With Hurricane Michael recovery progressing, many of you may be turning your attention to your landscape. Most palms and landscape plants thriving in this area are adapted to coastal weather patterns. However, a storm as fierce as Hurricane Michael can obviously damage the most storm hardy plants.
Understanding growth is key in caring for a palm after storm damage has occurred. The growing point of a palm is the terminal bud, located in the top of the plant. This is where the palm fronds emerge. If this bud area becomes damaged, no new leaves will develop and unfortunately the tree will die. If by chance the palm has multiple-stemmed trunks, the undamaged trunk(s) should survive.
It’s important to wait at least 6 months to see if palms develop new growth. Palms usually rebound slowly after a storm. Actually, it may take a couple of years before the palm produces a full canopy of fronds. Pruning the palm canopy should be done during the first few months after the hurricane. Start by removing any hanging broken or dead fronds that could be hazardous to people on your property. It’s a good idea to remove any fronds that are covering the bud, as well. This will allow new fronds to form. Leave any bent green fronts attached. These fronds still have vital nutrients that the tree is utilizing. Once the frond turns brown, then it is safe for removal. Uprooted palms should be placed upright as soon as possible and replanted at the same depth as before the storm. Bracing maybe be needed for up to 6 months.
Unfortunately, many home landscapes have been affected by Hurricane Michael’s storm surge, flooding and sea spray. The salt from ocean water can cause harm to many species of palms and other landscape plants. However, the area has had significant rainfall since Hurricane Michael, which will help flush or leach salt from the soil. Irrigating your lawn or landscape plants will help disperse the salt, as well. Good news, there are a number of salt tolerant to moderately salt tolerant plants in our coastal landscape. Some examples are live oak, loquat, magnolia for trees; oleander, wax myrtle, yaupon holly, bottle brush, Indian hawthorn for shrubs; and even vines and ground covers such as confederate jasmine, creeping fig, English ivey and lantana.
Palm and other landscape plant recovery from the hurricane will be a slow process, so please be patient and safe. Contact Gulf County Extension at 639-3200 for more information.
Supporting information for this article can be found in the following the UF/IFAS publications:
“Hurricane-Damaged Palms in the Landscape: Care after the Storm” by Monica L. Elliott and Timothy Broschat: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/EP/EP46500.pdf & “Assessing Damage and Restoring Trees After a Hurricane” by Edward F. Gilman, Mary L. Duryea, Eliana Kampf, Traci Jo Partin, Astrid Delgado & Carol J. Lehtola: http://monroe.ifas.ufl.edu/pdf/Hort/Assessing_Trees_After_Hurricane.pdf & “Salt-Tolerant Plants” for Florida by R.J. Black: http://ufdcimages.uflib.ufl.edu/IR/00/00/17/13/00001/EP01200.pdf
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