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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Monday - February 01, 2010

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Non-Natives
Title: Frost damage to Mexican palm and non-native Sago palm in Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I have frost damage to the leaves on my mexican palm tree which is about 12 feet high. Can I cut back all of the damaged leaves and what month? Also, Sago palms have some frost damage on the upper most leaves. Do I cut back just the damaged portion and what month?

ANSWER:

Sabal mexicana (Rio Grande palmetto) is native to Texas, mostly to areas along the southern coast and the Rio Grande. It is hardy in USDA Hardiness Zones 8 to 11, and can tolerate temperatures down to 12 deg F with little or no leaf damage. Austin is in Zone 8a, but the whole country has had most unusual cold weather recently.

The Lady Bird Johnston Wildflower Center is committed to the care, protection and propagation of plants native not only to North America but to the area where they are being grown. Cycas revoluta,  Sago Palm, is a subtropical, native to the southernmost islands of Japan, an area of high rainfall and warm temperatures. The Sago Palm (not really a palm, but a cycad) is hardy from USDA Hardiness Zones 8 to 10. Here is an article from Floridata that might give you some clues on what to do about the yellowing branches. Please note this article's warning about the toxicity of the entire plant. 

In both cases, we feel the plants are safe, and the damaged leaves can be trimmed away any time. Right now, while most plants are somewhat dormant, would be a good time to tidy them up. 

Pictures of Sago Palm from Google

From our Native Plant Image Gallery:


Sabal mexicana

Sabal mexicana

 

 

 

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