Freeze Damaged Palm Trees

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

Don't panic, because help is at hand! We'll uncover hidden & visible effects of freeze damage on palms. And provide you with tips on what to do.

Reviving freeze damaged palm trees can be a daunting task. But now you'll be armed with some good & helpful knowledge to assist your palms. In getting through this distress.

We live in the Arizona desert - well known for heat. But we have our own sorts of seasons. In the winter there are times, especially overnight, that temps get scary low! We've learned a few things about the effects of cold weather on palms So let's dive in and discover these secrets!

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

Signs of Freeze Damage in Palm Trees

People are tickled to see pictures of Palm Trees in the Snow. Some species can endure that. But always remember palms truly are tropical trees. They really don't like frosty weather!

Freeze damage in palm trees shows itself in various ways. Immediate, obvious signs are browning and/or discoloration of the leaves. Some signs aren't immediate or they're subtle.

In severe cases, the trunk is attacked, which may or may not be noticed. But eventually the palm fronds wilt. Down the road, the palm can even die.

From proper pruning actions to nourishing to providing adequate insulation, we've got you covered!

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 Assess & Diagnose Freeze Damaged Palm Trees

Assessing & determining freeze damage in palm trees is something you'd want to do when the temps suddenly drop. That helps to figure out the action to take.

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

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When temps dip, these details relate to freeze damaged palm trees occurrences:

  • How long those low temps last. Was it windy during the frost/freeze?
  • Has it gotten recent watering?
  • Was there a chance for cold-conditioning?


First step is looking your palm over for visible signs of damage. What's obvious will be leaf blotching with brownish/blackish coloring.

Is There Hope for this poor Mexican Fan Palm? Keep reading on & you'll discover how to determine that.

With lengthy temperature drop, the trunk may also show effects.

  • Reddish, soft, sunken-in splotches.
  • Verticle cracks along the stem.
  • Yet sometimes freeze damaged palm trees don't visibly show anything. But internally it's affected.

These dangers can allow fungal or bacterial attack. If that happens, organisms get inside the stem, rotting the fluid transport system. Or attack lignum. Eventually leads to leaf wilt, then lastly: death.


There's a difference in how your palm reacts to Frost, Versus Hard Freezes.

Palm frond "frosting" happens when lower temps come in on still nights with clear skies. Leaves can easily lose heat. Temps on fronds lower to around 32oF/0oC. Even if air temperature is a bit higher.

Hard freezes are when temps dip below 32oF/0oC, with windy conditions. Subjecting palms to surface temps dipping <32/0. Breezes cool the entire plant, but not all Palm Parts will suffer the same.

With freeze damaged palm trees, assess areas. Cold frost or freezing temperatures can bring similar noticeable symptoms. But dependent on Palm Species, freeze damaged palm trees are effected at varying temps.

Tucson Palm Snowy Story

Images Credit: Pam S of Tucson AZ



The base of the newly sprouting palm leaf is vulnerable to cold. Below freezing temps can kill that area.

  • If bacteria & fungi were around the sheath, they're ready to attack its weakened state.
  • After a few weeks of fungal/bacterial attack, the whole spear easily pulls out. You'll note the base is spongy & smells bad.
  • Some say if this happens, bacteria/fungi can invade into the meristem. Not Good!


Palm flowers cannot take freezes. Same for when they've produced fruits. These are the most sensitive areas. Experiments show roots (especially tips), flowers & a new frond spear's sheath are most sensitive.

Roots are also not very hardy to extreme cold. Neither are seedlings.


The younger the frond, the more hardy to freezing temps. Older fronds will suffer freeze damage most easily.

  • Even as we've noted the danger to a spear's base, the other Parts of the Frond can do okay.
  • Leaf petioles & rachis are cold-hardy.
  • The palm heart (meristem or bud), just below the spear leaf base, is also cold hardy.


Are you worried about the freeze damaged palm trees in your care? So much so, that you're still not sure about the situation.

Should you consult with a professional certified arborist or horticulturist? Those familiar with palms can help accurately diagnose the extent of the freeze damage. They'll present a treatment plan for you to consider.

phone screen with website for American Hort for horticultural promotion.

Treating & Repairing Freeze Damaged Palm Trees

Once freeze damage has been identified, there are several techniques to treat and repair the affected palm trees. Please do this soon after freezing/frosting has ceased.


With frost injury to your palm, you'll note damage to older fronds. They're lower in the palm's crown. While younger leaves near the top, seem okay.

These damaged leaves shouldn't be immediately removed, as long as normal areas exist. Their surface still protects the palm heart from searing winds & exposure. It gives the palm insulation. Leave them as long as possible, through colder weather.

close up of palm fronds cut near the trunkShould These Fronds Have Been Cut??

Even leaves appearing fully necrotic/dead because they're totally discolored should probably be left. At least until the danger of frost is gone. They'll still provide bud protective insulation.

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

  • Puncture and/or split the sheath collar that's left above the meristem. To avoid water pooling above the heart.
  • Soon after that, treat the area with a Copper Fungicide (follow directions exactly). It also protects from bacterial infection.
  1. Repeat application in 7-10 days.


Examine the entire crown. Hopefully there are still fully or mostly healthy older leaves. It's time to get them enrolled in helping the entire palm.

  • Foliar Application of soluble micronutrients may be useful. A Mix Suitable for Palms. Apply to undamaged leaves & any newly emerging fronds. Sufficient uptake will be difficult.
  1. Do this monthly until new normal growth is in full palmy flow! 
  • Then apply palm fertilizer to help replenish nutrients likely depleted due to freeze damage.
Palm Specific Foliar Usage


We're providing advice using our own knowledge, along with palm experts input. But we're not doing one-on-one with you and your palm!

So we'd advise using professional services for help. With treatment of freeze damaged palm trees. Be sure they're a certified arborist or horticulturist. Particularly with palm experience.

These experts have the knowledge & experience to assess the extent of the damage. They'll develop a tailored palm treatment plan to restore tropics-like health & beauty.

Impact of Freeze Damage on Palm Health

Tropical palms can be damaged when temps are above freezing. Sometimes even up to 50oF/10oC. What's important to note is: Has the palm gotten gradual cold acclimation? Or was there a drastic drop in temperature overnight? That's when your palm is more in danger.

Just like people get accustomed to normal climactic changes where we live - Palms do the same. We'll be more chilled in colder climates than we're used to. Much moreso than people who live there all the time.

The same way with palms, who will suffer with a sudden, large drop into colder degrees.


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

  • Fungi & bacteria can invade via the trunk. Further compromising the palm's health down the road.
  • Did freeze damage impact the root system? The palm will have problems getting adequate water & nutrients. Leading to deficiencies & poor overall health.
This Is THE BEST Palm Fungicide

Back to Normal?

When new leaves resume normally growing - they may not look normal! While developing during freezes they lacked resources to fully form. They'll often have cropped leaf blades. Sometimes with necrotic areas.

Happily, with time, growing frond spears will be normal again.

Protect Palm Trees From Freeze Damage

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

Know the temperature toleration for your Species of Palm Tree. Continue watching your weather forecasts during cold winters.


As the saying goes, "Prevention is Better Than Cure." Also the principle of planting the right palm in the right place. Thinking ahead when you first plan to Purchase Your Palm is a good method. Your tips for palm injury prevention planning:

  • Choose a palm that's best for your own climate, Your Own Growing Zone.
  • Overall, look for the best cold-hardy palm for your area.
  • Think of your Landscape Planning. Plant your palm for protection from prevailing winds. Use the harbor of buildings or other plants.


Weather forecast calling for major dip in temps? Be prepared to help your palm tree at frosty times. By preventing frost/freeze damage. Tips for that:

  • Be sure it's had proper nutrition with fertilization planning. 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. Controlled release, for effective absorption.


  • Protect the palm with a cold weather "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 make strong palms that resist cold temperature dips. Preventive measures, such as choosing cold-hardy species & getting them cold insulation are important. All keys to preserving beauty & health of palms in freezing

We hope we've armed you with helpful knowledge & tips. To protect your palm trees from freeze damage. And effectively assess & treat your freeze damaged palm trees. 

Have you considered needing professional services for treating & restoring freeze-damaged palm trees? When in doubt, don't hesitate to consult with pros. 

Remember, with the right care & proactive attention, you'll be good to go. Your palms can thrive & bring tropical beauty to surprisingly chilly climates. So take action and give your freeze-damaged palm trees the treatment they deserve!

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