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Toppled Mule


Manalto
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I'm not at the house at the moment but my neighbor sent me this photo of my mule palm that has been in the ground about a year. I guess it had blown over in the wind. He staked it for me.

I noticed, the last time I was there and working in the yard, that it was wobbly. It's in the shade  in the early morning  but  gets full sun for the rest of the day. Are they known for having weak root systems? Any suggestions?

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Doing a little poking around I found a question about a tilting cidp. Maybe my mule was also planted a little too high? Should I try mounding soil?

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I don’t know much about the roots of mules, but queens are known for blowing over in high winds. Since one of the mules parents would be a queen it would make sense that it would have similar roots. I don’t think mounding would help with stability much. Since it’s already knocked over, I’d probably just replant it and go a little deeper if you think it’s too high. Careful out to go too deep though. 

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2 hours ago, Manalto said:

Doing a little poking around I found a question about a tilting cidp. Maybe my mule was also planted a little too high? Should I try mounding soil?

How high above the ground is the base of the trunk? I just planted a 65g in September and im starting to wonder if mine should have been placed deeper. Seems sturdy at the moment tho... I'll post a pic with a tape measure today or tomor

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What an awesome neighbor!

 

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5 year high 42.2C/108F (07/06/2018)--5 year low 2.3C/36F (12/27/2015)--Lowest recent/current winter: 3C/37F (2/24/2022)

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I called Mule Palms of Mississippi, where I bought mine, and the owner (his name escapes me at the moment) said that he's had a couple of mules with the same issue. Cover up exposed roots, of course. Staking was the right thing to do (I agree, Gommit, I hit the lottery with neighbors.) and he attributes last year's warm winter and this year's hot wet summer to a lot of top growth, hence top-heaviness. My takeaway was keep it stable and it will eventually grow out of it. RJ, when it gets a little bit of trunk I will deliberately tip it, if possible, for that wonderful curve.

Edited by Manalto
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1 hour ago, DAVEinMB said:

How high above the ground is the base of the trunk? I just planted a 65g in September and im starting to wonder if mine should have been placed deeper. Seems sturdy at the moment tho... I'll post a pic with a tape measure today or tomor

@Manalto sorry this was in reference to your mule

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Dave, I'm not in Mobile at the moment so I don't know how the base of the trunk looks since it tipped. Originally, I planted it correctly and it's up on a wide plateau of soil (several inches higher than the rest of the lawn) because the grower emphasized mules' requirement for good drainage. The weather this past week has been rainy and windy, probably the best explanation for the current situation.

I look forward to your photo.

Edited by Manalto
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On 11/2/2019 at 7:06 PM, Manalto said:

Dave, I'm not in Mobile at the moment so I don't know how the base of the trunk looks since it tipped. Originally, I planted it correctly and it's up on a wide plateau of soil (several inches higher than the rest of the lawn) because the grower emphasized mules' requirement for good drainage. The weather this past week has been rainy and windy, probably the best explanation for the current situation.

I look forward to your photo.

James, here are the photos of my planting. Based on what I've seen on here recently I think im going to add a landscaping barrier around it and build the soil up some. There's a good bit of the root ball in the ground and it does feel sturdy but I'd rather take a proactive approach just in case. After a year in the ground you would think that the yours was rooted enough to withstand some inclement weather. Maybe enough rain to wash away some of the roots "structural" soil?

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It was unstable when I weeded around it and refreshed the pine straw mulch in August. Because it's protected by two buildings, I wasn't too worried about its stability. I guess I should have been and staked it then. Live and learn.

Your mule looks great.

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2 hours ago, Manalto said:

It was unstable when I weeded around it and refreshed the pine straw mulch in August. Because it's protected by two buildings, I wasn't too worried about its stability. I guess I should have been and staked it then. Live and learn.

Your mule looks great.

Well an easy fix at least considering its size. 

Thanks, I stumbled upon it September hidden in the back of a nursery's lot. Def made for a nice Saturday haha

2 hours ago, Darold Petty said:

DAVEinMB, I believe that your palm is way too high,  do you have poor drainage?  :)

I agree. I don't suspect drainage to be an issue where this palm is planted but I wanted to position it slightly elevated just in case. Unfortunately slightly ended up being way too much haha

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Thanks for sharing the post! My first impulse was it being too top heavy (grown too fast for its own good). When you mentioned that it had been raining a lot, a "perfect storm" was created with some wind! 

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Plus, according to the grower, the fact that some mules may be prone to weak root systems in youth. (It was wobbly when I last saw it in August.) The grower also encouraged me to plant it on a slightly raised mound, presumably because of Mobile's high rainfall, around 70 inches per year.

Other than nutritional needs, I must confess to not giving a whole lot of thought to the underground parts of plants! This experience has changed my focus a little although I still take more pleasure in the parts above ground.

Edited by Manalto
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  • 4 weeks later...

Well I had some free time yesterday so I decided to be proactive about my less than ideal planting.  I built the ground up around the base of the mule and incorporated some landscaping. The color contrast makes the tree stand out and I have some additional planting area come springtime. 

 

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Looks great, Dave. I'm going to stay tuned on your progress with this palm because I need ideas for underplantings for a couple of palms that I have, a big sabal and my mule. I'd like to find something with very small leaves so the contrast with the palm fronds will be more dramatic.

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On 12/1/2019 at 5:54 PM, Manalto said:

Looks great, Dave. I'm going to stay tuned on your progress with this palm because I need ideas for underplantings for a couple of palms that I have, a big sabal and my mule. I'd like to find something with very small leaves so the contrast with the palm fronds will be more dramatic.

Thanks James. I have a few ideas for underplantings but I'm in the same boat. Would like to compliment the mule without taking too much away from it. I have some yucca, fatsia, and different grasses at the base of a 16' sabal; I'll get a pic for you, it may help the creative juices :D

 

On 12/1/2019 at 6:53 PM, Jeff985 said:

Well done. I used those same blocks at my house. 

Thanks Jeff, I love the color of them and their workability is awesome. You can make any curve you need just as easy as a straight run. Spring plans are to do the same thing around the other 2 mules. Im gonna have bricks everywhere haha

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4 hours ago, DAVEinMB said:

Thanks James. I have a few ideas for underplantings but I'm in the same boat. Would like to complement the mule without taking too much away from it.

 

 

That's why I was thinking small foliage, like boxwood or some species of ilex (yaupon, for example). I'm doing a broad sweep  of a planting about 30 ft long that includes my sabal. A friend who has a good eye recommended good ol' azaleas. If I can keep them low, say under 4ft, then they might be nice with the burst of spring bloom.

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I think anything that has contrast in either leaf shape or color always looks good.  I know they may be a little invasive in the south but some of the Nandinas like "firepower" and "burgundy wine" make a nice contrast.

Evergreen ferns also look good with palms.

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My spot is full sun so ferns are out. Nandina is not a good idea in my neck of the woods, it's just too aggressive (and tall). So far, I haven't found anything preferable to dwarf yaupon.

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1 hour ago, Manalto said:

My spot is full sun so ferns are out. Nandina is not a good idea in my neck of the woods, it's just too aggressive (and tall). So far, I haven't found anything preferable to dwarf yaupon.

Figured as much.  West coast vs east coast have different plants even in the same growing zone.  I also like different Mexican orange (choisiya) and Euphorbia martinii varieties like "tassie tiger" or "red robin".  Not sure if they work in your neck of the woods.  Another popular architectural Euphorbia around here is E. rigida.

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I've spent quite a bit of time and did quite a bit of gardening in Portland / Seattle / Bellingham (which I love) but the hot and steamy Gulf Coast with its annual rainfall close to 70" is a vastly different climate despite its similar Zone 8 designation. It will be interesting to experiment with some species from the Northwest north west palette and see how they do here because, as you suggest, there is indeed some overlap.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I have a 12' queen palm here in Pensacola, what i did was i took 3 metal stakes from a beach tent and some shoe strings and made a support system. Tied the strings about 6-12 inches from the ground and drove the stakes into the ground. This has worked well so far, with the weight of 2 sheets, christmas lights, and 25mph winds yesterday, it did pretty good.

Palms - 4 S. romanzoffiana, 2 W. bifurcata, 6 W. robusta, 3 R. rivularis, 1 B. odorata, 1 B. nobilis, 2 P. roebelenii, 2 S. palmetto, 1 H. lagenicaulis, 1 A. merillii, 3 P. sylvestris, 1 Butia x Jubaea, 1 Butia x Jubaea x Butia x Syagrus, 1 X Butiagrus nabonnandii, 2 L. chinensis, 1 Cocos nucifera 

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Also considering it was planted back in September and is not settled in yet.

Palms - 4 S. romanzoffiana, 2 W. bifurcata, 6 W. robusta, 3 R. rivularis, 1 B. odorata, 1 B. nobilis, 2 P. roebelenii, 2 S. palmetto, 1 H. lagenicaulis, 1 A. merillii, 3 P. sylvestris, 1 Butia x Jubaea, 1 Butia x Jubaea x Butia x Syagrus, 1 X Butiagrus nabonnandii, 2 L. chinensis, 1 Cocos nucifera 

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I've stacked concrete blocks around the trunk of my mule until I get the time to properly support it. My local palm nursery suggested the same system they use on newly installed sabal palms, shrunken down, in other words, a teepee of three leaning two-by-fours and a band around the trunk.

I know, when staking a woody plant, you need to allow some sway in order to establish a sound, supportive root system - and then it's advisable to remove the supports as soon as possible. Do palms respond the same way or will they grow out of this wobbly state whether they have rigid support or not?

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  • 3 weeks later...

The palm is staked in a primitive but adequate way. It came through a heavy storm unfazed so I guess it's okay until I return in May. I'm thrilled by its growth; when I brought it home one year ago, the largest frond was the chopped off yellowish one you see in the lower left of the photo. Now it's almost eight feet tall. I'm hoping it will grow out of its wobbly phase!

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Edited by Manalto
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Even though this thread is about a mule palm (or mule palms) we did talk about under plantings so I thought I'd include what I did with my sabal. It's a boxwood variety called 'Wintergreen.'

 

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It looks a little dorky now, but this variety is supposed to grow 4 ft tall and 5 ft wide (they're about 18 in tall now) so eventually they will grow into each other in a billowy undulating mass. That's the plan anyway...

 

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@Manalto I bit the bullet and decided to buy a mule from MPOM that shipped out today. I am in 8a so, we shall see how it does. 

Also, BEWARE those boxwoods are going to get huge! haha They made a good hedge for sure! You can also trim/train them to look like a bonsai tree. Pretty neat. 

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5 hours ago, Dartolution said:

 

Also, BEWARE those boxwoods are going to get huge! haha 

'Wintergreen' (Buxus sinica var. 'Insularis') gets huge? I chose it because the literature and the grower both said it doesn't. Maybe you're joking because you said "haha"? I'm confused.

Good luck with your mule. MPoM seems to have a good strain. (except for that root thing)

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Nice Mule!

 

I bet it will throw out some good roots and strengthen up once the warmer weather hits. The soil probably needs to compact a little bit as well. It will do that on its own. No help needed.

Edited by Patrick
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Oakley, California

55 Miles E-NE of San Francisco, CA

Solid zone 9, I can expect at least one night in the mid to low twenties every year.

Hot, dry summers. Cold, wet winters.

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6 hours ago, Chester B said:

Manalto what size was the palm when you planted it?

It fit on the floor of my truck, with the tallest fronds brushing the headliner, so about 3-4'. Mr. Gautier (MPoM) told me it was eager to get out of the pot (not, apparently, to produce roots - grrr...) and growth would take off. He wasn't kidding!

 

6 hours ago, Patrick said:

Nice Mule!

 

I bet it will throw out some good roots and strengthen up once the warmer weather hits. The soil probably needs to compact a little bit as well. It will do that on its own. No help needed.

Thanks for the words of encouragement. Also, maybe now that it won't whip around in the wind, existing roots will have more stability and a chance to get established. It's really robust above ground. If you read MPoM's website, he's proud of the hardiness of the pollen donor (silver) queen; anecdotal reports have seen it tolerate 15F, and butia shouldn't be an issue here in 8B. It seems logical that the cold hardiness of the parent plants would determine the cold hardiness of the offspring, but I don't know how that relationship works. I sure looks like a good example of hybrid vigor. I think, even as a youngster, it's gorgeous with those big, soft fronds; I planted it where it will be a focal point from inside the house.

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17 hours ago, Manalto said:

'Wintergreen' (Buxus sinica var. 'Insularis') gets huge? I chose it because the literature and the grower both said it doesn't. Maybe you're joking because you said "haha"? I'm confused.

Good luck with your mule. MPoM seems to have a good strain. (except for that root thing)

@Manalto No definitely not joking. If boxwoods are left to their own devices they will get massive. If you keep it trimmed it should be fine though. 

Surprisingly the root systems aren't too difficult to dig up. 

I dug up over a dozen of them last spring. 

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25 minutes ago, Dartolution said:

If boxwoods are left to their own devices they will get massive.

 

There are seventy species of Buxus with countless cultivars. They're not all the same.

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@Manalto

Good to hear from you! (Hain't heard from you in a month of Sundays . . . . )

As others have indicated, I think your mule is planted too high. Queens sometimes do the same thing, as do Buteas. They kinda balance like ballerina hippos, then sometimes fall over.

If you can, mound the dirt around the base of the trunk, so it looks like the trunk is coming straight out of the ground. You can get a set of those scalloped rings and pile dirt in those. And, compact the dirt.

If you have to, wait till spring (March, April) then replant deeper.

Unless you get psycho, I wouldn't worry about planting too deep, especially if you have well-drained soil. An, inch, two, or even three too deep on a palm that size won't hurt anything. If you're a helicopter palm daddy, don't be afraid to stake it, either, won't hurt anything, though I hardly ever do, unless it's windy in that spot.

And, offer your wonderful neighbor a nice cup of their favorite fertilizer . . . . . :)

AND! Let us know what happens.

PS looks like you already followed the advice.

Let's keep our forum fun and friendly.

Any data in this post is provided 'as is' and in no event shall I be liable for any damages, including, without limitation, damages resulting from accuracy or lack thereof, insult, or lost profits or revenue, claims by third parties or for other similar costs, or any special, incidental, or consequential damages arising out of my opinion or the use of this data. The accuracy or reliability of the data is not guaranteed or warranted in any way and I disclaim liability of any kind whatsoever, including, without limitation, liability for quality, performance, merchantability and fitness for a particular purpose arising out of the use, or inability to use my data. Other terms may apply.

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On 1/6/2020 at 6:13 PM, Dartolution said:

@Manalto I bit the bullet and decided to buy a mule from MPOM that shipped out today. I am in 8a so, we shall see how it does. 

Also, BEWARE those boxwoods are going to get huge! haha They made a good hedge for sure! You can also trim/train them to look like a bonsai tree. Pretty neat. 

Let us know how your mule grows. And see my PM.

Let's keep our forum fun and friendly.

Any data in this post is provided 'as is' and in no event shall I be liable for any damages, including, without limitation, damages resulting from accuracy or lack thereof, insult, or lost profits or revenue, claims by third parties or for other similar costs, or any special, incidental, or consequential damages arising out of my opinion or the use of this data. The accuracy or reliability of the data is not guaranteed or warranted in any way and I disclaim liability of any kind whatsoever, including, without limitation, liability for quality, performance, merchantability and fitness for a particular purpose arising out of the use, or inability to use my data. Other terms may apply.

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I had either a Guadalupe or Chinese fan palm fall over in the winter one year- it was small too. I forget which one, it was too long ago. I staked it up as soon as I found it, gave it a little more dirt around the base (not much, just enough to fill in what was displaced) and it grew out of it just fine.

Oakley, California

55 Miles E-NE of San Francisco, CA

Solid zone 9, I can expect at least one night in the mid to low twenties every year.

Hot, dry summers. Cold, wet winters.

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