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PLANT CARE INFORMATION

PLANT CARE INFORMATION

RECEIVING YOUR PLANTS:

We endeavor to select  healthy plants, and pack them for shipment in such a way that they will arrive in the best condition. They have been well watered and sealed prior to shipment.  Plants have been treated with a required pesticide to prevent the spread of pathogens and insects. Wash your hands after finishing re-potting or planting of any nursery grown plants. When you un -pack your plants, carefully remove the wrapping paper and the poly-bags and tape so that your plants can get fresh air and good drainage immediately. Make sure that the drain holes in the container are not blocked. Check the soil in the container for adequate dampness. If they are on the dry side, water them well as soon as you get them. It is best not to pour the water over the top of the plant, but rather to place the water at the base of the plant. Water the plant until water flows from the drain holes. Wait until water has finished running out and soaking in good, put a little more water in so that adequate hydration has been achieved. Water your plants well, but not so well that the soil is not allowed to breathe. Too wet is not good. Too dry is not good. Moisture can be checked with a meter obtained from your local garden center. Some gardeners use the "finger test" by inserting a finger in the soil up to the second joint. If it is cool and moist, great. If it feels too dry and crumbly, likely the plant is thirsty or dehydrated. It should never feel wet with water oozing out and the soil in a mud condition between waterings.

SUN OR SHADE?

Do not place your plants in the direct sun for a week or two. Let them have morning sun for awhile, then if they are of the sun loving type, move them into the full sun after the adjustment period.

PLANTING YOUR PALMS IN THE GARDEN:

If you live in an area with good, organic, well drained soil, you are truly blessed! However, many of us have clay soils, or other similarly difficult soils to deal with when planting in our gardens. Along with proper planting spots (siting), the initial planting is equally important. Check with your county extension agent about a soil test to check your garden's PH level, which should not be above 7.0. The agent can also tell you about what additives your soil should need for proper nutrition 

When planting,  I advise to never break the root ball on a container grown palm. Many species of palms cannot produce new roots at the cut or break. They must re-generate a new replacement root from the  base of the stem or trunk. So, be careful with handling when the palm is removed from the pot. Also, many palms cannot stand long drying of the roots surrounding the ball, so don't let them sit exposed to air and sun. Remove the pot gently, by either cutting down the side (be careful not to cut the roots wrapping close to the sides) or by sliding the pot off while the palm is lying on the side.

Prepare the planting site by first digging the whole 3 times as wide as the rootball if you can, and at least 1-1\2 times as deep. Have a good soil mix available such as a commercially bagged potting mix (not bagged topsoil) that is a well blended mix of peat moss, and aggregates. Miracle Gro makes a good housplant potting mix, as do several other companies available at garden centers and home improvement stores. Add the mix equally to the soil you removed from the hole. If you want to, you can add some well aged cow manure to the mix. Never add synthetic fertilizers to the mix you are putting in the hole. Use these later on top as a top dressing. When you plant the palm, place enough soil mix in the bottom of the hole  and pack it a little so that the palm is sitting level with original soil level around the base of the palm and the top of the hole. Do not elevate the palm above the level of the ground. fill the sides in around the root ball, and water in and gently pack the soil around the root ball. the palm will sink just a little in the hole, but we want the base line of  the palm just a little below in colder climates. This will protect the new roots emerging from the base of the palm so that they do not get dried out as soon as they emerge. Now add a 1 inch deep layer of pine straw or other straw mulch around the top of the disturbed earth at the base of the palm. This will keep the loosened soil from evaporating too much moisture. Soil should be kept moist, not wet. 

All the above will work for most moisture-loving palms. what about the desert or drier climate palms? They hate to be planted in heavy, clay, wet, slow draining, cold soils. So, I recommend that these palms be planted in raised, stabilized mounded sites with well-drained soils, planted a little deeper.

WHEN TO PLANT OUT:

Planting subtropicals outside in the spring period right after last frost is best. After that period, the soils begin to heat up, and the plants can soon establish themselves in the best conditions. Most like long, warm, humid summers to get a good start. Protecting these plants during th first few years with a cover of mulch, or other type protection during the colder winter months is best. Size does matter. We recommend that you plant nothing out in a colder zone until it is at least well rooted into a 3 to 7 gallon container. The larger the better. The first few years outside are the most critical. A small plant has a shallower root system, therefore closer to the surface and freezing temperatures. We never recommend planting out anything in a one gallon size. Unless it is a warmer climate, these must be grown on into the larger sizes mentioned above before setting out. A small green house or cold frame, or even housing them in the garage near a light source would be better during the wintertime. There are many methods for winter protection and proper siting . An excellent book to obtain is: PALMS WON'T GROW HERE, AND OTHER MYTHS  warm-climate plants for cooler areas, by Dr. David A. Francko, Timber Press 2003. This book is full of useful information for gardening with these plants.

  ABOUT WINTER HARDINESS:

We try to be conservative in our cold hardy ratings listed here with these plants. The temperatures listed are taken from reports from nurseries,  amateur and professional experimenters willing to push the limits, and many from our own experiences with the plants. These ratings are for some of the lowest temps that these plants have been able to survive with minimal or no protection. Usually, these are brief  periods at these extremes, with mature, or established plants. One should never leave a small plant or un-established plant to experience the full brunt of winter, without protection for the first few winters until the plants have rooted in, and are healthy. Some extreme climates will require that these hardy subtropicals be protected by some method EVERY winter.

As mentioned above, siting can be very important to the health and survival of your palms. In the Southeast U.S.A., many cold-hardy palms are tolerant of the normal winter weather there. However, some winters are atypical, so the best locations for planting many species will matter over the years. It is best to plant them in areas that are protected from winter winds. Depending on your area of the country, this usually means shelter from the north or northwest. If you site your plantings on the south side of a structure or evergreen hedges, etc, the plants will receive the longest day possible, and most of the heat of the day. This increases the soil temperature there as well. Many gardeners have placed their plants near a south-facing stone or masonry wall, or fence, which absorbs heat during the day, and transpires it to the plants during the night. One  other solution some use is a large decorative landscape boulder, or man-made stone "hill".  An ideal situation for many has been to site the plants along the south wall of a building, which usually creates a micro-climate that keeps the ground from freezing around the palms.

We have covered proper siting. Winter freezes are different in other areas of the country. Probably the most common damaging type of freeze is the sudden cold snap with strong, drying winds, followed by a warmer period and rain. In this situation, the palm can be damaged by the freezing winds, then the water causes fungi to grow on the damaged tissues within the growing point of the bud.  If your palm is exposed to outside weather, and you know that the freeze is on it's way, the quickest way to minimize damage is to cover it . Use a basket or box and cover with a blanket or tarp. If you want to, you can even add a light bulb beneath the structure. Just watch that whatever source of extra heat you want to use does not contact your cover or the leaves of your palm. You might wake up to a bonfire or the ashes of a palm cremation! Don't leave the cover on for more than a week at a time. The palm would like some fresh air and sunlight when the weather breaks. another method available is to cover the plants if small enough with a mound of straw mulch and leaves. I used bales of hay which I kept handy near the special plants during the winter, and covered them from the freezing rain, and the bales kept the wind out as well. A wire cage filled with straw and leaves and covered with a tarp is another way. When doing this, I always left the leaves of the taller ones above the mulch  for sun penetration and fresh air, and put a load on top during the freezes, removing the covering of straw from the top after the wet and excess cold were past. Leaving the mulch around the bud and upper leaves can cause fungal infection. I used a removable cover to keep the wet from collecting in the crown of the palms. Another method has been to use holiday mini-lites, (size c-10) wrapped around the trunk and covered with the tarp. Never use the large, hot holiday lites, as these can scorch the tree, or worse, set fire to palm and cover.  Taller trunked palms if planted in the ground can be wrapped with burlap or blankets. You can use mini-lites under the cover in extreme weather with success. If you can, remove the covering after the worst has past. There have been gardeners that have made large mulch cages with removable waterproof covers for their windmill palms, pindos, cabbage palmettos, etc. in very cold climates, i.e. zone 5 , 6, and 7. These stay covered most of the winter, and are opened at the top only during milder weather. This method has been used in Europe with good results for years.

 

DAMAGE CONTROL:

In the event of a severe cold spell, you may want to do some sort preventive damage control. If you have gotten a good amount of foliar damage, and are concerned about the health of the bud and bud -rot (can result in the death of the palm), pour in about a few oz.s of household hydrogen peroxide into the crown around the bud. If it bubbles up, chances are you have an infection there. pour more in until the bubbling and fizzing stops. Fungicides many of us use as a pre-freeze protection are Daconil, agricultural copper drenches, and bordeaux mix  (made with a slurry of sevin and coppers). The coppers mix can be used before or after the peroxide treatment, or in lieu of it.

 

INSECT CONTROL:

Palms have very few serious pests.The most commonly encountered pests include grasshoppers, caterpillars, scale, and spider mites. Grasshoppers and caterpillars can be controlled either with a light dusting of Sevin powder on the affected leaves, and in the case of caterpillar attack, there are some bacterial preparations which will do the trick. The preceding pests have chewing mouthparts, so ingesting a poison, or a contact spray is often needed. In the case of scale and spider mites, these have piercing-sucking mouthparts. If it is a small infestation, they can often be removed by a soapy rinse of a NON-BACTERIAL soap such as palmolive or dawn. Bacterial dish soaps can often cause harm or death to a palm. Safers Soap is a good insecticidal soap too for these pests. You can also apply a light horticultural oil spray in the spring or fall. Never use in freezing weather or hot weather.

PRUNING PALMS:

Palms grow from a central point called a bud. Never cut the growing tip or bud. Palms cannot regenerate new growth on a stem where the terminal bud is removed.  About the only pruning you should do to a palm is to remove the brown, dead leaves. Palms which undergo radical leaf pruning of green leaves eventually end up with a spindly unhealthy trunk which dwindles in size to the top. Like deciduous trees, palms re-absorb most of the nutrients in the leaves before turning brown. It is best to leave them on until they turn brown.. 

WATERING PALMS:

Although it is thought that all palms come from a tropical region of high rain-fall, this is not the case. Watering  methods during the growing season when temperatures are above 60 degrees F., or in the late spring or summer in most places in the U.S. is important to the overall health of the palms. In many areas with heavy overlying clay-type soils, such as the deep south region, summer sun can dry out the upper 1 to 3 ft of soil over protracted periods with little or no rainfall. I have excavated down near the base of my wilting palms, ( these were trunked specimens) and found that the soil below near the roots was powder dry, while the upper portions were moist from prior waterings. The water would move along the surface without penetrating to the areas below.

 Irrigation around palms and other moisture dependent plants can be effective by inserting a 1 inch diameter pvc pipe near the planting circle of the tree. Note!! Not so close to the base as to slice roots coming off the plant or tree. I inserted my pipes about  16 inches away or a little more from my palmetto trunks, and pushed them down about 18 to 24 inches, pulled them out, cleaned the soil impacted inside the pipe, and pushed them down again. Now, when you water them, push your hose pipe or garden hose down into the pipe and this will get the water down below  to the root zone.

Watering overhead on such species as Brahea, Chamaerops, Nannorhops, Trachycarpus, Trithrinax, and Washingtonia often can cause bud rot. This condition can be avoided by watering the palms at the base. Rainwater is O.K.  Moisture loving palms like Rhapidophyllum, Sabal minor, and Sabal palmetto, thrive in our wet conditions of the southeast, so watering overhead sometimes during summer heat is o.k.

If your palms are located in an area where water will pool, or very heavy clays are common, installing drain tiles away from the palm is beneficial. Moist is good; puddle, packed mud is oxygen deprivation and death.

 

NEOTROPIC NURSERY

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SPECIALIZING IN PALMS

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