Brrrrr… it’s mighty cold these mornings. I woke up to 30° this morning! That’s cold for around here. Now, I know we’re not Michigan or North Dakota where it gets 20 below, but we like our mild temperatures around here and for the Pacific Northwest, if we see frost, that’s cold.

I’ve had a few calls lately about palm trees and lemon or lime trees that were left outside in their pots overnight and now they face the dreaded wilting frost. While some palms, like the Wind Palm, can withstand colder temperatures, trees like avocado, lemon, lime, mango, and papaya just can’t take it. So what can you do if you accidentally left your potted tropical tree out in the cold night air?

It’s not necessarily the freezing, but the warming up that damages the tree. Water gets sucked up the trunk but this cold water has very little oxygen but when the water freezes and condenses it will create air pockets and when it warms back up those air pockets will break the suction and rush back out of the trunk making the limbs and branches limp and lifeless.

Oh No! I Left My Palm or Lemon Tree Out in the Frost!

Here’s how to recover a frozen tropical tree:

  • Whitewash the trunk to immediately reflect any available sunlight. Cover the trunk with white latex paint from the roots to 1-foot below the lowest branch with a soft-bristled brush.
  • Don’t prune any limbs in the winter. Wait until Spring when the fruit wants to start coming on.
  • Feed the tree with a 10-15-15 ratio (depending on the fruit) when daytime temperatures reach over 60°.
  • Prune dead branches that produce so leaves or appear brittle and dead.
  • Thin the fruit in the spring so the tree doesn’t have to work so hard.

You may or may not be able to save it but the sooner you get it warmed up the better. Bring it inside or at least in the garage and get it warm with the sunlight on it.

If you have trees that are permanently in the ground, cover them with a plastic sheeting and tie around the base to keep as much warm air in the sack as possible. This will also prevent against colder wind chills.

If you have more questions on trees during the winter or you have some dead limbs and trees that need to be removed immediately, contact us today!