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richard852

Royal Palms in Houston?

richard852
16 years ago

Hello all,

I just got back from a business trip to Miami Beach and stayed at the Royal Palm Hotel. As you can imagine, there were quite a few Cuban Royal palms on the grounds. Other than in pictures, this is the first time I've seen mature royals. They were really cool looking palms. I have never seen one here in the Houston area, is that for a reason? These were definately Roystonea regias, which I read is cold hardy to about 28 degrees. Where I live south of Houston near Galveston, it rarely, if ever, gets that cold. Just wondering as I would like to try and find some of these guys.

Thanks

Richard

Comments (32)

  • galveston1602
    16 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    there are quite a few royals in galveston, I know of no living (longer term) royals anywhere north of the 146 cutoff on I45. moody gardens in galveston has some nice royals that are 40 or 50' tall they are probably the nicest ones youll see anywhere in this part of texas.

    as for the temps and royals handling them, I think youd be surprised how often south of houston hits low temps below freezing, its happens at least every year and that type of temp is tough on royals especially if its repetetive, what ive realised is its not as much about the absolute lows as it is about how long the temperatures stay relatively low. take the current cold were seeing, its 38 degrees at my house on the island, if I can make it through tonight without getting to 32 (they say 35) Ill be good for the next week without a day forecasted below 43 while 4 out of the next 5 days are forecasted with a low in the 30's for league city... even though the absolute low will not be any where near 28 for either place, one is definetly more hospitable to royals.

    oh yeah, i forgot to mention that the 89 type freezes (14 degrees here) will kill royals dead!! which is why you dont see any mature specimens, try as we might, ma nature always gets her way!!!

  • richard852
    Original Author
    16 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Okay, so maybe the royals won't work (as tempting as it is, I'll stay away from them I guess!). But today I was at the Houston Palm Center at Nasa Rd 1 and I saw a bunch of coconut palms for $35. They were about 18" - 24" tall. They said they are cold hardy to zone 8 and 9. My internet research shows cold hardy to about 40? They were labeled cocos nucifera. Is this a sales gimmick or possibly some sort of hybrid?

    Thanks,
    Richard

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  • andyandy
    16 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Richard-
    Coconuts are a solid zone 10 (10B to be safe). Any temperatures in the 30s would do those in. In fact coconuts in a sustained average low-mid 60s would be in trouble. Coconuts in your area would not make it unless you potted them and brought them inside for the winter or built a heated structure around them. Even then eventually they would become too big for anything you built.

  • galveston1602
    16 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    the cocos at hpt are merely for kicks.

    you could buy 1 and try it indoors...

    I have a single coco thats about to bite the dust but mines not dying from the cold, its dying from dessication from our freakin 60 mph winds about 3 weeks ago while I was in seattle for a week and couldnt water it..... I will grow a coco to at least 15' in galveston if its the last thing I do!! I didnt say it would be this year did i :)

    andy, I think the load of floridians growing them successfully in 9b-10a would disagree. I dont think that they are quite as subtropical as we give them credit for. I think the key is they cant have more than a day or 2 below 40 at a time without a good warming period.

    Richard,
    If your looking for something different for up your way look at hgc in the spring and buy a couple of the bangalows (kings) A. cunninghamina (sp?) they normaly have for 25$ (they usually have loads of em at 50% off)
    another good looking tropical type palm that would work well is the mule palm, a cross of pindo and queen. S. sancona can be found sometimes at HGC so that could be an option for something pretty rare. also, HD always has foxtails and bizmarks and if they croak the 1st year you can get your $$ back!

  • andyandy
    16 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Galveston-
    I am finding that more than an occasional sub 40 night what kills them is sustained sub 70 temperatures. I moved mine back inside in late September. I have kept the house at 67 for the most part. On overcast days that is the high and low temperature. On Sunny days (of witch we've had a lot lately) the high around the cocos can get to about 72-73. This and direct afternoon sun are sustaining slow growth. I gave one of my coconuts to a local conservetory. Unknown to me at the time they were working on some renovations and the heat was out. They kept the coconut accross the street in a greenhouse with a constant temp in the low 60s. (I'm sure it warms up when the sun comes out especially before this cold front hit). I saw the coconut last week for the first time in 6 weeks. It is in ruff shape and I suspect is going to die. My point is I believe in Houston you will have days on end in the winter where lows are in the 40s and highs barely hitting 60 )or at most low 60s). A coconut will not take that for long. In Florida in the marginal areas it usually hits the 70s everyday with the exception of a few and is less prone to have sustained low 60s for highs.

  • galveston1602
    16 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    agreed they are a pain to keep alive but, I think it can be done... its kinda like when people questioned you growing one in a pot in MI. I know of 1 coconut in the ground here for 3 years now and no problems (yet).... I am not dillusional and thinking that Im going to grow a 50' tall specimen but, I am going to try my hardest to get 1 to 15-20' at least once!
    Remember that I am not in houston, but nearer the coast (on galveston island). In houston a coco would have 0% chance of surviving more than 1 year while here that % is probably about 50%
    this morning was widely thought to be the coldest night of the year. this pic was snapped at ~6AM about 1 hour or so before most temps around houston bottomed out at ~27. my house luckily never dropped below 42... now dont get me wrong we got blasted last week with 35 degrees but it was only 1 day.

    the reel truth is it wouldnt be any fun If I didnt try :)
    else we'd have nothing to write about!

  • davidcf
    15 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    With those blue northers coming down this year, any royals and coconuts will be in rapid decline in Houston area. With frigid temps occurring in the late 1980's, as another poster reported, even zone 8b-9 Canary Dates and Washingtonias would have suffered considerable damage. Queen Palms would be killed outright. Forget about Royals.

    Royals in Florida will have their leaves killed if it goes much below freezing, but with the normal warmth returning within a few days, the green canopy is completely replaced by late summer or early autumn. Coconuts, less cold hardy, particularly the Malayans and Maypans that are being planted, will take a very light frost with some brown spots on leaves (hardly noticeable), but are painfully slow to recover if the temps drop much below 32F, when the leaves turn straw colored. They may not look right for 18 months, as witnessed after the 1985 freeze. (At the same temperatures, Queen Palms were absolutely unfazed.) Long periods of cool temperatures, e.g. consistent 40's Fahrenheit at night, are inhospitable to both royals and especially coconuts.

  • andyandy
    15 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Galveston-
    I wish you all the luck in the world. I would just make one suggestion. Grow your coconut palm in a pot for as long as possible (unless you get your hands on a large one and move it to your house). Move it inside during the winter until it gets too big to move in and out. The older and larger the palm is when you finally do put it in the ground the more hardy it will be. That's why I found it interesting when people tell me mine is dieing a slow death. My older one looks healthier than my two younger ones (not that they aren't doing ok but I was worried there for a while). The older one is growing faster and is showing no signs of slowing down. It could be that I was just lucky and got a very healthy and robust seedling. I'm sure it helped that Detroit had the warmest June-August in recorded history two summers ago. I say keep trying but try and get your hands on the largest plant you can.

  • topher2006
    15 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Galveston
    just do it......
    If it dies... it dies don't know till you try !
    welcome to zone jumpers.com :)

  • galveston1602
    15 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Well, I really didnt want to show this off untill I got alot more of the local folliage online but, Ill show yall what Ive got so far. Check back later in the winter for updates!!!

    galveston palms etc
    most of these pictures were all taken on a weekend that we were out looking at property...

    Im only speaking for myself here (zonejumper) but, I dont think any of my plants have too much chance over the long term (30+ years) but, I do believe that they have a very good chance for the near term (5-10+ years) its always a craps shoot when growing extremely tropical things here but, well honestly so is central florida but people do it all the time!

  • spockvr6
    15 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Galveston-

    As Ive told you before....that map based photo album format rocks!

  • topher2006
    15 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    We can't let all those tropical climates have all the fun can we ? Grow it !

  • davidcf
    15 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Sure, I'd push the envelope with brunfelsia or chinese hibiscus, etc., both of which could last a LONG time in Galveston & perhaps Houston. But gawd, planting Home Depot arecas and then having to dig them out a few years later because of frost - well, digging up established palms is an ORDEAL as many people know. Same with ficus - which in So. Fla. is considered so aggressive that it is not planted anymore, 'cept for ficus benjamina, which is trimmed into a super hedge. My first pick for Houston/Galveston (I realize that Galveston is on the coast & considerably milder) would be mule palms (butia x syagrus), which I find to be striking, tropical-looking palms for zone 8b/9a climates.

  • royalpalm321
    15 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I was just reading about this beautiful hybrid called a Mule Palm,its a cross between the pindo palm and,a queen palm It really gives that coconut palm feeling,without the worries of freezing.From what i have read they are cold hardy into the teens.I think they will do well in Houston.Im sure they will do well in my Central Florida area,im thinking of buying an adult.

  • andyandy
    15 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Royalpalm-
    Does this "Mule Palm" have a scientific name? I am very interested in it!

  • spockvr6
    15 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Anyandy-

    The "Mule Palm" is also referred to as xButiagrus and is a hybrid between Butia capitata (Pindo Palm) and Syagrus romanzoffiana (Queen Palm).

    Here is an adult palm in Dunedin, FL.

  • topher2006
    15 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Wow ! That's a great looking palm ....
    How old is it ?

  • spockvr6
    15 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Topher -

    Unfortunately, I do not know how old it is :-( Im sure some other folks more experienced with these palms might be able to venture a guess.

  • galveston1602
    15 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    id put that palm at 30 years....maybe more. we have alot of them around here and for the record it seems some of them do set viable seed. Also, It could be that some of these palms grow like a butia Slooooooow and some grow like a queen faaaast

    even though this plaque says Queen palms, they are mules. and they survived through our horrible freeze of 89... yeah they are cheating with heat but, at least this gives you some idea of the age. as I understand it the palms were planted as 2' b&b. 1 apparently died under 3 days of less than 20 degrees, 1 day it was 14 degrees...

    Heres a pic of the palm (including my very photogenic daughter!)

    Butyagrus nabonnandii is what almost all of these palms are labeled at our local gardens (i bet they have 50 of them)

    Also, while mules are nice palms and cold hardy, they are in a totally different class than royals which IMHO are some of the nicest palms!

  • fescuedream
    15 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    galveston, thanks for that. I lived a few miles from Galveston for nine years, as a kid.

    I'd be more interested in the "innovative electric current heating" than the particular palm species. For awhile I've been quite interested in microclimates, with a dream of creating a small, perhaps 1/16 acre, area of subtropical/tropical forest right here in the Pacific Northwest... outdoors. Even then there would almost certainly be a height limit... the canopy (which would take most of the rest of my lifetime to develop) would help hold in the heat.

    The goal is achievable, but the only economical way to do it is with about 1/4 mile of buried 8' corrugated pipe to pump air throught a heat pump and then distribute over the pseudotropical landscape via another network of pipes. This is also doable (I own 5 flat acres of pasture) but requires time and money.

    In Houston, with the climate already subtropical, electric is probably feasible as they've done at Moody Gardens.

    Thanks again.

  • jose01
    15 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    OK, the question is "Royal Palms in Houston?" ... If you are located SOUTH of I-10 and want a Royal in your garden, the answer is YES. Plant it!

    I've lived in Houston since 1954, have extensive experience growing tropicals since the mid 1960's, and if you would have told me 5 years ago that I made this recommendation I would have told you that you are crazy. The climate has changed BIG TIME in Houston (and other places).

    About 2-3 years ago I noticed the first "big" Royal that I'd ever seen in Houston. I stopped DEAD IN MY TRACKS, parked my car and just looked at it! I was amazed. It was about 30 feet tall, and located in the 1800 Block of Nantucket Drive (not to be confused w/Syagrus which are in the area), plainly visable from the street, about 20 feet in from the west side of the street. It has a cement white/grey smooth ringed trunk, a nice bulge developing about 18' above ground level, and a georgous crownshaft.

    Within weeks I saw a second 30 footer, this one in the 4000 block of Bissonnet (south side of the street, south of the Randall's center) planted in the back yard of a patio home, rising above their back garden and beginning to stand high over the street (look for the large clump of Timber/Giant Bamboo near it) Amazing for Houston! These are either regia or elata, who knows, certainly they came out of Florida. Among palm enthusiast there is a lot of disagreement as to whether or not regia, and elata are the same thing.

    These are NOT Syagrus, which over the past 12-14 years have become common in Houston (they would NOT grow here before), I lost many over the years to winter cold... I know. I now have 8 S. romanzoffiana in the garden, some are over 35' tall. Syagrus are rapidly giving Houston a significantly more tropical look, Queen Palms have become one of the "must haves" in Houston landscaping.

    I did plant a Royal in my garden almost 2 years ago. It now stands about 16' tall, has a nice smooth ringed trunk developing, with crownshaft... again, amazing for Houston, I'd of never believed it! I've planted it as a focal point in my garden.

    This past winter the Royals in Houston made it through just fine until one light freeze that we had in February. It was the coldest night we've had in about 3-4 years, about 29-30 degrees in the central area. Around town the Royals' fronds were very noticably burned, by about half. Syagrus standing next to them were unaffected. It's now about November 1 2007, and the Royals have about 7 new fronds on them.

    Regarding other varieties of Royals, it's probably not worth the effort in Houston, as regia/elata is considered the hardiest of the Royals by at least 2-4 degrees. And as far as coconuts go... don't even go there for Houston growers. Galveston Island is different, I've seen some 15-18' overall height coconuts on the island(not many). The amazing thing for Galveston is that Norfolk Pines are everywhere now, over the next 10-15 years these will REALLY change the look of the island (if a hurricane doesn't blow them over).

    IMO Royals in Houston are still borderline, but 12-15 years ago hibiscus and bougainvillea still froze back heavily, or went to the ground every year(they haven't done that in at least 10 years now), ixoras, schefflera's and ti plants didn't grow here (they do now!), ... there's a ficus benjamina 3 stories tall a few blocks from my house. Ravena rivularis are everywhere (thank you Home Depot), the biggest I've seen in town is about 25 feet.

    So, plant that Royal... it may be the ONLY benefit of global warming! Hope I didn't wear you out with all my Roystonea mania!

  • williamr
    15 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Interesting Jose, I have been noticing the exact same thing here in the Orlando area which I now believe is a zone 10a (the immediate metro area). This was definately not the case in the past but the urban heat island has greatly expanded not to mention "possible" effects from global warming. All around town I have noticed tropicals that were planted as sort of annuals are maturing, arecas, adonidias, majesties, and many other palms and tropicals. Orlando looks more like Vero beach now. Developers are even opting for the more tender species. I have two trunking royals, one 30 ft and the other 25 feet,a 40 foot Norfolk pine and many other palms. It amazes me that this is happening in Houston since your average January temps are 63/45 wheras here in Orlando they are 71/49. Keep us posted on the progress of these or any other tropical palms around Houston.

  • david_
    15 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Royals grow naturally here in my area and they can take some cold but I don't think they will take any temps below 20 degrees at all not even for an hour. They made it through the 89 freeze here and it was 24 degrees for a short time.That year was bad because the wind ripped palm trees apart but the royals made it through without much damage.

  • topher2006
    15 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Wow ! freezing in Florida ?
    Don't even sound right .

  • david_
    15 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Not since 89. But unless we live in the tropics we are never completly safe from cold.

  • jose01
    15 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    To "williamr" and anyone else, I was just looking at the USDA Hardiness Zone Map, and I come to think of it, in Houston I've lived in Zone 9a all my life. The difference is, that rather suddenly after 1990, the winter temperatures started warming. Prior to that time we most always had 4-6 nights in the winter where the temps. would range between 20-24 degrees. Occaisionally much lower.

    It was really about 1995 that some sort of regular recurring, warmer than normal, pattern began to emerge. I live in the Medical Center area of the city, a central area, always known to be "insulated" from the worst of the winter cold by the extensive sprawl of the city. The official temperatures for the City of Houston are logged at Intercontinental Airport, which is about 20-25 miles north of me. On a cold winter night these temps. are at least 5 degrees colder, or more, than at my house. Almost never does the minter minimum temperature go below 30 degrees in the central area of the city...but, we do have lots of "chill".

    We still do have a number of nights with temperatures 36-45 degrees. Between December 1 through March 15, most lows range between 45 anad 55 degrees. But, far more lows between 55-65 degrees, rather than near 30.

    Few things are more tender than Papayas, and I'm seeing lots of them around the central areas of the city between 15-20', with fruit. There is a 12 foot Mango just a few blocks aways from my home... that's nothing by Florida standards, but hey, this is Houston! Plumerias are being planted out everywhere.

    Climate has always been a fascinating thing to me, especially when you consider that unavoidable link to tropical plants... Well, that all from Houston.

    Jose

  • david_
    15 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I would say try a royal what can it hurt. You might get it big enough to withstand a cold night or two when it gets big.They are very fast and more cold hardy than some people think and as long as it warms up quick you have a chance.

  • galveston1602
    15 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Jose,

    Im not sure where your driving in houston but, I travel around the city quite regularly and I just dont see the tropicals like they can be seen in other places, even as close as the island... as an example almost all the foxtails that HD caused to sprout up around town were fried hard after that little cold last year... (I didnt see any damage in my yard) I mean, dont get me wrong, I wish that these trees would live long lives in houston but as best I can tell there is a new palm tree vendor in town (45s just before the loop) that is providing huge royals at @ 500$+ delivered. this is the only thing I can figure is causing them to be more apparent everywhere. Its the first time ive seen specimen size trees availiable in Houston. I live on the island and travel around here all the time looking for palms, so much so I made a website last fall of all the local tropicals. txpalms.com

    sure there are plenty of royals, some 40-50' tall but I dont believe ive ever seen a coconut with more than about 6' of height most are merely seedlings, ive probably got the largest number of them, and all of mine are just 3-7gal pots. everyone ive ever seen in the ground has died over the winter. but, alas, Ill try again next year.

    This pic isnt the largest royals on the island but in my opinion, its the best planting.
    Royals at txpalms.com

    Hopefully with all the tropical palms that are being brought in locally we'll start seeing some of the hardier specimens become established...

  • topher2006
    15 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Galveston
    I wasn't aware royals survived in the ground in
    Galveston Texas wow !

  • jose01
    15 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Hey Galveston1602,

    I live in the West U./Med-Center area of Houston, and spend most of my time inside the Loop, west of Main St. and south of Buffalo Bayou. Galveston has always relied more heavily on tropical plants than Houston, especially with the history of "wicked" freezes that plagued the mainland until about 1990. After the winter of 1989/90 even about 90% of the W. robustas were AGAIN wiped out in Houston, but then things changed. Of course you see more tropicals on the island than in Houston. But what did Houston look like in the early 1990's compared to now?
    Galveston will alwasy have a "leg-up" on Houston for the more tropical of plants because of the warming effect of Galveston Bay and proximity to the Gulf.

    Most of the Foxtails that I've seen in the central sections of the city got minimally burned on that one cold night back in February... they actually did better than I thought they were going to. This past Saturday I happened to drive by some of the larger Foxtails in the city (that I've aware of) on the SW corner of Stude & White Oak, across from Fitzgerald's. There are 5 or 6 of them there, some of them are about 17 feet, and they looked really good, growing in full sun, planted out by the sidewalk and street. In fact the person with me remarked that they are not even in a protected location. Very heavy trunks, and heavy fronds, they've been there 3+ years.

    The few big Royals (25') in town have been where they are for probably 4-6 years, they have that "heavy" look to them. One of them is in the back garden of a patio home, in a place where you could not get large equipement in to plant a tree of it's present size. Actually I've seen it for years when driving by, and always though it was a Queen Palm. I never dreamed that I was looking at a Royal until it got so big (and different from a Queen) that it literally hit me in the face one day!

    The first Royals I saw down at Moody Gardens planted along side one of the buildings as early as about 1999, but I wasn't ready for a big one in Houston.

    Something I hadn't mentioned so far is A. cunninghamia. For the past two years I'd been watching about 3 different plantings of them around the city. Finally beginning to take off and grow. This past February they had absolute minimal damage (I was surprised), but one day when driving through Bellaire (just inside the Loop) something told me to take a right, I drove one short block, and then I saw them... two A. cunninghamias, each about 20-24' tall. Beautiful! THis was back in April, and they didn't have any damage from cold... I bought a large one from Home Depot the next evening on my way home from work.

    By the way, I checked out your website, it's great! I was expecially knocked out by the Carpenteria, I love Carpentaria's... I had a number of them when I lived in Miami. Carpentaria's are really tender, so I never even tried to find any to plant here in Houston, that one in Galveston looked great. Did it burn last winter? Also loved the S. amara.

    I think that the palm that you wanated an I.D. on in the Moody Gardens section is a Livistona decipiens. You've may have noticed that a number of these have been planted along the Gulf Freeway between downtown and approximately Monroe. It's one of my favourite Livistona's and for some reason it's seldom brought in tho Houston. I do know of a nursery that has some nice 10 gallon size. I'm about to buy 4 to plant in my garden.

    What did you see Bismarkia's do last winter in the cold? The ones that I've see around Houston all came through with no problem, to minimal burn. I'm thinking about planting one of them as well.

    Take care, Jose

  • galveston1602
    15 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Nothing around here burned too badly last winter (except my travelers) none of the large bizmarks were even phased, I just put a 15 gal in the ground this spring, well see how it does.. yeah, that carpenter palm is probably the largest "tropical" palm ive seen on the island... it took me quite a while to find it as it was huge, it looked like a light pole...

    Where in houston have you seen l. decipens or for that matter any other palms, im always making trips to town for palms. And im always looking for more places to find them. I think last time I counted I have about 30 different palms in my yard, of course alot of them are very small but, around here that seems to be the only way one can find palms. I have about 300 carpenter palm seedlings that im raising, keep in touch and once they get large enough for a gallon container ill give you a few, its not like I'll have room for 300 :) actually i may only have 250, it was a rough month! :)

    If you happen to have any pics and exact addresses for those palms in houston, Ill gladly add them to the website.

  • richard852
    Original Author
    15 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    Hey guys,

    I posted this original message a year ago and have not visited this site in months due to lack of time. Things are settling down now and I log on, and I was pleased to see that this post was resurected! Ironically, in Clear Lake Shores, Texas, right between League City and Kemah on Clear Lake (I live in League City) I saw two huge beautiful royals, looked to be Cubans but I'm not that sophisticated to tell for sure. They are at a house on W. Shore drive and appear to have been in the ground for quite a while. Anyway, Jose thanks for the encourament, I'm going to try this spring to plant one on the front of my house right up against it. My house faces north so that will get the best protection it can get. Hope all is well with everyone and I'll be checking in more often.

    Thanks,
    Richard