Ask Burton: Q: I planted a windmill palm this year and I would like to know how to care for it during the winter.

A: Windmill palms are one of the few which are reasonably hardy in North Texas; here’s how to care for them properly.

Before a hard freeze, or especially before an ice storm, tie the fronds of the palm as tightly upright as possible. Pick up a proper frost cloth, and start at the bottom of the trunk and wrap upward – wrap entirely around, and over the top of the fronds. Fold the frost cloth over, and tie the cloth securely so that it cannot flap in the wind. (Frost cloth, not burlap or a blanket. Burlap or blankets will simply get wet, then freeze, holding ice directly on the plant. Frost cloth doesn’t absorb much in the way of water.)

After the freezing weather is done and the palm can be unwrapped, if the ice or cold was severe, pour ferti-lome Systemic Fungicide mixed to label directions into the top of the trunk, right where the fronds come out of the trunk to prevent crown rot. One application is generally sufficient.

As the plant becomes established, there will be less and less need to cover the palm in any way, and eventually you’ll only need to wrap your palm for ice storms or below-20 temperatures, which means there may well be years your windmill palm doesn’t need wrapping at all. Regardless of how well the palm establishes, a shot of that systemic fungicide early each March will help head off any crown rot from cold weather before it really gets going. Fertilize in early March with Carl Pool Palm Food, and get ready for a beautiful spring!

Burton specializes in diagnosing and solving plant problems. If you have a question for Burton, please email him at and include photos showing the problem.