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The hemp palm is a child of harsh regions. The home of the hemp palm is in the Himalayas of northern India, northern Thailand to Vietnam and China. Here it grows in mountainous regions up to an altitude of 2500 m above sea level. This impressive plant only came to Europe in the first half of the 19th century. In good conditions it can grow up to 10 m tall.


Planted out, the hardy hemp palm brings exoticism and a Mediterranean flair to every garden. It is becoming increasingly popular because, unlike some related species from the more southern climes, it can stay outside even in winter.

Tip: The cannabis palm can also be grown in a large container, but it grows really well outdoors and its beauty really comes into its own.


Climate fluctuations are no problem for the exotic

The climate in the Himalayas is harsh. It quickly alternates between high temperatures with intense solar radiation and precipitation and temperatures below freezing. The palm trees have become accustomed to the fluctuating climate in the higher mountain regions. They defy both high temperatures and temperatures well below zero. The winters in their homeland are characterized by dry cold and a lot of snow falls, so the hemp palm can survive this time well, even without winter protection.


However, winter hardiness also depends on the following factors:

  • the number of winters the plant has spent outdoors
  • how many winters with higher sub-zero temperatures and
  • of course also from the age of the palm tree, young plants are more sensitive.

You should also note that palm trees that are not yet properly used to low winter temperatures are only hardy down to -10 °C, otherwise they can survive temperatures of -20 to -25 °C in Central Europe with appropriate winter protection C outdoors without any problems.

Hemp palms should only be planted out in the garden when they are 3 to 4 years old, because the later, the more frost they can tolerate. Normally, the plants are then over 100 cm high and can safely spend the winter outdoors. Younger palm trees, less than 3 years old, should be hibernated indoors if possible.

Tip: Container plants can also be overwintered indoors. A cool room or cellar with a temperature of 5 °C is sufficient. It can be a bit dark. Don't forget to water here either, but please only moderately.


Overwinter Trachycarpus properly

In our latitudes, overwintering can take place outside, but the plants should still receive appropriate winter protection, since the winters in our areas are quite wet and the hemp palm does not tolerate excessive moisture and would then inevitably die. Only in sheltered locations, for example on the East Frisian Islands and along the Rhine, does the Trachycarpus survive in mild winters without winter protection.

winter protection

Winter protection starts with planting

If you want to conjure up a Mediterranean flair in the garden and decide to plant a trachycarpus, you should choose the location carefully, because here you can already take the first precautions for proper winter protection. The site must be sheltered from the wind and, if possible, located on a south-facing house wall. Also important is a permeable soil that does not get waterlogged in winter. It is therefore advisable to incorporate coarse sand in loamy soils. Furthermore, waterlogging can be prevented by pouring a 10 to 15 cm high drainage layer of gravel into the planting hole.

Never put on winter protection too early

In our normal Central European winters, these exotics do not necessarily need protection from the cold, but rather protection from moisture, since moisture means certain death for the Trachycarpus.

It is important that the winter protection is never applied too early and, moreover, it should not last longer than necessary in spring, because the hemp palm can also be damaged here. Depending on the weather, it should be available from December to March. If severe and persistent frost below -5 °C is to be expected, then the winter protection must be applied and in mild weather it can then be removed again early in the spring. The palm trees react promptly to wrong overwintering, frost damage is immediately recognizable by the brown discoloration of the leaves.

protect roots

Protect roots from severe frost

Before the first ground frosts below -5 °C occur, the root area should definitely be protected. For planted palm trees, cover the roots around the trunk with a 30 cm layer of leaves, compost or alternatively bark mulch and fix everything with fir twigs.

  • Place potted plants close to a sheltered, shady house wall
  • Wrap the bucket thickly with insulated winter protection mats made from coconut fibres
  • In addition, place the tub on a styrofoam plate, cover the root ball with leaves and fir branches

Tip: As an alternative to leaves and brushwood, a palm heater can also be buried around the root area and connected to the power grid in extremely low temperatures. This also prevents the roots from freezing.

Severe frost can severely damage the root area and frozen roots cannot absorb water, but the Hemp Palm, Trachycarpus needs some watering even in winter on frost-free days. If the plant cannot absorb water for a longer period of time, it will slowly but surely dry up.

protection against moisture

Palm heart absolutely needs protection from moisture

The new fronds form and sprout in the vegetation point or palm heart. Not much water should penetrate here. In severe frost it can freeze easily and the ice crystals that form damage the tissue of the new fronds and when the temperatures rise again it begins to rot and then slowly destroys the entire heart of the palm, and the death of the palm is not long in coming.

You should also know that the fronds are frozen at a temperature of -12 °C, they can then easily be damaged, especially by touch or winter storms. The capillary vessels inside the fronds are then destroyed, in spring no more plant sap can flow and the fronds inevitably dry up. Therefore, trying to free the fronds of snow-covered, unprotected hemp palms from the snow by shaking them should also be avoided.

For prolonged temperatures below 0 °C, it is necessary to loosely tie the fronds up with a wide ribbon, jute ribbon or coconut rope.

It should be noted:

  • the fronds must be dry
  • the action must take place in dry weather

Then you can fill the resulting funnel with warm, dry straw for protection and then wrap it with light-colored winter fleece. If possible, you should use a light-colored fleece so that the sun does not heat up the wrapped crown too much during the day.

If it rains continuously, it is a good idea to put additional film protection over the crown. A garbage bag can be quite helpful here, but it must remain open at the bottom. To keep it from slipping in the wind, simply hang a few light weights, such as two small stones, from the lower opening. It is important that it is removed again as soon as the precipitation subsides, otherwise harmful condensation will form underneath. Packed in this way, the Trachycarpus can survive even the strongest winter storms unscathed and the fronds and heart are well protected from moisture.

The following tools are required as winter protection:

  • winter protection must always be breathable
  • bright winter fleece
  • wide jute ribbon, coconut knit, alternatively wide ribbon
  • dry straw
  • foil or rubbish bag
  • small weights to weigh down (stones etc.)

Tip: Sometimes dimpled foil is also recommended as winter protection, please do not use it because it is not breathable, the condensation vapor caused by the sun's rays cannot escape underneath it. Moisture quickly builds up on the fronds and heart of the palm, eventually promoting mold and rot.

wrap trunk

Wrap the trunk in extreme winters

With permanent frost below -12 °C, it makes sense to give the trunk additional protection. To do this, it is simply wrapped several times with sackcloth or fleece. Low-temperature heating cables, which are used, for example, to defrost gutters, have also proven their worth here. These are available in different lengths. The cable is also wrapped around the trunk from below, the distance between the individual turns should be at least 10 cm.

If you also like it a bit decorative, you can use a light hose or a halogen light chain instead of the heating cable.

Tip: Please do not use LED lights as they do not emit any heat.

If you are a skilled craftsman, you can build a permanent protective device for the winter out of wood, glass or foil for larger and older specimens. Although these are very expensive, they offer the trachycarpus reliable winter protection. Appropriate plant protection systems for exotic plants, i.e. special and mobile “palm houses”, are also available in specialist shops.

In summary, winter protection for hemp palms depends on:

  • from location
  • the palm size
  • the age and
  • whether it is an outdoor palm or a container plant

The following measures, especially for palm trees under 100 cm, are necessary to protect against persistent frost and humidity below -5 °C.

  • Cover the root area with leaves, compost or bark mulch, use palm heaters if necessary
  • Tie up the frond
  • Wrap the trunk several times with fleece/sackcloth, if necessary warm it with a chain of lights or heating cable
  • Build your own protective device out of wood, glass or foil
  • buy various protective devices

If the Trachycarpus receives the right winter protection, you will enjoy it for a long time, it gives the garden a magical, Mediterranean ambience and you will receive many admiring looks.

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