Freeze Damaged Palm Trees
Remedy From Cold Damage

Did you awaken to see freeze damaged palm trees in your yard? Palms snowed in overnight - without warning!

Don't panic! We'll uncover hidden & visible effects of freeze damage on palms. And provide you with tips on what to do. We'll arm you with some good & helpful knowledge to assist your palms. In getting through winter weather.

We live in the Arizona desert - well known for heat. In winter months an overnight cold snap sometimes arrives. With a sudden drop in temps! We've learned a few things about the effects of cold weather on palms. Let's discover leaf surface secrets. Like when you see browning of leaves after cold temperatures!

Young couple mulling over what to do because their palm tree was hit by an unexpected snowstorm.Oh No! Has This Happened to You?

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Signs of a Cold Freeze Damaged Palm Tree

People are tickled to see pictures of Palms in the Snow. Some species can endure a cold winter. But always remember palms truly are tropical trees. They don't like severe freezes!

Well-established palms will have an easier time. But cold-sensitive palms won't. Freeze injury can cause you to see dead fronds on the type of palm tree that can't stand temps in the low 20s. Like coconut palms.

Freeze damage in palm trees shows itself in various ways. Immediate, obvious signs are leaf browning. Some signs aren't immediate or they're subtle.

Older couple concerned with their small palm with frost & topped with snow in their snowy backyard.Oh No! Didn't See the Forecast?
Young Palm Now Subject to Freeze Conditions. Help On the Way! 😊

Steps to Help Diagnose Freeze Damaged Palm Trees

Assessing & determining freeze damage in palm trees is a good idea after a cold snap. To figure out the proper care palms will need.

Unexpected snowstorm in March comes into Tucson area.Unexpected March Snowstorm in the Tucson Arizona Area

When really cold temperatures come in, ask these questions:

  • How long did those low temperatures last? Were there strong winds during the frost/freeze?
  • Has your palm recently had enough water? Normal water scheduling helps.
  • Are any of your plants new palms?

Looking Over Your Tropical Palm Trees for Damage

First look your palm fronds over for the extent of the damage from the leaf temperature dropping. What's obvious is an affected area with dead tissue looking brownish/blackish. Possibly just a portion of a frond. Or maybe fully dead leaves.

Washingtonia robusta is a January freeze damaged palm tree.Yikes!
Fronds With Freeze Damage on this Washingtonia robusta

The Palm Trunk May Show Freeze Damage from Cold Effects

With a long deep freeze, the palm trunk may have dead tissue from excessive frost damage.

  • Reddish, soft, sunken-in splotches.
  • Vertical cracks along the stem.
  • Sometimes an extreme cold damaged palm trunk won't visibly show anything. But it's affected internally.

This can allow fungal or bacterial attack. If that happens, organisms get inside the stem, attacking, & rotting the fluid transport system. Eventually leads to palm fronds wilting. Even death.


There's a difference between Frost Damage, Versus Severe Freezes.

Palm frond frost injury happens with a cold snap on still nights with clear skies. Leaf temperature lowers to around 32oF/0oC.

A hard freeze is when low temperatures dip below 32oF/0oC, with strong winds. Which cools the entire plant. But not all Palm Parts will show freeze injury.

Evaluate areas of your cold damaged palm trees. Frosty cold temperatures or damage from freezing temperatures have similar noticeable symptoms. Depending on the species of palm tree, cold weather tolerance varies. Good idea to know the cold winter temps your palm can tolerate.

Tucson Palm Snowy Story of Winter Cold & it Survived!

Images Credit: Pam S of Tucson AZ


The Most Freeze Endangered in Palm Tree Parts

The base of the spear leaf (newly sprouting palm frond) is vulnerable to freeze injury. Bacteria or fungi could attack.

The most extreme cold weather winter damage sensitive palm tree areas are:

  • Spear leaf base (sheath) of new fronds.
  • Roots, especially tips.
  • New palms, & the young seedlings.
  • Palm flowers & fruits.
  1. (Although rare as their normal growing season is in late spring or early summer.)

Severe freezes can kill the spear leaf base (the sheath). Leading to damage at the heart of the palm, endangering your palm's life. After a few weeks of fungal/bacterial attack, the whole spear portion of a frond easily pulls out.


Least Affected Cold Areas On Different Types Of Palm Trees

When established, younger palm fronds are more hardy to freezing temperatures. Older fronds will suffer freeze damage more easily than established new growth.

  • We've noted dangers to an emerging spear leaf base. Yet other Parts of the Frond can do okay.
  • Leaf stems (petioles & rachis) are cold-hardy.
  • The heart of the palm (apical meristem, bud or central growing point), just below the spear leaf base, is also more cold resistant.


Are you worried about freeze damaged palm trees? At a loss for going forward? You're still not sure about freeze or frost damage.

Why not consult with certified arborists or a palm horticulturist in your area? Those familiar with palms can diagnose the extent of the damage. They'll have a treatment plan to help.

phone screen with website for American Hort for horticultural promotion.

Treating & Repairing Freeze Damaged Palm Trees

Once freeze damage is identified, there are several ways to treat and repair affected palm trees. Please do this soon after extreme cold has ended.

Your Palm Diagnosis Help Action for Deciding on a Remedy

To figure out frost injury or extreme cold trauma to your palm, look at older fronds. The lower palm fronds. Do they have brownish discoloring? Even if some green portion remains. Uppermost younger leaves can seem fine.


  • Evaluate the affected area. If normal sections exist, don't immediately remove the leaf, or portion of a frond.
  • Keep dead fronds to provide insulation. Protecting the palm heart from strong winds & exposure.
  1. Leave them through the winter months. Even through late spring.
close up of palm fronds cut near the trunkShould These Fronds Have Been Cut??

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Help Check for Palm Tree New Fronds
and Any Leaf Spears

If the newly sprouting spear leaf base pulled out easily for you, the sheath was damaged. Now...

  • Puncture and/or split the sheath collar that's left above the palm heart. That prevents water pooling above the growing point.
  • Soon after that, treat the area with Copper Fungicide (follow directions exactly). It also protects from harmful bacteria.
  1. Repeat application in 7-10 days.

Enlist The Help Of Your Palm Tree Fronds That Survived

Look around the entire crown. Hopefully you'll see fully or mostly healthy leaves. You'll use them to help the entire palm.

  • Foliar Application of soluble micronutrients may be useful. This is one time we'd recommend a spray Mix Suitable for Palms. Apply to undamaged leaves & any newly emerging fronds. Absorption will be minimal. Still better than nothing!
  1. Use monthly until new normal growth is in full palmy flow!

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Impact of Freeze Damage on Palm Tree Health

Truly Tropical palms can be damaged even when cold weather temps are above freezing. Has your palm gradually gotten used to a cold winter? Or was there a sudden overnight drastic cold snap with a low temperature? That's when your palm is more in danger.

Just like people get accustomed to our normal weather - palms do the same. We'd be colder when visiting a frigid climate. Or when unusual freezing temperatures arrive.

The same with palms. Who suffer with a sudden drop into lower temperatures.

Later Effects in Freeze Damaged Palm Trees

The effects of freeze damage on palm tree health go beyond those first visible signs. When a palm tree is exposed to freezing temperatures, its immunity is weakened. Making it more susceptible to Palm Problems.

  • Palm health might unexpectedly suffer down the road.
  • Did freeze damage impact the roots? Leading to problems getting proper water & nutrients.

When new leaves start growing they may look odd! When developing during freezes, growth resources were lacking. Leaf blades can be abnormally short. Even with dead tissue (necrotic) areas.

Happily, with time, the emerging spear leaf will produce normal palm fronds again.

Protect & Save Palm Trees From Winter Freeze Damage

When a hard freeze strikes, are you prepared to shelter your palm? Certain Types of Palms need protection.

Know the toleration for cold temperatures that your Species of Palm Tree can endure. Continue watching your weather forecasts during cold winters.

1st Step: How to Plan Ahead to Protect Palm Tree Purchases

As the saying goes, "Prevention is Better Than Cure." Thinking ahead when you first plan to Purchase Your Palm is a good thing.

Your tips for winter weather injury prevention:

  • Choose a palm that's best for Your Own Growing Zone. The principle of planting the right palm in the right place.
  • Consider Landscape Planning to situate your palm to protect from strong winds. Overall, look for the best cold-hardy species for your area.
  1. A few to review are Windmill Palms, the Pindo Palm & a Cabbage Palm.

2nd Step: Prepare Palms for any Possible Freeze Damage

Weather forecast calling for major cold snap? Help your palm tree in winter months. By preventing frost/freeze damage. Prevention Tips:

  • Be sure it's had proper fertilizing. With all needed nutrients on board, palms are better resistant to frost damage.
  1. Best is Palm Specific Fertilizer. With proper proportions of nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium-magnesium (As close as possible to: 8-2-12 ratio, Like This One>), plus added micronutrients. 
  2. Water soluble in sulfate form is ideal. Or controlled release, for effective absorption.
  • Protect the palm from winter damage with an "overcoat" - just like you'd do if you go out in frosty weather!
  1. Use a Canvas or Fabric Cover or a Plant Blanket.

Takeaways for Freeze Damaged Palm Trees

Freeze damage can have significant effects on the health and beauty of palm trees. From browning leaves to weakened immunity, to eventual stunted growth. The impact can be far-reaching.

Regular maintenance & proper care help vitalize palm resistance to a sudden drop to low temperatures. Preventive measures are best. With the right care & proactive attention, you'll be good to go.

We hope we've armed you in protecting your palm trees from freeze damage. Plus learning to assess & treat any freeze damaged palm trees. 

When in doubt, don't hesitate to consult with "tree doctors." 

And remember, a palm can bring tropical beauty to surprisingly chilly climates.

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