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Who else is growing palms in a (northern state USA) zone 6b climate?


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I live in south-central Pennsylvania in a (northern state USA) zone 6b.  I mention "northern state" because we experience extended periods of cold temps in winter and do not receive much relief from milder spells being mixed in, like a "southern state" zone 6b might.  Those milder spells in winter could help a palm recover from a brief dip to very cold temps.  Here, snow may fall and stay on the ground for up to a month without melting.  Some years, the soil is frozen for weeks in shaded areas and occasionally winter days do not rise above 14 F (-10 degrees C), although this is rare.  The coldest nighttime temperature I have observed over the past 15 years is -5 degrees F (-21 degrees C).  This past winter the overall low was 9 degrees F (-13 degrees C)

I've been growing rare and unusual plants in various locations around the world for the past 30 years.  About five years ago I became interested in cold hardy palms.  In my garden, I have two of the regular Sabal minor (dwarf palmetto) planted in the ground. Surprisingly, these came through last winter with no harm even though they were completely unprotected.  We had stretches up to 120 hours below freezing and some single digit temperatures.  I will watch these and protect them if extreme cold is predicted next winter.

I am growing all my other palms to larger sizes in pots before attempting them in the ground.  I have been experimenting with different protection techniques that involve bubble wrap, burlap, the heat-producing old fashioned C9 and C7 holiday lights, and Thermocubes (power on at 35 F and off at 45 F) on my broad-leaved evergreen shrubs (gardenias and camellias) and will transfer these techniques to my palms after they're planted.  I've even had success just with simple bubble wrap enclosures that warm the plant during the day without supplemental heat (overheating is unlikely as high temperatures in the winter are uncommon).  I have also identified the best microclimates around my yard.  For instance, the soil does not freeze within about 8 feet from the south and southeast sides of my home.  The area underneath my elevated deck and surrounded by tall trees is up to five degrees F warmer than the surrounding yard on still winter nights.

My potted palms include: Nannorrhops ritchieana (2), Nannorrhops ritchieana var. 'Silver', Nannorrhops ritchieana var. 'Kashmir' (5), Serenoa repens, Serenoa repens var. 'Georgia Silver', Trachycarpus takil, Trachycarpus princeps, Trachycarpus fortunei, Trachycarpus fortunei x wagnerianus (3), Chamaeropis humilis, Chamaerops humilis var. 'Cerifera', Butia capitata and Rhapidophylum histryx.  Currently, these are in good sized pots that get brought inside after the nights start getting below 19 degrees F (-7 degrees C) and the days stay below freezing. To date, they have not been bothered by temps above these in their pots. The Trachycarpus fortunei has even stayed out in its pot to 16 F without issue.

Anyone else having success with palms with minimal protection in a northern, inland, zone 6b climate such as in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, etc.?  I've seen people growing windmill palms (Trachycarpus fortunei) in Pennsylvania and Nebraska by using huge heated and insulated boxes to protect them over the winter.  I'd be interested to hear about more simplistic methods that might also be working.

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Hi PaPalm,

I am in coastal New Jersey (Zone 7a/b). My lowest temperature for the past twenty years has been in the single digits (4.0 F).

My collection include palms and cycads (and lots of other temperate, subtropical, and tropical plants).

I have about a dozen Trachys (LOL), got them years ago as seedlings on eBay and they just kept growing (not sure of their pot size but they are around 4-5 feet tall.  My largest is in the ground going into year 2 unprotected; I also recently planted another one on the opposite side of the walkway.  Home Depot was selling BIG windmills last summer.  I had bought one in July of 2016 and planted it but it seemed to have transplant shock and soon died. (I am usually successful with plants in general, so I was a bit surprised.) I purchased another in August of 2016 and planted it, and that one was fine and has really grown (a bit damaged from the Winter by March but fully recuperated now).  Trachycarpus is about cold hardy unprotected to Zone 7b I would say.  Location is REALLY important in a marginal climate though.  My best site is close to the house (in the corner of two foundation walls), south-facing, unobstructed,  some protection from the early morning, winter sun and the hottest summer sun.  

Sabals are another terrific group of palms.  Sabal minor is bulletproof. I also like Sabal louisianna for the cold (and growth rate!).

I have a bit of a Sabal obsession, so my sub collection of Sabals includes (S. mexicana, maurittiformis, bermudana...., one of my very favorites,"Riverside",  and the Puerto Rican Sabal). I have a Needle but not really a fan of that species unfortunately.

Among other containerized palms, I have Chamaerops humilis, Rhapis, Phoenix canariensis, Butias, Syagrus (Queen), Dypsis, Hyophorbes, Pritchardia, Howea, Chamadorea, Caryota mitis, Arenga (Formosa feather), and Dypsis (Triangle).

I know I left some major palm groups out.

I have one palm which is either Butia or Jubaea chilensis (or a hybrid!).  I have posted pics of it and some id it as one or the other, so maybe it IS a hybrid, LOL.

P.S., No Afghan palms though.

Edited by oasis371
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To JimHardy must you listen, guide you he will!

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"Ph'nglui mglw'napalma Funkthulhu R'Lincolnea wgah'palm fhtagn"
"In his house at Lincoln, dread Funkthulhu plants palm trees."

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I'm not in 6b, but I contend with much of the same weather as you. I'm in the upper reaches of zone 7b, being near the ocean and NYC's heat island keep nights here warmer and moderates most extreme cold. My coldest low this year so far was 15 degrees, my warmest low was 78.

My collection: Chamaedorea cataractarum, Chamaedorea elegens, Howea forsteriana, Phoenix roebelenii, Ravenea rivularis, Rhapidophyllum hystrix, Sabal "Louisiana", Trachycarpus fortunei, & Washingtonia "filabusta". All super common palms, I know, most on this board wouldn't bother with them, but I appreciate the tropical vibe they bring.

Only my Trachycarpus fortunei has experienced a full-on New York winter, no artificial heating, only protection from heavy rain and heavy snow. It suffered no damage whatsoever, although its spear partially rotted the following April (2016), which may or may not have been related to the winter, thankfully I caught it in time. My Rhapidophyllum hystrix is a new addition, we'll see how it does this winter.

My Sabal "Louisiana" completely rotted last month after not growing for nearly two years, but it's bouncing back, it's a shame it took a near-death experience to get it to grow again, but I'm glad it's still alive. I'd have it in the ground with my other two cold hardy palms, but I want it to fully recover first. Also, my Chamaedorea cataractarum flowered this summer, making it my first palm to do so. Not a pretty sight, most of the flower stem things died out before they really got going.

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On 8/28/2017, 10:07:57, Funkthulhu said:

To JimHardy must you listen, guide you he will!

Hahahaha  Thanks you guys....


I did lose the large Princeps unfortunately,dug it up in

12F degree weather because I wasn't planning on staying here

but hated the thought of losing it...I did score another good

sized one that should be the same size it WAS in 2 years....


I started with all the more common stuff Fortunei,Naintal etc etc,the only survivors

from the original planting are some Sabal Louisiana(not covered for 3 years)

S.Brazoria(Same) a T.Bulgaria & T.Wagnerianus....BUT...I did start over

and took advantage of this by planting some cool stuff-whatever I could find....


the list includes...T.Manipur,T.Manipur (Naga Hills),T.Oreophilus,T.Nanus,

T.Latesectus,T.Geminisectus,T.Martianus,T.Misan,T.Princeps,T.Takil and a B.Clara in addition

too the T.Wagnerianus,T.Bulgaria and Sabal...I may also plant a C.Volcano in front of the cactus....


Anyone notice the Agave blooming in the pic?







We are in a horrible drought here....we have had only one rainfall over an inch since April!

No rain from those clouds the day this was taken.




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