4.19.2018

Will they survive? How to tell if your palm tree will bounce back after brutal winter


You might have noticed that our pretty palms aren’t looking quite so pretty.

Blame the brutal winter. Palms – the ultimate sign of a warm beachy place – understandably don’t like the cold. Not unusual to see some brown leaves after every winter.

But this winter was exceptionally brutal. Remember that string of 20-degree days in January? Yeah, we weren’t the only ones freezing.

“They took a beating this winter,” said Jeff Wilson, Ocean Lakes Landscape Manager who has more than 30 years of experience as a horticulturalist. “They don’t look real good right now.”

Ocean Lakes Landscape Manager Jeff Wilson gives advice about trimming sago palms like this one that took a beating during the brutal winter.

Many of the palms – regardless of the specific type – have more brown leaves than green right now, and they are sagging. Some of the palms look down right sad. But that’s not an automatic sign that the tree won’t make it. Wilson isn’t giving up just yet.

“It’s too early to tell,” he said. “You have to give them some more time. Just because it looks like this, it does not mean all hope is lost.”

Wondering if yours will make it? Wilson has some tips for homeowners.

First and most important: Be patient. Don’t give up on the palms just yet.

Second, check the center bud, which produces the growth on the tree. If it’s solid, the tree is likely to come back. If it’s soft and dried-up, it’s more than likely dead.

Landscape Manager Jeff Wilson checks the bud on this sago palm to determine if it's likely to survive.

There are a variety of palms sprinkled throughout the 310-acre campground.

Sago palms are very popular; many of them are flush with the ground. When smaller, almost like a bush, these are palms our homeowners can cut themselves.

If the solid center bud indicates that the palm is likely to survive, you can cut off the fronds, or brown leaves. But be prepared: the pointy leaves are like spikes and can stick you. Be sure to wear jeans and a long-sleeve shirt, and use long-handle loppers so you can cut without having to get up close in those sharp points.

“Be very careful – they have some nasty thorns on them,” Wilson said. “They will stick you.”




Everything else homeowners should leave to our Landscape team. Remember, homeowners are not allowed to trim any trees – our Landscape team handles all tree trimming throughout the campground, including on annual lease sites (unless we have to call an outside company for the big jobs). Have a tree you want trimmed? Get on the list by calling our Compliance Office at 843-828-4836.

That includes most of the sabal palmettos (the official tree of South Carolina) and Washingtonia palms, which usually flourish in warmer-weather environments such as Florida and are looking the worst around here right now. Most of the trees homeowners have asked Wilson to check are Washingtonia palms.

“We are at the northern edge of its limit,” Wilson said.



In March, our Compliance Office received 15 tree-trimming requests, and another 10 have already come in during April. Experts don’t want to cut off too much at one time, so some trees might need multiple trimming sessions.

Just don’t give up on those palms yet.

“Be patient,” Wilson said. “You can be amazed at something that can look totally dead then you go out a week later and it has got growth on it.”


Want a tree trimmed at your annual lease site? Call the Ocean Lakes Compliance Office at 843-828-4836.