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Carolina Gardening: Washingtonia robusta a goner?

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donnacreation
Sumter, SC
(Zone 8a)

September 9, 2011
7:58 AM

Post #8800478

I recently discovered my Washingtonia robusta, which grew really well this summer, was heavily infested with fire ants. I couldn't help but peel off several layers that were disintegrating, and now I'm afraid it won't make through next winter. I could protect it with xmas lights and frost cloth, but I'm fear the trunk is going to be so skinny that it will no longer be cold hardy w/o winter protection for at least several years. I'm so tempted to let it die and replace it with a windmill palm.

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donnacreation
Sumter, SC
(Zone 8a)

September 9, 2011
8:01 AM

Post #8800483

closeup of affected area

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Xeramtheum
Summerville, SC
(Zone 8a)

September 9, 2011
11:17 AM

Post #8800737

Gosh I hate ants .. any ants. I don't know about palms but I'm thinking you need to kill the nest like NOW. I'm wondering if sprinkling some of that granular fireant bait in and around the trunk would do the trick.
donnacreation
Sumter, SC
(Zone 8a)

September 9, 2011
12:16 PM

Post #8800819

I used Bayer Fire Ant killer throughout the trunk and all around the base, MmeX. They're all gone now, but clearly the damage is done. This palm is marginal around here, although there's a yard only 2 miles away with 3 washies growing that look great, and are over 10' tall. I've also lost quite a few sago's to fire ants - they nest right in the center. Very frustrating. I'll probably replace it with a windmill palm (chusan dwarf), but I don't have the energy or heart to dig it up just yet. After 3 years of growth, it probably has an extensive root system. I've read that dwarf chusans eventually shed their cut off fronds, revealing a nice smooth trunk. The older I get, the less I want to bother with protecting marginal and out of zone palms.
donnacreation
Sumter, SC
(Zone 8a)

September 9, 2011
12:34 PM

Post #8800859

pic of miniature chusan with distinctive curve/bend at base of trunk.

This message was edited Sep 9, 2011 2:54 PM

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Beach_Barbie
Kure Beach, NC
(Zone 9a)

September 11, 2011
7:22 AM

Post #8803323

Since it has a good root system, I think you have a good chance of it being fine. Those palms are hardier (temp wise) than most people think.
Barb
donnacreation
Sumter, SC
(Zone 8a)

September 11, 2011
10:17 AM

Post #8803578

I'll probably protect it this winter, Barb, just to be safe. I think the fronds are prettier than palmettos, which aren't as lustrous and look so stringy up close. Around here, they're slow growers, since the fronds die back in winter. As soon as the fronds turn dark and mushy, I cut them all off and cover with a drywall bucket. Besides, the ground is so dry in my backyard, I'd need a Guatemalan with a pick axe to dig it up.
donnacreation
Sumter, SC
(Zone 8a)

September 11, 2011
10:38 AM

Post #8803597

Forgot to add that it's only a short extension cord away from my Sylvester date, which really took off this summer, after digging it up and moving it Spring 2010. Still hoping when the sylvester gets too big to protect it won't bite the dust.

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Beach_Barbie
Kure Beach, NC
(Zone 9a)

June 6, 2012
2:32 PM

Post #9154884

How are these palms doing? I would think with the mild winter we had, the Sylvester is doing well.
My queen palm didn't even blink an eye (or a frond).
Barb
donnacreation
Sumter, SC
(Zone 8a)

June 7, 2012
12:46 PM

Post #9155930

My rural area in Sumter County had a zone 8b winter, with 3 morning lows @ 17f. I didn't wrap my palms until the end of Dec, and then I unwrapped them 2 weeks later. It was so sunny and warm in January, I couldn't bare keeping them wrapped. They did get hit w/1 morning low of 17 and heavy frost. Also several lows in the low 20's.

I cut away all of the fronds on the Sylvester that had cold damage - just little brown spots that were only noticeable up close. Anyway, it's heavily pruned and next winter, if I bother to wrap them again, I'm not unwrapping them until early/mid Feb.

Bottom line, none of the Phoenix cultivars are cold hardy in zone 8a. They're also not being marketed at Loews and HD this summer, but boy did Walmart market them like crazy. The tag says cold hardy to zone 8a, so I hope all those who bought them save their receipts and return them for refunds next spring.

The Washingtonia looks good, but the trunk is so narrow at the top, I don't know if it can survive a cold winter.

I also protected 2 queen palms, and I didn't remove their protection until mid Feb. This will be their 3rd year inground, and they're really taking off. Not sure if I'm going to bother protecting them in Dec either.

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donnacreation
Sumter, SC
(Zone 8a)

June 7, 2012
1:03 PM

Post #9155956

I'm really liking the windmill palms now, and I've shaved the boots and fibrous material on 2 to reveal their trunks.

Not a palm, but I'm loving this giant Egyptian Papyrus that I found at Woodley's garden center in Columbia. Hope I can successfully overwinter it.

Don't know how the heck I posted 2 of the same image. Never mind...

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Beach_Barbie
Kure Beach, NC
(Zone 9a)

June 7, 2012
3:00 PM

Post #9156131

I'm glad everything survived. The Phoenix are such gorgeous palms.
We sell the sylvesteris at our HD also, but always tell the customers that they, in fact, are not hardy at all. I hope the Walmart does also, but I doubt it! That would suck to invest $$ into something like that and then have it die!
LOVE the papyrus! So very exotic looking. I grow the Cyperus alternifolius, which is a more cold hardy cousin of the papyrus, but not as pretty.
Barb
donnacreation
Sumter, SC
(Zone 8a)

June 7, 2012
4:04 PM

Post #9156185

Just checked the plantfile page for Cyperus alternifolius, and I love it! Would trade my zone 10a papyrus in a flash for it. I must learn to resist the temptation to buy out of zone plants. Wonder why I've never seen it marketed in the SC midlands. The sales associate at Woodley's told me her Egyptian papyrus survived outdoors in Columbia last winter. Based on what I've read, I really find it hard to believe.

I thought the Sylvester date would be cold hardy in your location, Barb. It probably isn't cold hardy away from the beaches, so it's good you warn customers who don't enjoy your microclimate. I do think the CIDP and medjool date ares probably a few degrees cold hardier than the Sylvester. Lowes and HD are also no longer marketing coontie and giant dioon cycads in the SC midlands. My coonties are lush and green, but the fronds were bleached when temps dropped below 20f last winter.

Now where the heck can I find a cyperus alternifolius...
Beach_Barbie
Kure Beach, NC
(Zone 9a)

June 8, 2012
7:11 AM

Post #9156828

Don't know what I was thinking. We sell pigmy date palms, not P. sylvestris. My bad.
You're right, here on the island they are hardy. I would love one, but have NO room for one.
So, you want some Cyperus alternifolius, huh? I might know someone who has some extra...;)
Barb
donnacreation
Sumter, SC
(Zone 8a)

June 8, 2012
2:39 PM

Post #9157341

I have those moments, too, Barb.-) Delighted your queen palm sailed through last winter.

I bought a couple Pygmies at HD in Columbia last month, and their tag info indicates they are patio plants and not cold hardy. Good going Home Depot! My jaw dropped a few years ago when I noticed 1 growing happily on St Helena Island. I find micro climates fascinating, and after checking temps in Buxton NC last winter, I think the NC outer banks are also zone 9a. Those mornings when my temp was 17f, Buxton was around 10 degrees warmer.

I'll send you a d-mail concerning the Cyperus alternifolius. (Boy, is that a mouthful!)

Thanks, Barb!

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