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Phoenix Roebelenii Survial Story

Hello all. I have not posted here for almost a year and a half or so. For those that remember the me hello again, I've missed y'all!! For those who are new since my last posing, hello! Anyway for those that remember when I used to live in Old Town Alexandria near the Potomac River you'll remember I had several palm trees, tropicals, bananas...etc. 2 of which were these, Phoenix Roebelenii (Pigmy Date Palm). One was 7 feet tall, and this one when I purchased for 8 bucks at a grocery store in 2009. Itwas about 2 feet tall with about 6-10" of clear trunk back then. When we moved to Purcellville VA in Western Loudoun County (in the Blue Ridge Mountains this one and the 7 foot one were outside until early December. Normally this was fine for them, but it being colder than where we had come from here, and an excessive cold snap it was not. (They can handle freezing temps for short periods). We moved from what was a zone 8a, or extremely warm zone 7b, to a zone 6b, with an elevation of 600+ feet above sea level at our home. Slightly cooler climate, with much more snow in winter, and lower temps during cold snaps, and for longer durations. However, this cold snap getting as cold as it did was unexpected.

Anyway we were hit with an unexpected hard freeze where the temps went down into the mid teens over night. I forgot to bring them in and they were fully exposed for the full night. Temps bottomed out at 14F with heavy frost. The next day I brought them both into the house. They both had the foliage dry up and die within a few days. The central spear rotted and pulled out with a gentle tug on both and I thought all was lost as that usually spells certain death for most palms. I placed them both in the basement and forgot about them for the entire winter. Not a lot of light and no water.

One day in late April 2012 I was in the basement looking for something and noticed this one looked different. I examined it and to my surprise there was new growth coming from the central growing point. I immediately pulled it out of the basement and outside and took this photo. I removed all of the dead leaves and began to care for it again. At first just very tiny rudimentary leaves which were severely damaged pushed out, but, it was in deed growing again. I thought that perhaps maybe I just might have a remarkable survivor on my hands. Below is the photo of what it looked like when I pulled it out of the basement, before I removed all of the leaves with the exception of the tiny green shoots coming out of the central growing tip.

Over the spring, summer and fall of 2012 I left this palm outdoors but closely monitored it and cared for it. Repotting it, feeding it regularly. It responded by pushing the damaged new leaves out and began producing moderate sized leaves but still smaller than normal. By the time November came around I brought it inside and continued to care for it. The already slow growth slowed more but did not stop completely. In April of this year (2013) I placed it back outdoors, again repotting it and feeding it. As you can see not only has it fully recovered, but it is growing normally and producing almost normal sized fronds and is looking fantastic! It now stands at 4+ feet tall with about 3.5 feet of clear truck. Amazing to me that with all of the hardship this living thing went through that it survived and is now just about back to normal and in very good health. I'm so glad that I notice this one trying hard not to die in the basement after I thought it was lost as it was one of my favorites. If eventually this tree does survive long enough and gets too big for winters indoors in a house (and I'm not living in a warmer climate or have a greenhouse) that I will donate it along with its story to a conservatory , or a botanic garden in a place where it can thrive outdoors for the remainder is its life Below is a photo I took of it yesterday evening.

Sadly, my large 7 foot P. Roebelenii which I had for 3 years, and got to bloom twice in that time, did not make it.
However, I did find another one that is about 3 feet tall with 1 foot of clear trunk. It was on sale at a roadside nursery in D.C. last spring, and this year it is about to bloom.

Side note: My T. Fortunei survived this cold snap, and entire winter, largely unscathed and has remained outdoors, in a pot in our 2 winters in this colder zone. It has only suffered minor burns on leaf tips on older leaves.

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