Exotic plants in winter

by Adam Pasco

For many years now I've enjoyed watching a Canary Island date palm grow and flourish in a garden by the traffic lights near the end of my road.

Canary Island palm (Phoenix canariensis)For many years now I've enjoyed watching a Canary Island date palm grow and flourish in a garden by the traffic lights near the end of my road. Stopping at the red light, I've been able to watch this Mediterranean palm grow taller and bushier.

As we haven't really experienced 'challenging' winter weather for many years now, I doubt if this Phoenix canariensis has had to put up with much in the way of cold during its lifetime, but there has been some frost and snow. From what I've observed over the years this doesn't appear to have done it any damage. This seems strange as my RHS A-Z of Garden Plants tells me that this palm needs greenhouse protection and a minimum temperature of 10-16°C (50-60°F).

It has certainly been colder than that in the past, and during the last two months temperatures have dropped way below this 'minimum' temperature. For the last couple of weeks our night temperature here has dropped several degrees below freezing every night, and not been much above this during the day either.

So, will the Canary Island date palm survive? Time will tell, and I'll be keeping a close eye on its performance during the coming months. Gardeners being tempted to grow tropical and exotic plants outside have often been lulled into a false sense of security by talk of global warming. Tree ferns have become popular, and many people leave tender dahlia tubers in the soil over winter instead of lifting and storing them. Until this year they might have got away with ignoring the rulebook and taking a chance, but this might the winter to catch them all out.

Of course, if my neighbour's Phoenix canariensis does survive, despite such a freezing winter, then perhaps this 'tender' palm is actually far hardier than we've been giving it credit for. Oh, the joy of gardening … and proving the experts wrong!

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Gardeners' World Web User 17/02/2009 at 16:46

I have been growing exotic plants for most of live and try to see what plants can take. Have bamboos which are not meant to grow out site here in the UK. I have ginger plants which flower each year from the 1985 that is meant not grow here in the UK. I have also had the Banana plants which have also grown outside. I have plants that grow side of pond which are not meant grow outside and one is in books as a house plant only. I have also grow Drosera binata from Australia and Drosera capensis which comes from south Africa and Venus fly traps which all grow outside. And have many more insectivorous plants that are said in older books not take below 5C but Saracenia leuco' has been in bog garden for years now. see www.insectivorousplants.co.uk for list of some more plants that can be grown outside. Yes I know that many of these plants are able to grow here in UK because of the global warming which is not giving our normal seasons at the right length. A lot of gardeners are being told the message today as the so called "Global warming " is going to give us all a very mixed weathers and not the dry weathers many think. We are going to have hotter times with colder times and wetter times with high winds and more Storm's and it will only wost until we stop the greed of people that are just using chemicals in petrol's plastic's burning gases and coals, when we could get all the power from the seas with wave power, as wind is not right as cost more in use of carbon then it safes. with power used to clean the blades and power to start and stop the blades as they only work in the right kind of winds. nuclear is the worst with carbon used to make power plant and then take them down again and who wish to have waste put next them when it will give higher illness and still births and that 1000's of years to become safer. " has any one lived that long know the Truth. So we all need to only have two children each couple and cut down the waste of the worlds resources, or this world is going die. Think of what we do in our life's as to the damage we can do, so no two holidays abroad a year and only one home each and help live by digging up your lawn ( using power just to have a cut grass ? )and plant it with plants and small pools of water to help the other live in world. We gardeners should be able to use as must water as we like to keep our plants alive all year around it's up to the water companies make millions and should give clean safe and build more places to hold water and even take out of the sea which is all around us, like other place in the world do. so never have water band again.

Gardeners' World Web User 27/02/2009 at 10:44

Based in London and trying to grow two Canary Palms, both in pots (approx 50cm diametre x 50cm deep), alas without success. They are both browning on the frond tips and I'm wondering whether this is a drainage problem. I don't think that the cold weather has helped but they have been unresponsive since last summer. any advice would be gratefully received.

Gardeners' World Web User 15/03/2009 at 21:52

i live in kirkby nr liverpool and i have growen banarners for about six years in my back garden i cover them up with flece fore the winter and i have not lost one yet

Gardeners' World Web User 18/03/2009 at 16:41

help my Canary island date palm ,i thought has survived & have lived trough this awful winter but on closer look it seems seems to have died in the middle will this affect the plant? will it stil grow ,or should i dig it up & buy a new 1.

Gardeners' World Web User 16/04/2009 at 18:08

I have a cordyline which has grown too big for its space .Is it possible to prune it and if it is when is the best time? josiel.

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