Readers with gardening questions can now get the answers they are seeking. On a regular basis, Leon Macha, the Practical Southern Gardener, will select from the submitted questions and provide answers and advice. This week, he replies to a question from Shebra Adler of El Campo.

Q: My Queen Palms that looked like they had survived the winter are beginning to die. One trunk broke off near the top. The other was green, but now is turning brown. What palms can I use that are more winter durable?

A: Your question is common at this time of year following the cold winter. Queen Palms (a popular tropical accent) are a high risk bet in our climate. Even when a Queen Palm survives a hard freeze, there is a high likelihood that the bud and trunk suffers lasting damage. The buds that start to grow and then fizzle in 100+ degree temperatures are likely the result of the past winter’s freezes. The breaking trunk is the result of cold winters likely dating back several years. Last year I detected a rotted palm trunk that could be traced back to a freeze 8 to 10 years earlier.

If you have surviving Queen Palms, beware. You could have a safety hazard on your hands, and working to detect damaged trunk tissue is a dangerous task for the homeowner. Watch for and probe into cracks in the trunk. Watch for fungal conks (shelf fungi) on the trunk. Watch for ants traveling up the trunk. ‘Sound’ the trunk with the tapping of a mallet, listening for rotted areas. If you suspect problems, call your tree service for diagnostic help.

Need winter hardy replacements? Consider........

• Sabal Palms - ‘Texas’, ‘Mexican’ and ‘Florida’ are all highly durable in cold Texas winters. Smooth leaf stems.

• Dwarf Sabal Palms - These are the native Palmettos that grow in river bottoms. No trunk. Only foliage.

• California Fan Palm - Much more cold hardy than the weedy Mexican Fan Palms that died in 1983 and 1989. Leaf stem has sharp barbs. Avoid Mexican Fan Palms.

• Mediterranean Fan Palm - Multi-trunk, hardy, more dwarf than tree form palms.

• Pindo Palm, Needle Palm, Windmill Palm, etc. - Good hardy palms, but more difficult to find and more expensive.

Don’t fall for the promotion of ‘Piru’ Queen Palms as being significantly more winter hardy. Each seedling stands on its own genetics and true cold hardiness claims cannot be counted on. I have seen ‘Piru’ die along with the surrounding Queens.

Got a questions? They can be submitted via regular mail to Attn: Garden Forum, El Campo Leader-News, P.O. Box 1180, El Campo, TX 77437 or by email to lifestyle@leader-news.com. Letters must also be signed in order to be published.

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