In light of the last two terrible winters we’ve had here in the Dallas area, I did a recent article that questioned whether I should rethink which palm trees to use in areas like Dallas, where harsh winter temperatures over an extended period, while not frequent, can indeed happen. The question that’s on a lot of people’s mind in this area, and I imagine many others, is “Is my palm tree dead?”.
You can drive through the neighborhoods here and see lots of palms, especially California Fan Palms and Mexican Fan Palms, that indeed look very bad. The typically very resilient Sabal palms don’t look so great either. Hell, even my big Windmill palms took a little damage this year, although they took it all in stride and are very much alive and well. I won’t even talk about the terribly ill-adapted ones that people plant around here like Phoenix Palms that have no chance, even a normal winter.
But, are they dead or do they have a chance to make a terrific comeback? Unfortunately, the best answer I can give is a uselessly non-committal maybe. Maybe they took a beating but will come back as the weather warms. BUT, maybe they won’t. What do I think? I think a great many, especially the Mexican and California fan palms, will have succumbed to this last winters bitter cold temperatures and died, even big established ones like mine. They are simply not built to handle such cold temps for such long periods. I think most of the Sabal Palms will come back, and nearly all Windmill palms (if established) came through just fine. But I don’t know, and all we can do is wait and watch.
Wait and watch … not a pleasant prospect I know. There is one sure fire way to know if a palm is dead. If it’s small enough, just give a sharp tug on the fronds that emerge from the cone. If they pull free and come out, then your palm tree is dead, without a doubt and you can start the painful removal process. If they hold firm, you still have a chance and will just have to be patient and see what happens. No guarantees it’s alive, but it might be. If, like me, you have fan palms that are too big for this little trick, then all you can do is keep looking for signs of green emerging from the cone. I keep a small pair of field binoculars outside to help with the vigil.
Be patient and see what happens as we warm up, and know that it could take a while for them to come back, even if they are alive. I almost took out a big Mexican Fan Palm (in the ground for 15 years) in July last year that I thought was dead, and just happened to notice the day before removal was schedule that new shoots were emerging. A very happy discovery for me but, unfortunately, I don’t believe it made it through this past winter. Last winter was likely just too much for an already stressed palm. We shall see …….