Cold Damage Palm Tree and Shrub Care

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Did You Receive Cold Damage in Your Florida Landscape?

After experiencing  freezing temperatures many people are wondering…“Will I need to replace my trees and shrubs?” Most likely you won’t have to replace all of them. With the proper cold damage palm tree and shrub care, they can bounce back from the cold even if they have been hit hard. “What can I do and what should I expect?” are questions many of you have.

Cold Damaged Shrubs

First you will see the leaves turning brown and dropping off. This is a normal and natural process for them to do. Don’t be alarmed if all that is left are branches and stems. The way to check if they are still alive is to scrape off the bark with your fingernail going all the way down to the base of the shrub. If you see green tissue, they are still alive. Also remember the roots can still be alive so don’t remove them right away.

Pruning Cold Damaged Shrubs

If part of the stems or branches are brown or hollow they will need to cut back to where the green begins. Even if this means cutting them back all the way down to the base of the shrub. The tops can be dead but the bottoms can be still alive. Do Not begin to prune now. Wait until Springtime begins to do any pruning . The shrub is still in shock and plus you you don’t want to stimulate new growth for another freeze can still happen. Just be patient and hold off pruning for now.

Cold Damage Care For Fertilizing Your Shrubs

Do Not fertilize your shrubs right now, wait until spring arrives. It is best to leave them alone for now. When springtime begins, apply a “Slow-Release” Granular Fertilizer such as “6-6-6” or “8-10-10”. It is okay to continue to water as you normally would even if a freeze has occurred. In fact water as soon as possible. By Spring you will know what survived and those that did not. Shrubs that are still alive will bounce back, with cold damage palm tree and shrub care.

Palm Tree Cold Damage Treatment

cold damage palmPalm trees that have been hit by cold damage need to be immediately treated with a Fungicide such as “Liquid Copper“. Spray them two times fourteen days between each treatment. Do Not treat more than twice.

Make sure the trunk gets treated thoroughly so the tree will get a drink, soaking it up. Spray the leaves where they are still green with a Nutritional Palm Liquid Fertilizer. There is no need to treat the brown areas on the leaves. Wait until Springtime to apply a Granular Fertilizer formulated for Palm Trees.

Pruning Cold Damaged Palm Trees

Prune off all dead branches to where they are all eliminated. Cut back brown tips to where green begins. Leave the green portions of the branches even if they are spotted yellow. If newly grown branches and leaves appear to be deformed, brown, or abnormal, the tree has been severely damaged. Any sudden collapse of some or all branches emerging in the crown will indicate the trunk is damaged. This can result in a loss of the palm tree.

Palm trees should grow out of the cold damage but will take some time to completely recover. It can take four to six months well into the summer to return to normal even if cold damage palm tree and shrub care has been done. Only time will tell just how bad they have been affected by freezing temperatures.

After Cold Damage Palm And Shrub Care Is Done

Don’t give up and throw in the towel because it is not a hopeless case. With the proper cold damage palm tree and shrub care, their are good chances your trees and shrubs will bounce back and be fine.  Don’t panic. Just wait patiently to find out how bad it realy is. By springtime you will know if any need to be replaced. I have seen shrubs take a hard hit from cold weather and return to normal quickly. If you see new growth starting to appear, then that is a good sign they are going to be alright. Palm trees will take longer to show signs of bouncing back. Treat palm trees with palm fertilizer in the summer as you would when following your regular program of nutrient feeding.

Author, Kurt Kmetz

52 COMMENTS

  1. Hello Edna,

    It sounds like you already pruned your palms? Trimming a palm tree prior to a frost should not cause a problem if they were pruned correctly. I recommend to follow the directions in this article on “Palm Tree Cold Damage Treatment” since the trees have already been trimmed. Do Not do anymore for now to avoid over prunning.

    Thank you for your comment,
    Kurt Kmetz

  2. Nice, thanks.

    I am worried about my palm. I didn’t cover it or anything and now it looks like a wheat plant. I hope it recovers, I have not done anything to it as of yet, but I will take your suggestion from the article. Thanks!.

  3. RE: Will,

    I hope your palm recovers back to normal. Only time will tell. Follow directions from my article to help it bounce back. Be patient chances are it should be ok.

    Thank You for your comment,

    Kurt

  4. Kurt, I have 2 palms (not sure what they are called, but they have multiple smooth trunks and are about 7 feet tall). Both of them seemed to have sustained serious damage from the cold we had. All of the fronds are brown and dry. There is some light green visible on the trunks and they appear to be alive, at least to some degree. My question is should I prune all the brown fronds even if that will leave the trees with none at all? I have read to remove the damaged fronds but haven’t seen it addressed if that would mean removing them all. Also, how far (close to the trunk) should i cut them off? Thanks for your help

  5. RE: Todd,

    Since all the “Fronds” have been damaged from the cold, Do Not cut them off leaving nothing. (Leave Them On)

    Spray the palm trees, (Including the Trunk), with “Liquid Copper Fungicide” 2-Times 10-day’s Between Each Treatment. Also apply a “Granular Palm Fertilizer” around each tree.

    Kurt Kmetz.

  6. My palmtree branches are green however the center branch pulled right out of the middle of the palm tree-dead. If the center branch of the palm which is down in the trunk pulls out does that mean my trees are dead? The trunk looked Green on the outside but not to sure of the inside. I have asked some and no one has ever seen that before.

  7. Debbie,
    It sounds like the Bud ( Heart ) of the tree is rotting. The fact that the center branch pulled out so easily and is dead is a sign the Leaf Sphere is having problems. Even though the trunk is showing green it can still be rotting on the inside. Unfortunatlly nothing can be done to stop it. Rotting can occur from poor maintenance or poor drainage. Another cause can be Weavils have infected the tree,which can not be treated. I hope the problem is isolated to one tree.

    Kurt Kmetz

  8. Hi Kurt,
    I have a small palm tree nursery in LaBelle, FL 33935. I am growing 750 Phoenix Medjool’s. The temperature reached 31 Tuesday night but More Freezing temps are coming this weekend. I am wondering when exactly I should treat the trees with Liquid Copper. Should I wait till after the cold is finished completely? I did not cover them, however, they are cold hardy. Just worried 🙂 Thanks for all your help. Your advice is Awesome!

  9. I have a very large century plant that the leaves are wilting since the cold and are soft. Does this mean they are dead or will they come back?

  10. Hello Dawn,
    I apologize for not responding sooner. Treat the palms right away, do not wait for warmer weather. Soak them good with a fungicide including the bud area, for them to absorb it quickly. Repeat after 10 days,treat only two times. If possible cover them if a freeze occurs again. If cold damage has occurred only time will tell if they will be lost. It can take to the middle of summer.

    Kurt

  11. Hello Victor,

    It sounds like they are not dead, but you won’t completely know the extent of damage until spring arrives. Leave them alone for now other than watering. Just read this article on “Cold Damage Palm Tree and Shrub Care” http://tinyurl.com/colddamage

    Kurt

  12. Help
    last night to my horror i dicovered a brown dead main leaf on my coconut palm. today i woke to see a dropped leaf green. could this be the end? is there anything I can do to save Shakespere?

    Help Thanks

  13. Hi, We are doing some excavation and I had some workers dig up a 12′ adonidia (double trunk) to re-locate but somehow the top of one was bumped and came off. (The whole green part of the trunk) The workers appologized but assured me it would grow back. Is there any chance of it growing back or should I cut off the broken side and manuver the other other side to grow straight up as a single?It’s not in a conspicuous location in the yard – just in the back along a fence. If there is any chance it could grow back it wouldn’t exactly cause an “eye-sore” while we waited….. What do you think? Thanks, Judy – West Palm Beach

    Hello Judy,

    Depending on how much shock has occured will determine if it will grow back or die. Cut off damaged part and treat with a fungicide. It will take a long time to bounce back. New growth will appear if it is to live.

    Thanks,
    Kurt

  14. Hello Donna,

    Treat your palm tree with a liquid fungicide like Liquid Copper. Spray it covering all of it. Apply two times 10 days apart. Only time will tell if any serious damage has occured. It will take a while to come back.

    Thanks
    Kurt

  15. I have over 20 palms on my property. Christmas palms, Fox tails and Coconuts. Over half of them have a green limb that grew out of the center after the cold this limbs on all the trees fell or broke. My neighbors have the same situation and they tell me that the heart of the tree is damaged and the trees will surely die. Any insight or suggestions would be greatly appeaciated.

  16. Steve,
    If the frond continues to bend over chances are it may die . If other fronds do the same then the tree probably will.
    You can treat it with a fungicide but I cannot guarantee It will survive.

    Kurt

  17. Darin,
    The fact that the limbs fell off is not a good sign. Your neighbors are probably right. I recommend that both of you have a professional landscaper with knowledge of palms inspect them. Call you local extension service and tell them your situation. Perhaps the area you live in is having a wide spread problem.
    Kurt

  18. Kurt,

    I have Foxtail Palm that was damaged in Tampa, FL with freeze. I trimmed (cut) all dried leaves and center leave that was like a sword. Tree is green al the way to top where i trimmed the leaves.

    Do you think this tree will come back to life?

  19. Kirty,
    Wait for new growth to appear and you will know if it will come back. It will take a while so be patient. By the end of the summer it should be back to normal.

    Kurt

  20. Palm Tree Cold Damage Treatment:

    Palm trees that have been hit by cold damage need to be immediately treated with a Fungicide such as “Liquid Copper“. Spray them two times fourteen days between each treatment. Do Not treat more than twice.

    I read above and i want to ask you if i should do liquid cooper treatment now (after freeze, damage was about 3 months ago).

  21. Kurt,

    Great website, by the way. After the cold winter here in St. Petersburg, I have 6 coconut trees that seem to be on their death bed. 90% of their fronds have fallen over the past 3 months and now the entire tops, on 3 of them, have fallen. 2 out of the 3 even had a few new green fronds on them. Is there anway to save them, or should I just cut them down? Thanx..

  22. Kurt,
    I was replanting my christmas palm and broke of the whole green part of the tree, leaving only the brown base. The tree was healthy otherwise. Will it still live?

    Erin

  23. Athena,

    It sounds like your palm trees might be dying. Only time will tell if it is fatal. It will probably take to the end of the summer to see if they will bounce back.

    Kurt

  24. I have I believe a windmill palm. I live in WV. This is the first winter for my palm and it was cold. Have Christmas lights wrapped and leafs piled and blanket around trunk for winter. All fronds are dry and brown but I see green on the stems half way down them. Should I cut the dry brown fronds to where the green starts or not cut them at all?

  25. Margie, Immediately treat palm thoroughly with a Liquid Fungicide. Go ahead and cut off brown to where green starts as soon as the cold weather is over. Fertilize with Granular Palm Tree Fertilizer and water it in. Follow the directions on the label for amount. it depends on the size of the palm. It will take a long time to recover.

    Next year cover entire tree with a blanket for protection, build some kind of wind protection for it. Palms do not do well in severe cold weather.

  26. Hi Kurt

    Few daysago my new planted palm trees are hit by frost.

    I was wondering If I could use any liqid fungicide spray or there is one for palm trees.
    I have some lilly miller microcop fungicide that I use on my fruit trees.
    Would this work on windmill palms?
    Thank you !
    Chris

  27. Hi Chris,

    I am not familiar with the type of fungicide you use on your fruit trees. As a rule a Liquid Fungicide must contain Copper, to be sprayed on Palm Trees for success. Treat only 2-times 10-days apart.

    Kurt Kmetz

  28. Hi Kurt

    I have a bearded palm tree that has grown quite high and is doing some damage to wires. If the tree gets cut to half its height will the tree just die or will it grow again. It has the brown leaves all the way up the trunk (beard) and the very top has the green leaves. They would need to cut the whole top part of the tree away and shorter to avoid it doing further damage to wires.

    Rosy

  29. Rosy,
    I doubt the palm tree will grow back if it is cut in half. It will probably kill it. That is too severe for it to handle. Try to contact a landscape company that might buy it and remove it, or have it transplanted to another location in your landscape.

    Kurt

  30. Kurt, we always have to cut back our palm trees after the winter here b/c all the leaves die during the winter. We live in Louisiana where it’s usually warm so in spring/summer they start to grow back. I’m worried b/c we cut back the dead leaves on one in April/May and NOTHING has grown back on it yet. This tree is really mature and tall (at least 6 yrs old). I’m so scared it’s dead for good!

  31. Joan,
    It is still early and might take some time for new growth to appear. If the tree was severely damaged from the cold it probably will experience problems and may not show until mid summer. If any leaves removed did have some green ( even if they were spotted ) growth will be hindered. Green portions are needed for adequate photosynthesis. Severe pruning can damage a tree if it was done. Give it fertilizer if you have not done already.Have you sprayed green leaves with a fungicide? If not do now.

    Kurt

  32. On the morning of January 4th (probably coldest morning this year) my lawn service (not mentioning names…) came out and treated all my shrubs. When I was leaving for work, I noticed whatever they sprayed turned to ice on all my landscaping. Now, almost everything appears to be dead or near dead. My neighbors have the same specimens that I have and theirs were not treated and appear to be fine so I am pretty confident that the treating DURING the extreme cold did my landscaping in. Please provide any advice….

  33. Tinton,
    The first thing I would do is contact the lawn company about the cold damage that occurred after your shrubs were sprayed. If the company is state certified (which they have to be to treat your shrubs with chemicals),they are licensed and insured. If the temperature was around or below freezing they should have not been treated with liquid spraying. With that said, there is a good chance that they are not all dead. There is information in my articles “Winter Plant Protection” and “Cold Damage Palm Tree And Shrub Care” on how to tell just how severe they have been hit from the cold, plus what to do and what to expect after cold damage. Time will tell whether they will die or bounce back. Chances are the only thing that was effected on them was the foliage (causing the leaves to turn brown and fall off). If that’s the case new growth will eventually appear when warmer weather returns, and they will eventually be back to normal.

    Kurt

  34. Hi Kurt,

    I have several sable palms I grew from seed a few years ago and they are generally doing well, despite the hot, dry climate (I live in the Turks & Caicos Islands) However, the heart rotted out of one tree about a year ago, that otherwise appeared healthy. The remaining leaves are still green after all this time and I water it regularly in the hope it will grow a new central stem. I expected the tree to die soon after the center rotted out and the longer it lives the more I was hoping it would recover.. Am I wasting my time and should probably remove it altogether? This was certainly not a frost issue as the temperature here never goes below 65F and it is panted in freely draining sandy soil… Your advice would be appreciated..

  35. Seamus,
    It sounds like your Sable palm might have a disease problem. The fact that it is rotted in the center leads me to believe this. Even though some of the leaves are green, the palm could still be dying. When a palm has a disease problem that is fatal, it can take a long time for it to eventually die off.

    You could treat it with liquid fungicide by spraying it thoroughly and soaking the roots, but there is no guarantee that will save it. Treat it 2 times 14 days apart. If the treatment is going to work it will take a long time to recover. The problem with diseases on palms is that they can spread to the other palms close by. You might want remove it, to avoid other palms from getting the same disease.

    I wish I could inspect your palms, because what I see on Google maps it looks like you live in paradise. I live on the west coast of Florida, just west of Tampa Bay, in Palm Harbor near Clearwater beach, but it’s not quite the same as what I see where you live. Sable palms are very popular here and are used in landscaping everywhere. Out of curiosity, what town do you live in or what is your location on the Caicos Islands?

    Thank you for your comment,

    Kurt

  36. We live in Pensacola. Just had an ice storm last night. Palms had already been hit by freezing temps. We have Washingtonian, Windmill, Chinese fan, and Windmill. All are damaged, brown, ice- covered. The branches on the squattier ones are dragging ground, Temps 19 tonight– not warming up soon. WHEN do you spray this fungicide? Thanks for your help!

  37. Dianne,
    Treat the palms with liquid fungicide as soon as the temperature warms up above freezing. Don’t wait until springtime, do it as soon as possible. You can purchase liquid fungicide at garden centers like Home Depot or Lowe’s. Purchase a “Liquid Copper” Fungicide that is in a concentrate form, it is mixed per gallon.

    Treat them thoroughly by saturating them. It is best to use a pump sprayer for the best results, they usually come in a 3 gallon size. Follow directions on the label for amount to be mixed with water. Follow directions in my article on how to treat them. Also use a bucket to pour liquid fungicide in the ground around the palms, to saturate the roots. The root systems on palms do not extend out very far, so make sure to treat close to the trunk.

    Unfortunately it sounds like they have been hit hard, but don,t give up. It will take along time for them to recover, up into the summer months. Look for new growth, this will be the sign they will bounce back.

    Thank you for your comment, any other questions feel free to ask.
    Kurt

  38. Kurt,

    I purchased a windmill palm last year around march 2013. I live in Huntsville,al far north of the state. This winter was harsh for my tree, although I did have the tree covered with a frost cloth all winter but all the fronds are dry and brown, the stems attached close to the trunk are still green. The tree is about 4 feet high, I fertilized every 3 months during
    the warm months but I’m concerned about the tree. Can I trim all the brown fronds off now and feed this plant? This is my first winter with this tree so I’m not sure where to go from here. Any info.would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

    Loretta V. Bifulco

  39. Loretta,
    Go ahead and feed the palm as soon as possible, by treating it thoroughly with “Nutritional Palm Liquid Fertilizer”. This way the palm will absorb the nutrients it needs the quickest. When spring has arrived feed it with a “Slow Release” granular palm fertilizer. After 3 months resume your regular program of feeding.

    Treat it as soon as possible thoroughly with a “Liquid Fungicide”. Treat it with this two times 14 days apart. Treat it no more than twice.

    Trim the palm as soon as possible following the directions in my article “Cold Damage Palm Tree and Shrub Care”. It is listed under “Pruning Cold Damage Palm Trees”.

    It sounds like it might have been hit pretty hard from the cold weather, so it could take quite some time to completely recover (well into the summer). Don’t give up on it! I have seen this happen before and eventually they bounce back. Be patient.

    Kurt

  40. Kurt,

    Thank you for getting back to me so quickly. I will purchase these product immediately and try it. Wish me luck.

    Loretta V. Bifulco

  41. We have three Washingtonians. Severely damaged from cold this past February in North Carolina beach town. One has recovered with green fronds out the top. Two still have no green. What should we do.

  42. Randy,
    The one with new growth on it is a good sign, that hopefully it will completely recover from the cold damage. As far as the other two they might be taking longer to produce new growth, because they could have been damaged more severely.

    Treatment for palms as explained in my article “Cold Damage Palm Tree and Shrub Care”, should have been started right after the damage occurred. If it was not done then do it now. Follow the instructions in my article.

    Time will tell what the outcome will be for all of them, since it can take up to 6 months for palms to fully recover from severe cold damage. If you have any further questions feel free to ask.

    Kurt

  43. I bought my husband a foxtail palm for father’s day and when I received it in the mail they packaged it wrong and snapped all the branches off. I’m only left with a frayed stalk. Is it dead or will it ever come back?

  44. Kelly,
    It sounds like the palm might have been severely hurt. The way the branches were snapped off, probably has done damage to the trunk. This can cause a disease to set in. There is a chance it might not fully recover from this.

    Rather than spending time and money trying to save it, I would contact the company you purchased it from and let them know what happened. If they are a reputable supplier of palms, they should do whatever it takes to make sure you are completely satisfied with your purchase. Otherwise, ask for your money back.

    Kurt

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