Like most other landscape plants, palms go through seasonal changes throughout the year, and our care routines must adjust accordingly. Timing is everything—you don’t want to perform certain tasks too early, or it could scramble their natural growth cycle and result in uneven, weak growth. It’s also good to be prepared for an unexpected cold snap—though they are rare, the combination of winter rain and high winds can bring a chill!
When to Begin Your Winter Palm Care
Once winter is nearing an end and temperatures are about to rise, we need to start thinking about watering, fertilizing, and pruning our palms. Here’s a rundown on what to do and when to do it!
Palms don’t grow very much in winter because they’re in a dormant state and need to build up their energy reserves for rapid growth in spring and summer. They aren’t soaking up nearly as much water, so from late November to February, you only need to water them if we’ve had at least 2-3 weeks without rain. If the soil around your palm looks very dry, you can water it early in the morning with a soaker hose. Be careful not to overwater your palms, as this can lead to root rot, which isn’t easy to fix.
Fertilizing in fall or early winter will snap your palm out of its dormant state and trigger a growth spurt, but the growth won’t be awe-inspiring. Wait to fertilize until late February or March. The frequency in which you fertilize your palms depends on the formula you choose—some are slow-release formulas that only need to be applied once per year, while others need to be applied several times from spring through fall.
Palms are prone to magnesium deficiencies which can damage their foliage and cause yellow and orange splotches. Be sure to use a formula fortified with magnesium to keep your palms looking lush and green.
Wait to prune until March. Even if some dead or damaged branches look a bit unkempt, it’s better to leave them on for the winter. Not all palms need pruning, and some shed their leaves naturally, so before you grab your clippers, check which variety of palm you have to determine if pruning is necessary.
Don’t prune your palms like you do your shrubs—it isn’t about shaping or making it look neat. You only want to prune the fronds that are visibly damaged. Making a lot of cuts on your tree can leave it vulnerable to pathogens, so you’re better off with a “less is more” approach.
How Cold Can Palm Plants Tolerate?
Most palms are cold-tolerant up to 40°F, and while it isn’t typical for the temperature to dip that low in Fort Lauderdale, it still happens on rare occasions. If the forecast calls for cold temperatures, take measures to protect and insulate your plants from the cold. Tree wraps work well for keeping your plants warm, and spread some mulch across the soil surface to help insulate the roots.
If your palms are in containers, you can bring them inside until the cold passes. Just be sure to spray them with some insecticidal soap or neem oil spray and keep them away from your indoor houseplants to prevent the spread of pests.
Want to brighten up your landscape with some new plants? Winter’s end is an ideal time to plant! Living Color Garden Center has a diverse assortment of palm trees for sale in Fort Lauderdale, plus plenty of other colorful tropicals to liven things up. Visit us to see what’s new for 2022!