Repost: That’s A Wrap!


Baby, it’s cold outside.  And for Joe and me, the cold temperature is our cue that it’s time to wrap our windmill palm for the winter months.  So while we’re outside, I’m offering my seasonal repost of what it is that we’re doing and why.

Palm Tree 001

I may be the gardener of the house, but Joe also has his landscape loves.  One of his greatest is palm trees.  His absolute fave is Cocos nucifera, the coconut palm.  If it were up to him, coconut palms would be growing everywhere.  We often joke that he would be to coconut palms what Johnny Appleseed was to apples — only he would be called Joey Coconuts, which does sound a little — alright, a lot — like a character from “The Sopranos.”

Sadly, coconut palms will not grow in our Zone.  Nor will most other palms found around the world.  So what’s a palm lover to do?  About 10 years ago, we purchased a windmill palm, Trachycarpus fortunei to be exact, from Stokes Tropicals.  Originally grown in China, the windmill is one of the hardiest of palms, able to tolerate a fairly severe freeze and a light winter snow cover.

But this is Long Island, and winters are unpredictable.  Sometimes mild, sometimes snowy and frozen — and after the year we’ve had, who knows which winter will come our way.  Although the palm receives full sun, there are steps that we must take — or rather Joe must take, with my assistance — to ensure winter survival.

Palm 1

Palm 2

Palm 3

22 thoughts on “Repost: That’s A Wrap!

    • Hi Kate. We’ve been doing this for about ten years. Of course, when it was first planted, our winter protection wasn’t so elaborate — just a leaf filled clear plastic lawn bag. As the tree has grown, so too has our efforts.

      As for your winter question, that’s a tough one. Some winters are quite mild, while others are bitterly cold. There have been weeks with below zero wind chill temps, and several snow storms in a row. This past winter, we had nearly three feet of snow in one storm.

      When we unwrap the tree in spring, the tips of the fronds that came in contact with the plastic (no leaf insulation) are browned. The protected fronds, though, remain green.

      We tend to err on the side of caution, though. So far, so good.

      Hope this information helps.

    • I’m not sure where you are, but all things are possible. Some tropicals may not be able to withstand the cold — especially the cold ground — no matter the protection. Others can be dug up and stored, or brought indoors until warmer weather returns. I’ve even visited some gardens here, where the owners (wealthy owners) are able to dig and remove very tall palm trees, burlap or report them, and then transport them to greenhouses. Perhaps you could try something a bit smaller — just for the thrill of it. 🙂

  1. I know I have seen this before but it is just genious! I don’tknow if you did research on the best methods to specifically “winterize” a palm or came up with this on your own, but it’s raelly amazing. I think you provide incentive for others who would love to grow something they’ve been told is impossible in their zone–there’s often a way if you want to work a little bit! Won’t Joe be thrilled when you guys move to Florida! Hope that’s still part of the plan. 🙂 Happy Thanksgiving to you both.

    • Hi Debra. Florida is still part of the plan. Im not sure how this particular palm will feel about that, since I’m not sure there are too many people out there who would be bothered with winterizing a palm. We didn’t do any research on the technique. We just sort of borrowed ideas and created what we could do for as little as money as possible. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!!!

  2. That’s one of the coolest garden things I’ve ever seen! I sent a link to this post to my husband. We may need to try this with our new palms that are waiting for spring to come to be planted.

    • Hi. It’s important to know what type of palm you’re planting. This particular windmill is considered “northern” growing and is native to China. It’s even been found in the Himalayas. It’s cold hardy to 10 degrees. If I could count on my zone 6 to stay mild in winter, I wouldn’t have to wrap the palm. But this is zone 6, and anything can happen in winter — so I err on the side of caution. Most palms, though, aren’t so cold-hardy and no amount of wrapping can save them — and so they are better suited to the tropics. The Pindo palm is another cold hardy palm, but less cold hardy than my windmill. Good luck with whatever you try! 🙂

    • Hi Cathy. I had a feeling this would appeal to you, since you already do so well with other tropicals. Hope you can give it a try — or at least be able to adapt it to your needs and climate.

  3. You have to really love your Trachycarpus to go to all this trouble. Do you make cosy winter houses for any other plants or is it just the palm that gets pampered.? I think it’s a brilliant idea. I just get stressed and worry about my tender plants in winter. Sometimes I rush out on a frosty night and throw a table cloth over a particular treasure. I should really be building them all little houses like Jo does.
    Chloris

    • Hi Chloris. I’m afraid the palm is the only plant to get the full spa treatment. Other tropicals, like canna and elephant ears, are dug up and stored for the winter. All the other plants are on their own. Thanks for commenting and Happy Thanksgiving!

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