whose plant knowledge i'd trust much/ continue to do more business with often/at all.  Don't care if they'd been " doing this " for 30, 50, or 200/2,000 years..  If their plant knowledge is stuck in a plant catalog from 1974, or 84 ...or they're too worried about some future earth- freezing cold spell ..that may never occur,  It might be time for them to " hang up the hat ",  imo.  Nursery business is long overdue for major shifts of thinking.  Anyhow..

 

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Jim in Los Altos
2 hours ago, NOT A TA said:

Part of the reason the selections are limited is because the "average" customer wants a guarantee. So nurseries and big box stores carry stock that's most likely to survive KNOWING people won't plant them correctly  in ideal locations OR maintain them properly.  This is true for all kinds of plants, not just palms.

In the case of plants that MIGHT be on the edge of zone pushing in a certain area the retailers also don't want to lose their inventory investment to an unusual cold snap so the better ROI is to stick with bulletproof plants.

Sadly, Lowe’s and Home Depot here sell impossible palms in the springtime like Bottle Palms (Hyophorbe lagenicaulis) and others that will become summer annuals and refuse to sell sturdy standbys like Brahea armata and edulis, Livistona, Sabal, Mules, or dozens of other possibilities that are bulletproof and unlikely to be returned. 

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