Question of the Week Number 2: January 4, 2018

“Neil, how best can I protect my sago palm from cold like we’ve had this past week?”

I know it’s after the fact, but this question comes up every single year. It has for the past 25 years since sago palms spread across Texas. They’d always been popular in Houston, San Antonio and points to the south, but all of a sudden folks much farther north were planting them outdoors as if they were yard shrubs.

Sago palms aren’t true palms, but members of the genus Cycas. If you do a little research you’ll find that most of them are winter-hardy only to Zone 9 or perhaps the south side of Zone 8. That means that they’ll be at great risk in North Central Texas.

I’m a big advocate of frost cloth. It gains you 7 or 8 degrees of warmth and it also keeps drying winter winds from hitting tender foliage.

My Facebook friend Dave Harris from Carrollton made me smile this past Sunday morning when he posted this photo on my page.

Photo: A wrapped sago palm, photo posted on my Facebook page recently by Dave Harris from Carrollton.

Here’s what Dave said…
“As Commander Sperry would say, ‘What a heroic effort it is dealing with sago palms in North Texas. Here’s mine, and I hope we fare well. Survived the last time. Two moving blankets, three 90W flood lights to cut the death chill, and frost cloth (already iced). And one footnote: flood lights will burn moving blankets.”

I thanked Dave and told him it looked like an alien had landed.

Continued Below


But I’m no better…
Here’s a photo of my own cast iron plants – a photo I took early last March! We covered them at Christmas, and I left the frost cloth in place for 10 weeks. We had that awful early January freeze a year ago this week. I figured we’d have another cold spell sometime before spring, but as things turned out, that was the last killing freeze of the winter.

Photo: I covered my aspidistras last winter, and they’re covered right now. Cast iron plants don’t take to really cold weather well at all. (Those of you in South Texas, please forgive this primarily North Texas commentary.)

This just in…

Dave reported back that the moving blanket started smoldering. He hit it with the fire extinguisher. I couldn’t tell from the photo how the frost cloth and sago palm had come through the event, but he posted partial results: Fire extinguisher 1, Blanket 0. Lights off.

From that, our takeaway could be that covering is the best option, but adding lights might be a bit of a gamble. Or maybe we in North Texas simply shouldn’t plant sago palms outdoors in the first place.


(Thanks to Dave for his good spirit and fine sense of humor. Hopefully his sago palm will live to tell the story of all his hard work.)

Posted by Neil Sperry
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