Queen palm

I really like queen palms, but it looks like they get freeze-damaged in some of our winters. Can you recommend how to prevent this?

Queen palm (Syagrus romanzoffiana) is one of the most cold-tolerant palms that produces a graceful “feather” frond vs. a coarser “fan” frond, making them extremely popular in our area. Unfortunately, every few years we tend to have a severe freeze that can burn their fronds or even kill them. You can try to prevent this by planting in a sheltered spot that blocks frosty north and west winter winds. Small specimens can be protected with a blanket wrapped over their top but obviously this is not possible for larger trees. Some people report that wrapping the trunk all the way up into the crown with white twinkle lights helps generate a bit of heat that tempers the severity of freeze events. For those who can’t go to such lengths, I have a solution: there is a hybrid palm, , which is a man-made cross between queen palm and pindo palm (Butia capitata). It is elegantly beautiful and displays greater cold hardiness than either parent. It produces no viable seed and for this reason is commonly called “mule palm.” Specimens growing in our area were not even singed by this past January’s freeze event, whereas many queen palms are still showing serious damage and decline.
Why aren’t mule palms being sold everywhere? They are tricky to propagate and cost a bit more than queen and pindo palms. However, anyone who has one in their garden agrees that their promise of long-term survival and lower maintenance more than makes up for the extra initial expense.

Darrin Duling is the director of Mercer Botanic Gardens in Humble. Send your questions to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..



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Darrin Duling
Author: Darrin DulingEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
I am the director of Mercer Botanic Gardens located at 22306 Aldine Westfield Road in Humble. I hold The Royal Horticultural Society of England certificate of training, The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, diploma of horticulture and a Master of Science degree in plant taxonomy from the University of Reading, England. I have worked in botanic gardens in England, Thailand, Florida and New York, and was sole proprietor of Duling Designs LLC, a landscape design/consultation business in Greenwich, Conn. My botanical explorations have taken me to Brazil, Brunei, Sabah, Singapore, Thailand, Peru and other exotic destinations.

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