Although considered the staple plant of tropical destinations, some palm trees can survive — and thrive — in Tulsa.
“A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.” Indeed.
But how about tropical palm trees thriving in Tulsa? Do not scoff.
Just take a look at the landscape around John Lodes’ home in the historic Gillette Neighborhood. Lodes, who is intrigued by unusual plants, has a special passion for winter-hardy palms that can hold up to Tulsa’s dicey climate.
If you associate palms with tropical climes, he is proof that is not the case. Just look at him standing dwarfed by a 15-foot-tall specimen on the side of his home. And the palm survived nasty weather in 1996 when temperatures dipped below zero several nights in a row. Not to mention that it can handle Tulsa heat and drought.
In addition to their hardiness, palms add an edgy, tropical look to a landscape — particularly if you are tired of the usually available summer bedding plants. Not to mention the fun of seeing a palm covered in snow.
These are Lodes’ three favorites, which he says have grown in Tulsa for 20-plus years and survived when temperatures dropped below zero:
- Sabal Minor, a dwarf palmetto and an Oklahoma native.
- Sabal “Birmingham.” This is a big guy and nearly impossible to kill. Lodes calls it the “gold standard of hardiness.”
- Needle Palm (Rhapidophyllum hystrix).
Lodes has added to his landscape by collecting seeds from plants growing wild in southeast Oklahoma. Oklahoma’s native palm is found growing in southeastern McCurtain County. But you don’t need to go wild or seedy to get similar results. Hardy palms are available for sale on the Internet and in local garden-supply shops. Just be sure to check the hardiness zone tag.
Hardy palms are tolerant about their environment with a few exceptions. They don’t like to be transplanted and they don’t like a lot of wind.
So get away from the usual. Give your landscape a tropical touch. Palm it up!
For more information, Lodes suggests the following: www.sepalms.org (The Southeastern Palm Society) and www.palms.org (The International Palm Society).
What to do in Tulsa gardens this month:
August, with its high heat and humidity, is probably the most difficult month in the garden.
To keep greenery green and thriving until cooler times, here are a few suggestions:
- Water, water, water. But do it right. Morning watering is best to prevent problems with fungi. But if you are watering container plants with a hose, let it run a moment and check the temperature before soaking your pots so the plants won’t get boiled.
- Give your annuals a face-lift. Mid-summer can mean unsightly looking plants. Take pruners and trim them back. You will be rewarded with bushier plants with lots more blooms. And don’t forget to fertilize.
- Yes, it’s hot. But it’s time to harvest from the vegetable garden. Extra tomatoes can be turned into salsa and frozen. Make pesto from basil. The trimmed plants will reward you with extra growth.
- Pick a bouquet. Get up early and gather flowers. Enjoy them indoors with the AC on.