Palm species vary greatly in their tolerance to cold. Some species tolerate temperatures in the high teens and twenties for short periods, while others are damaged when temperatures drop below 40°F. During the winter months the climate always changes and sometimes unpredictable cold fronts appear as cold snaps. These colds snaps are a quick climate change of a period of intense cold weather. With these freezing temperatures heading your way is when your palms will require extra attention. The percentage of your palm tree surviving those harsh severe cold winters are determined by the palm itself. The type of palm tree you have is key to the cold tolerance it can handle with out damage. The age, height, environment the palm was grown in and overall health at the time of the winter season.
Numerous measures can be taken to ensure and encourage the survival of your palms through the harsh or mild winters. For the best results plant only palms that are hardy to the normal minimum winter temperature in your area. If aware of a cold front or a sudden cold snap heading your way there are three preventive steps you can take to minimize damage.
Cold weather directly affects many processes of a palm including how the palm functions in photo-synthesis, root growth, absorption of water and nutrients, along with other processes. Cold temperatures also limits the conduction of water through the trunk. Frost in or on palm trees causes the water in the palm tree cells to freeze, damaging the cell wall. After this occurrence problems are made worse when the palm tree faces rising temperatures of the morning sun. As a result of the increase of temperature the palm tree will defrost quickly, shattering their cell walls damaging them further more. Spotting signs of a frost damaged palm tree include stunted growth, darkened or blackened foliage and a distorted appearance. Leaves of tender plants or shrubs take on a transparent appearance.
Ultimately the growth off all plant life including palm trees slows down during the winter. The cold weather reduces activity of the roots and can make it possible for diseases to become active and damage if not kill the palm. Occasionally only after the freeze damage, the excess bacteria in the damaged roots become the reason for the bud of the palm tree to die. Cold hardy palms can also be damaged when soil becomes frozen. Roots are unable to absorb water and plants die from lack of moisture.