Winterizing A Palm Tree: Tips On Wrapping Palm Trees In Winter

By: Amy Grant

Palm trees don’t just make an appearance in Hollywood. Different varieties can be grown around the United States, even places where snow is a regular winter feature. Snow and freezing temps aren’t exactly a palm trees milieu, so what kind of winter protection must you provide for palms?

Winter Palm Tree Care

Frost and freezing temperatures damage the tissue of plants, in general weakening them and leaving them susceptible to diseases. Cold snaps, in particular, are of concern. Winterizing your palm tree to protect it from cold damage may be of paramount importance, especially depending on your region.

Winter palm tree care usually requires wrapping palm trees in winter. The question is how to wrap the palm tree for winter and with what?

How to Wrap Palm Trees for Winter

If your palm is small, you can cover it with a box or blanket and weigh it down. Don’t leave the cover on for longer than 5 days. You can also cover a small palm with straw or similar mulch. Remove the mulch immediately when the weather warms up.

As to winterizing a palm tree by wrapping it, there are 4 basic methods: stringing Christmas lights, the chicken wire method, utilizing heat tape and using water pipe insulation.

Christmas lights – Christmas lights to wrap the palm are the easiest method. Do not use the newer LED lights, but stick with good old-fashioned bulbs. Tie the leaves together into a bundle and wrap them with a string of lights. The heat emitted by the lights should be enough to protect the tree, and it looks festive!

Chicken wire – When using the chicken wire method, lace 4 stakes, 3 feet (1 m.) apart, in a square with the palm at the center. Wrap 1-2” (2.5-5 cm.) chicken wire or fencing wire around the posts to create a basket of about 3-4 feet (1 m.) high. Fill the “basket” with leaves. Remove the leaves in early March.

Pipe insulation
– When using water pipe insulation, cover the soil around the trees with mulch to protect the roots. Wrap the first 3-6 leaves and the trunk with water pipe insulation. Fold the top over to keep water from getting inside the insulation. Again, in March, remove the wrapping and mulch.

Heat tape – Lastly, you can winterize the palm tree by using heat tape. Pull the fronds back and tie them. Wrap a heat tape (bought at a building supply store), around the trunk beginning at the base. Leave the thermostat out at the bottom of the trunk. Continue wrapping around the entire trunk up to the top. One 4′ (1 m.) tall palm needs a 15′ (4.5 m.) long heat tape. Then, wrap the trunk with 3-4 layer of burlap and secure with duct tape. Over top of all of this, wrap the entirety, including the fronds, with plastic wrap. Plug the tape into a ground fault receptacle. Remove the wrapping just as the weather begins to warm up lest you risk rotting the tree.

All of that is too much work for me. I am lazy. I use the Christmas lights and keep my fingers crossed. I am sure there are many other winter protection methods for palms. Use your imagination and be sure not to wrap the tree too far ahead of the cold and to unwrap it just as the weather warms.

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The Cold, Hard Facts on Protecting Potted Plants

Related To:

Pansies in Planter

To protect plants' delicate root systems in the winter, choose pots with large volumes, minimize their exposure to dramatic temperature swings and water when temperatures are above freezing.

Photo by: Shutterstock/Tisha Razumovsky

Winter container gardening is tough — you have to protect plants from wind, harsh sunlight and drying out. The biggest challenge, though, is guarding against root damage caused by rapidly fluctuating temperatures.

Even plants that are hardy to your zone can be hit hard when planted in a container in the winter. Although the top part of a plant has the ability to go dormant, the roots don't.

"Essentially any type of container exposes the roots to ambient temperatures," says Dr. Hannah Mathers, assistant professor in nursery and landscape extension at Ohio State University in Columbus. Mature roots can gradually get used to the cold, but young, immature roots can't. In containers, young roots grow on the outer part of the rootball. When exposed to the cold, young roots are unable to acclimate and die back.

And, young or old, the roots are usually not has hardy as the plant's top. American holly (Ilex opaca) is hardy to USDA Zone 5. The top part (stems and foliage) of the plant will survive to a temperature of about -20 F, but immature roots die at 23 degrees above zero, and mature roots at nine degrees. In the ground and insulated by the earth, that's usually no problem for the roots of hollies in Zone 5 where the average minimum temperature is -10 to -20 F. But in a container, root damage in American holly would begin to occur at 23 degrees if left unprotected — a drastic difference from -20 degrees.

To protect delicate root systems, consider these tips from the experts:

  • Avoid exposing plants to the freeze/thaw cycle. Rapidly fluctuating temperatures (from cold to hot and back) can cause significant injury to roots and, as a result, may even heave the plant out of the pot. To avoid this, place pots on soil instead of pavement. For plants in the ground, the main source of heat for roots is the heat of the earth. For containers on pavement, the sun can warm the pavement considerably, elevating the temperature of the rootball. This is followed by a drop in temperatures at night. The fluctuation exposes containers on pavement to freezing and thawing.
  • When choosing a pot, bigger is better. "The larger the volume of the container, the better off the plant will be," Hannah says. The soil in a 15-gallon container will insulate the roots better than that in a one-gallon pot. The smaller container will freeze faster. A good rule of thumb: select a larger-sized pot that also has a thickness of one inch or more. Also, smaller pots dry out more quickly than large pots.
  • Plant the container as early as possible in order to allow plants to harden off. If plants are healthy and go into winter with mature roots, they have a much better chance to harden off and, as a result, will tolerate winter stress much better. One trick: Select container plants that are hardy to two zones cooler than your hardiness zone.

Go Big in the Garden

When it comes to containers for the winter, the bigger the better. The surrounding soil helps provide insulation for plant roots.

Photo by: Image courtesy of Bloem

10 plants to protect over winter

Not all plants are hardy enough to withstand a UK winter – we show you which ones to protect.

Published: Wednesday, 18 March, 2020 at 8:36 am

The damp and cold can take their toll on our gardens, so spare a thought for tender plants struggling to survive in sub-zero temperatures.

Protecting tender plants takes little effort, and often all that’s needed is a layer of horticultural fleece. This lets in light, air and water at the same time as providing vital insulation. Even plants that can withstand temperatures down to -5°C will benefit from some protection.

Here are 10 plants to protect over winter.


Some species of African blue lilies are hardier than others. Keep spares in pots under glass or wrapped in fleece for the winter until hardiness is proven. Mulch hardy deciduous agapanthus planted in borders.


In milder areas, the hardier banana, Musa basjoo, can withstand winter, especially with a mulch spread over the roots and a thatch of straw to protect the crown. In colder regions, or for more tender species like Ensete ventricosum, lift and pot up the plants, then overwinter them under glass.


Cannas overwinter underground as rhizomes. A 10cm duvet of mulch helps insulate against frost. In colder areas, lift plants in autumn, pot up and keep frost free and barely watered until spring. Harden off before planting out in late May.


Plain green-leaved cabbage palms and those with cream variegations tend to be tougher than those with striped or red-tinted leaves. Tie the leaves in an upright bunch then protect with fleece or hessian strips.

Echium pininana

These exotic natives of Madeira and the Canary Islands must reach a good size to flower. Your best bet is to plant echiums in a sheltered spot and wrap with a double layer of fleece for the winter, giving them a chance to bloom the following season.

Melianthus major

The honey bush is mainly grown for its exotic blue-green foliage. Protected plants in mild areas sometimes grow large enough to produce spikes of deep reddish-brown flowers. Wrap the foliage securely with fleece until there is not danger of frost.


Olea europaea lends a Mediterranean feel to any garden, but cold winds and severe frosts can disfigure their foliage. Move small potted plants under glass for the winter (need not be heated). Protect permanent plantings with windbreaks or fleece in colder areas.


Keep pelargoniums in a frost-free greenhouse for the winter, ideally as young plants taken as cuttings during the summer. Or, lift undamaged plants from the garden, trim back, pot up and bring in. Prune and take cuttings in spring.

Pineapple lily

Eucomis produces a spike of flowers under a tuft of bracts in summer, then dies back. Move potted plants under glass for winter, or wrap the pots in hessian and move to a sheltered spot. Mulch over the top of planted bulbs.

Tree fern

Large tree ferns should be wrapped up for the winter. Either cover the crown by bending old fronds over it, fill it with straw or put a cap of fleece over it. Or wrap the entire plant in hessian.

What Do You Want?

The great thing about palms is that they are incredibly unique. Some are giant in size while others don’t get any taller than a few feet. Some have pinnate fronds, while others have fan shaped fronds. There are even palms that don’t even look like palms!

Since there are literally thousands of species available, you need to decide what kind of look you want, the size of the area in which you plan to grow the palm, what weather conditions your palm will be subjected to in your region and if it’s a tree that you can bring indoors if living in one of these frigid areas.

Luckily, with so many varieties to choose from, finding a palm that suites your area and gives you the visual look to your garden you’re looking for isn’t all that difficult.

Exotics are the most vulnerable group – they struggle in our cold climate. Tropical plants like tree ferns and palm trees are all at risk, as well as cordylines and banana plants.

Exotics in containers can be moved inside, but established plants will need protection in situ. Wrap shrubs in a fleece jacket packed with straw to protect them. Tree ferns need layers of straw packed over the vulnerable crown, plus fleece or hessian wrapped around the trunk.

Tie the leafy canopy of cordylines together to prevent wind damage and stop water collecting at the base and causing rot. You can also apply a thick mulch of leaves or compost to protect the roots of exotics.

Certain types of palm trees, olive trees, citrus, oleander and other Mediterranean plants have grown more resistant to cold climates than in olden days.

Much progress has occurred because these plants are appealing, but some of it is also connected to global warming.

Tropical plants are now found in temperate climates, like palm trees and olive trees, where they previously couldn’t grow.

Take note though: horticultural fleece will only go so far, a few degrees at most. For instance, a lemon tree or an orange tree that would be hardy down to 19°F (-7°C) without fleece will now resist down to 14°F (-10°C).

  • If your area is often subjected to winter freezing, it is strongly recommended to winterize your Mediterranean plants with horticultural fleece, especially if grown in pots.

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