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VOL. 37 | NO. 42 | Friday, October 18, 2013

Want a palm for your Middle Tennessee lawn? Some options

By Tim Ghianni

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Not all types of palm trees can thrive in the Nashville climate, according to palm man Jonathan Howlett.

Here’s a primer on what types of trees can make it here and other thoughts from the palm man:

Pindo Palm – These palm trees can grow to approximately 20 feet over a long period. Howlett says a pindo also is called a jelly palm, because mature pindos have fruit on them the size of dates.

“You can peel it back and eat it or make jelly out of it,” he says. Howlett generally plants pindo palms beginning in the 7-foot range and going up to about 15 feet.

He says they can withstand weather as cold as 5 degrees Fahrenheit.

Sabal Palmetto – The state tree of Florida and of South Carolina, this also is called the Cabbage Palm. These can grow to 40 feet in height, although again, Howlett plants the smaller ones, from 8 to 20 feet. These also are cold-tolerant, easily handing 10-degree temperatures, with reports of the palmettos withstanding temperatures as low as zero, Howlett says.

Windmill Palm –“The windmill palm is probably the most popular. It has gotten down to about negative 20 degrees Fahrenheit,” Howlett says. But in general, the palm is OK in the 10-degree range. He plants them in sizes of 8 to 20 foot. Generally these can grow to be 25 feet tall.

Caribbean Palm – These are similar to the windmill palm, reaching about 20 feet in height. Howlett plants them in sizes, from 8 to 20 feet. Again, these withstand about 10-degree temperatures. And they grow to top out around 25 feet.

Having a palm tree planted in your yard ranges begins at $500, depending on the size, Howlett says, noting he stays away from anything smaller than 5 or 6 feet, as the smaller ones aren’t as cold hardy.

Even though it’s not always necessary, Howlett does suggest precautions for the cooler weather.

“I recommend all palm trees getting winterized,” he says. “That’s a process where you take a wrap (he recommends clear plastic) and wrap it around it all the way up to the fronds. This protects the palm tree, but it also creates a greenhouse.

“There is a liquid inside the trunk of palm trees, and if the liquid freezes the palm tree will die.”

Some people prefer to use burlap to wrap the tree, he adds, all the way to the heart of the palm (which is at the frond level.)

He does note that the windmill palm, the most cold-tolerant, could likely get by without wrapping.

“You don’t have to wrap them: You really don’t,” he says. “But I definitely recommend it. You get a day where it goes negative 10 or negative 20… you just never know. It’s like wearing your seat belt when you are driving the car. You don’t expect to get in an accident, but safety belts save lives.”

Such is the case with wrapping a palm.

The trees need to be planted in a mixture heavy on sand. And they must be fertilized with a special palm-tree fertilizer. Howlett uses a spike-like fertilizer that feeds the palm for the year.

Howlett has been also called in to work with homeowners who have already had palms planted that were not quite right for the Nashville climate. For example, date palms, which only withstand 16-18 degrees. Again, he’s winterizing them and hoping to get them through the cold months.

He can be reached at 924-2000.