Did my PALM TREE DIE? Cold Care for Palms, good article from the local newspaper!

Here’s a good article about our recent cold weather and your palm trees and plants– If you are ready to replace them and you live near St. Petersburg, Florida, come to Ken’s Palm Trees, wholesale prices to the public! call Ken at 727-768-2409 or see more info at kenschristmastrees.com. Email Ken for a current price list.

Cold care for palms
By Jane V. Morse, Special to the Times

Published Friday, January 8, 2010

Palms are one of the key elements of many tropical landscapes, and they deserve special attention during a cold spell. Cold weather can weaken the palm, making it more vulnerable to disease, and frost and freezing temperatures can kill plant tissues, reducing water conduction in the trunk for years.
After a frost, remove damaged portions of leaves, retaining as much of each leaf as possible. In general, if any green remains, leave the frond; it’s helping the tree make food. Even completely brown fronds provide some insulation, so wait until spring to prune. Immediately after pruning, spray the palms with a copper fungicide, covering the damaged tissue and healthy bud. (Note: This is recommended only for palms that do not bear edible fruit.) Repeat the copper spray seven to 10 days after the first treatment, but don’t spray more than twice. Too much copper could poison the plant.
Don’t give up if cold damage is severe and the spear leaf (the center youngest leaf, which has not unfolded) becomes loose and pulls out easily. There is still a chance of recovery. Once the spear leaf is removed, slit or puncture the collar of sheathing leaf bases to allow water to drain away from the bud. Take care not to injure the solid, undamaged tissue of the bud. Remove as much dead and decaying tissue around the bud as possible so it can dry. Drench the bud with a copper fungicide using the force of the sprayer to clean out around the bud. Follow up seven to 10 days later with another fungicide application.
Warm weather will promote growth and help the palm recover. If healthy leaves are present, or as soon as new leaves emerge, apply a soluble trace element nutrient mix plus a spreader sticker additive to the leaves monthly until new growth is established.
Palms should be fertilized four times a year, and a well-fertilized, healthy palm will have a better chance of surviving a cold spell. Use only an 8-2-12-4 Mg fertilizer with micronutrients. The nitrogen, potassium and magnesium should be in controlled-release form, and the micronutrients should be in a water-soluble (sulfate) form. This is the only fertilizer that should be used within 50 feet of any palm.
Watch severely damaged palms carefully in the spring and summer. Damaged leaves may not be seen for six months to a year after a freeze. Palms will usually outgrow these damaged leaves over time. If there is a sudden collapse of the leaves or crown, there is nothing to be done and the palm usually must be replaced.
Jane V. Morse is an extension agent in the commercial horticulture department of the Pinellas County Extension Office. Information from the UF/IFAS publication “Treating Cold-Damaged Palms” and the book “Ornamental Palm Horticulture” by Timothy Broschat and Alan Meerow (University Press of Florida, 2000) was used in this report.



  1. 1
    deidra Says:

    Regarding foxtails, in february, central Florida had a week long freeze, 20’s!. They have been brown & crispy since, and the spear is still standing brown & unfurled almost three months. How long do we wait until we should remove and replace them? Do we cut the spear?

    • 2
      kenschristmastrees Says:

      hi deidra,
      from your description of your foxtails, since it is now May 3, my opinion is that yours aren’t coming back. Is there any green at all? I would go ahead now and trim all the brown off, and if you still have some patience left (I know it has been a long time!) wait just a couple more weeks before you cut the spear, just in case. sorry I can’t be of more help. ken

  2. 3
    Rob Edgerton Says:

    My coconut palms are 30-40 tall. Is there an easy way to spray the copper fungicide up in the bud? I’m wondering if there is a sprayer with a long extension?

    • 4
      kenschristmastrees Says:

      Hi Rob,
      don’t have a ready answer for you- but if you have a long ladder and found a sprayer with a good long extension, it might be possible. Best bet might be someone doing professional tree work in your area who employs a “climber” who, for a few extra bucks, might climb up there with a bucket and douse the tree hearts with the fungicide-

  3. 5
    Cindy Says:


    We live in the Tyrone area and are really concerned about our Christmas Tree’s. Some have 1 green spear, some 2, and some NONE since the cold damage. What do I do for after care to try to revive these? Do I cut every branch off that looks dead? It would leave just one or 2 spears, or no spears… Any other advice?
    Thank you!

    • 6
      kenschristmastrees Says:

      Hi Cindy,
      it is still a waiting game as far as the Christmas tree palms are concerned. If your trees have absolutely no green by now, they probably aren’t coming back. Cut off all the dead fronds off any palm that shows some green. You can buy some plant fungicide spray at a hardware store and spray the heart liberally, to kill any infection trying to eat the new growth. If you can reach, check the heart of the tree- is it soft and mushy? Not good, if so. At this date in May, even if your trees make it, they might not look like much till fall.
      Sorry you had such problems, it was a terrible winter for palms.

      If you decide to replace any of your palms, I have some great discount prices-
      Ken, 727-768-2409

  4. 7
    Tony Says:


    I have a 20-25 ft Christmas Palm and was wondering it if is possiable that one of the Palms could die and not the other (same base). I ask this because one of the two Palms (same base/same tree), has new growth fronds and the other has not shot out any new fronds. Both have new berries growing from them.

    This is just one Christmas Palm tree that has two trees growing from the same base.

    If it is not dead, any suggestions on what to do to the one side that is not shooting out any new fronds?


    • 8
      kenschristmastrees Says:

      Hi Tony,

      Are you sure you have a Christmas palm? They don’t usually get bigger than about 15 ft tall. But if so, here’s what I would try, and you don’t really have a lot to lose, it’s worth a try: about 8-10 inches under the head (where the fronds shoot out), if the tree has a green and firm stem, cut it back. Leave most of the green, firm stem. Maybe if will re-frond and come back, we have had a measure of success doing that with smaller Christmas palms in Pinellas County. Also an idea- call your county extension agent and ask questions, they are very knowledgeable about these issues and might be able to email you some fact sheets. Hope this helps! Ken

  5. 9
    frankie Says:

    melbourne FL its now august 29 and i have lost a traveler palm a christmas palm and one foxtail from the freeze pull them all out but one foxtail still has green on it. its grown maybe one inch in the last 3 month it about 10 feet tail what are some suggestion to do and is it wroth even trying with the damage

    • 10
      kenschristmastrees Says:

      Hi Frankie, sorry for all your palm losses, it was a tough winter for palms! I’m not sure what to tell you- you might check with a local nursery and see what their advice is. Or you may have access to a county agriculture extension agent who would come by and look at your palm. Over here in Pinellas county, we have been cutting back Christmas palms (ones that still had green, firm trunks) and they are growing new green fronds. I haven’t tried that with foxtails yet.

  6. 11
    frankie Says:

    hey ken my foxtail is coming back it took almost the whole summer but it growing a new fond there is hope i almost took it down but it lived had green on it thats why i waited to cut it down iam happy just wanted to let u know

  7. 12
    oscar Penaloza Says:

    My friend give me his Christmaspalm before he move out and its about 3years old 6ft tall and we dig it out and move it to my house in corona cal. I dig and plant it and put 2 bags of plant soil before i cover the hole. I water and the palm is dieing and turning brown. Somebody sudgested to buy liquid plant food and dump some over the base of the tree. Its been 19 days now and it dying, need help any sugestion will appreciate, thank you, Oscar

    • 13
      kenschristmastrees Says:

      hi Oscar, sorry to hear about your new palm tree- there could be a couple of problems-
      first, when you dug it out, did you get a lot of the roots too? ( hopefully yes) and did you replant it immediately?
      Palms like sandy type soil that drains well, they don’t like soggy ground or they will die. Potting soil isn’t usually necessary if you have good draining soil. Also, does it get a lot of sun where you planted it? They need LOTS of sun.
      My advice is not to fertilize it at all for several months, let it settle in and get some new growth first. As soon as you see some new fronds coming out, then is the time to fertilize it with special palm fertilizer. Hope this helps– Ken

  8. 14
    Sara Says:

    Dear Ken,
    I live in southeast Virginia. Last September I visited California and brought home a small palm tree (only about a foot tall) that the grower said would survive winters in Virginia. I kept it in the house through this past winter with plans to put it in the ground this spring and leave it there from that point. However, through the winter I think it did not get nearly enough light or water. I hope I have not killed it. A few weeks ago I put it out in my yard, but there was very little if any green left in the leaves and a lot of the roots seemed dry. I can’t really see any green left in the leaves at this point. The center, although lacking color, still seems firmly attached to the trunk, though. Is there any hope left for my tree? Is there anything I can do to help it?

  9. 15
    Anthony Says:

    I have fox tail trees in the fornt of the house one is about 3 years old and the winter was verry cold I have not trimed the old parts of the tree of and 3 of the trees I have pulled the crown out the the trunks are still green but as of now I still see no life will thay come back os should I replace again. ???

    • 16
      kenschristmastrees Says:

      if the crowns pulled out, my guess is that the trees’ life is over, as that is the heart of the tree. Sorry to say it but I would take them out now. I don’t believe you’ll see any growth now. Ken

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