Even though the state tree of Florida is the Cabbage Palm, palms are not in fact trees – they are classed in the same family as grasses. So unlike trees, palms don’t have the same ability to protect and heal themselves. The only living part of a palm is right where you see growth and palm tree “trunks” are really just a woody husk.
Palm trees can be a real tropical exclamation point in your landscape, however locally we often receive one or two cold snaps that can weaken or kill many of the palms commonly available for landscaping. IFAS has created a good paper of identifying cold damage and how to respond to it. You can read it here: Cold Damage on Palms. If you want to use palms and are looking for varieties that tolerate cold the best, check out this link on the Top 10 Cold Hardy Palms. The list doesn’t include the really nice Canary Date Palm, which can tolerate similar temperatures, however unfortunately doesn’t like to fruit in our humid climate. A very noteworthy addition is the Needle Palm, which can take sub-zero temps. It’s a Florida native and sadly classed as Endangered due to commercial exploitation, so it can be hard to find for sale now. You can also find some tips on protecting and acclimatizing your palms at this link.
While we are speaking about palms in the winter, everyone should know something important about palms in the summer. The classic “Hurricane Haircut” that you’ll see appear across the state as hurricane season approaches, is very unhealthy for palms. Removing lower yellow and green fronds cuts off the plant’s ability to feed itself, protect itself, and actually makes it more vulnerable to high winds. The lower fronds also help protect it from cold when winter rolls around. Brown fronds can be removed, but are very light, making them very low risk for causing damage. Those same dead fronds and old berries, make excellent wildlife habitat, providing food and nest sites. So, think twice before you spend money to have a perfectly good part of your palm removed.