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What i have observed about my acual zone (all suburb houses)

February 18, 2006

I looked up the temperature today and on weather.com it was 7F. My front yard (north side) read that it was 10F. I just checked the temp. again and it said that it is 10F and my front yard is 13F. So if you are in a suburb or a large neighborhood you can prob raise your zone temp 3F. Also, on my south side there is a huge diffrence. On the south side right now it is 25F. That is 15F warmer than the acual temp. That is with sun, without sun it is 9F warmer on the south side. So my zone is acually around 6b along with chicago suburbs and any zone 5b large neighborhoods. I plan to plant my palms right beside my deck on my south side,so with the christmas lights and sheets in the winter i think that i can acually be a zone 7a!

Comments (32)

  • steve__k

    You are having a serious case of zone denial. You live in the arctic and even the hardiest of palms will need significant protection in your climate. Sorry dude.

  • chpinoh7

    Arctic? There hasnt been more than 3 snowfalls in the past 2 winters here. And i am in the same part of ohio that the author of palms wont grow here and other myths is. All he does to protect his trachycarpus fortunei and wag. is wrap them with christmas lights and throw 3 old sheets over them. If that is "significant" protection than i must have mistaken blond boys protection with concrete heated houses.

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  • chpinoh7

    Arctic? There hasnt been more than 3 snowfalls in the past 2 winters here. And i am in the same part of ohio that the author of palms wont grow here and other myths is. All he does to protect his trachycarpus fortunei and wag. is wrap them with christmas lights and throw 3 old sheets over them. If that is "significant" protection than i must have mistaken blond boys protection with concrete heated houses.

  • Don_OKC

    Chicago being a zone 6b climate seems a stretch looking at the climate data. Perhaps if the zone map was made from the warmest winters of late. However looking back a ways it sure look's like a harsh climate for anything but zone 5b hardy plants.

    Pulling Toledo's data it look's to be a milder climate than Chicago so why be envious. I bet you could grow zone 6b plants for years on a south wall microclimate where I just don't see them lasting very long even in a microclimate in Chicago.

    I made some cool gifs with winter data from Janaury 1980-1998 for Toledo, Chicago, Oklahoma City and Dallas/Fort Worth. The data came from www.ncdc.noaa.gov/oa/climate/stationlocator.html



    Oklahoma City

    Dallas/Fort Worth

  • chpinoh7

    i completely agree that toledos weather is much milder than chicagos. Less wind, hardly ever the same amount of cold (even though in the same zone) see, chicago is zone 5b and only that little spot. It is surronded by 5a so i bet those temps blow in there frequently. Im less than a half mile from the maummee river so that helps with heat too. Than of course lake erie. Even though on the map it sais im 5b. I bet for 10+ years we havent had a 5b winter and have had 6a winters. Then of course like you said, microclimate on a south wall is prob. 6b. THAN with protection with the lights and sheets, 7a like i said originally. Don those charts were excellent

  • palmshaun

    Perhaps if I apply that formula I could be a zone 13. The possibilities.....hmmmmm.

  • chpinoh7

    Lol not quite that. Maybe a half or since im right next to the maummee river a whole zone. I have no doubt in my mind though that if you planted any zone 11 plants on your south wall they could survive and thrive there with no protection at all!

  • Don_OKC

    I think what need's to be understood is the average climate can not be determined from one data set whether it be the warmest or coldest of winter. Overall the coldest winter event will always be the ultimate factor controling a plants fate and should be favored factor in consideration when planting long term plantings such as shade trees.

    For less significant planting lasting only between ultimate cold events the climates medium could be used with plants that survive to the averaged sum of all winters both good and bad.

    Then there are the microclimate plantings. Planting to a microclmiate will likely be a guess from climate observations over a short period. The life of a marginally hardy microclimate plant chosen from a short period of climate observations and unknown plant hardiness will likely have a life that's both short and marginal. Then again you never know you might have something that survives the climates average lasting until a ultimate event. Don't count on these microclimate plantings for one's overall landscape is the rule to be understood and followed.

    I have got to say that dam animated icon above is really obnoxious and hurt's the eyes. Here is what I think of that icon.

  • steve__k

    Yo.. CHP.. How old are you?? Do you even own a garden to plant in?

  • donrheinheimer

    I think someone has zone denial also, because it has been fairly cold here in St. Louis. Our lowest temp here has been 5 degrees on 2 occasions this winter and i know we're warmer than chicago or anywhere in ohio. The possibility for subzero temps here is still very real, though also very rare. The 5 degrees here has been the coldest of this century which is only 6 years old. Within the city limits here i do not expect ever to go below -5 ever again. The only times we have real cold, the rest of the country including texas and florida have the same cold front. eg 1989. The mean temperatures during the winter here still are not very good, but overall not as bad as some of the other places i see people attempting to grow palms on this forum. Am i just as crazy as these people, or is there a fair chance that i will have some longterm success here. I still have a perfectly healthy trachy that i have grown from seed in our climate.

  • chpinoh7

    15 and yes i do.

  • spockvr6

    " I have no doubt in my mind though that if you planted any zone 11 plants on your south wall they could survive and thrive there with no protection at all!"

    I have made temperature measurements using a precise and calibrated thermocouple reader and on a cold night, by morning, even an area immediately adjacent to a south wall (say 1 ft) is just barely warmer than 10 ft from that wall! I have made these measurements numerous times this winter on radiational nights (i.e., no wind) with the same results. If one doesnt have a precise measurement device, one wont even see the differential. I was measuring differences of a few tenths of a degree between 1 ft and 10 ft from a solid two story masonry wall! So, such a wall will not bump a 10a to an 11.

    But...planting close to a wall has frost avoidance advantages for sure.

  • Don_OKC

    Hi Don (donrheinheimer),

    I am surprised you have a trachy because over 25 years of trials I have never had one last in OKC. They seem to survive long as the growth bud is close to the ground. However when the skinny trunk has grown to two or three feet tall and the low falls near zero I always have the growth bud die while the rest of the plant survives. With no growth bud the plant slowly dies over the next year or two. If trachys would fill out with more massive trunking to help protect the growth bud with ambient trunk warmth, I think they would have a better chance in zone 7a.

    It's really rough growing palms in zone 7 Oklahoma City because I was doing it back in the cold 1980's. I would consider my area to indeed be the true limit for what could be called a marginal palm landscaping area. By marginal I am thinking of at least 1 species surviving even the record coldest winter without much damage. Needle Palm did so well for myself back in the cold 1980's I consider it as longterm and thus a landscape palm for zone 7a. Inland ecotypes of Sabal minor did well in those record cold 1980's winters so given the leaf hardiness and also the permanent underground trunk I would say they are longterm landscape palms too. Those two are all I would safely consider longterm landscape palms worth planting in my area. They will perform year after year in any location without any hindrances from the climate. Of course I am excluding drought but I don't think anyone would count watering as zonal denial.

    I can't falt anyone even up north for zonal denial because of the recent run of mild winters. Zonal denial happens in all climate zone and it's just not denial of winter cold but also water needs. Folks in the desert don't need water lovers and folks in wet areas have a hard time keeping the xeriscape plants from rotting. I'm sure there are many other zonal denials I have not even thought of yet.

    I have much zonal denial myself with some 15 year old trunked Washingtonia filifera specimens. Most years they are not protected as was this year. Back in early winter OKC had a rather hard cold spell with two nights in a row of lower single digit low temps. The filifera trunks are just fine and will start regrow a new head of leaves in mid to late March. So they survived another real zone 7 cold spell but could they survive 1983? Absolutely not. I'll enjoy them for now and looking back would have not bothered planting such a limited palm. If I would have planted Needle Palms where the filiferas are they would be fairly decent size by now and even bigger with year of growth ahead.

    When it comes to zonal denial on a mass scale I think Dallas has it. Dallas has had the best run of above normal temps than anywhere else that could be considered a marginal palm landscaping area. I have been happy to see so many palms going into the DFW landscape scene but for every one solidly hardy species there seem's two be two below marginal species. The worst is Washingtonia robusta and they will all be dead giving palms a bad reputation soon as the next near zero cold spell hits. I don't say if but when and that could be close as next winter. Dallas can get bitter cold and stay there for a while so it's going to be all over for many truely subtropical palm species like Washingtonia robusta soon. Of course the demise of Dallas will be mine too because I'll likely hit -5*f which would be the death of my trunked Washingtonia filiferas.

    Enjoy'em while you can! lol

  • steve__k

    A 15 year old that owns his own home?? Or.. you are planting in yo mama's garden.

  • steve__k


    I dont deny anything. I claim zone 8a just like the USDA map shows. You are right about one thing.. If Dallas sees that kind of cold, the rest of the country will be toast as well. OKC tends to be a good 10 degrees colder on any given night. As far as Chicago and Ohio if Dallas gets that cold... well.. start building the igloos.

  • chpinoh7

    Im planting in my moms garden yes. And i dont know were the heck u got the idea that we are eskimos or something but it hasnt got lower than -5 in a century. The map isnt right. Just because it got that way once doesnt mean it will again. Oh and how often do they update it? Like never? And Ohio is so much more milder than chicago so you can stop comparing us to them.

  • steve__k

    My list of palms in Dallas:

    Trachycarpus fortunei
    Trachycarpus latisectus
    Sabal palmetto
    Sabal texana
    Sabal minor
    Butia Capitata
    Washingtonia filifera
    Brahea armata
    rhapidophyllum hystrix
    chamaerops humilis

    I agree... robusta is a very bad choice. So is the Chinese fan palm.

  • spockvr6

    "The map isnt right. Just because it got that way once doesnt mean it will again. Oh and how often do they update it? Like never?"

    The map was last updated in 2004.

    Here is a link that might be useful: USDA Hardiness Map Press Release

  • Don_OKC

    Hi Steve,

    Don't think I am calling you a zone denier because you a palm hobbiest and know the scoop. You remember those terrible winters of 1978, 79, 83, 89 and likely don't remember 1962, 1963. That 1983 spell was terrible of which Dallas was frozen solid, OKC was a tundra and Chicago a glacier.

    The Dallas zonal denial is a city wide delusion which will be brought back to reality soon. Unless global warming is real and Dallas will be a solid zone 8b forever something's going to give. I sure would be happy in OKC being zone 8ish with global warming and my filiferas lasting.

    It's all those ignorant or perhaps stupid landscapers and retail sellers are putting crap palms into the DFW landscape. That is what will make the Dallas Denial. Tony C. has worked many years to educate as to what's hardy in Dallas but seeing all the robustas I am sorry to say he has failed. The robustas will fail one winter and all you'll hear for years is. "Palms won't grow here."

    Here are some graphs of Dallas winters past. I doubt if robusta would survive any of these winters even in the best microclimate. That 1983 spell killed most all trunked palms and the 1989 cold did not help with replanted specimens.


  • chpinoh7

    Thank you for that updated map, i have never seen it, now it is a fact that i am zone 6 not 5b anymore : ). SO with a microclimate it may be 6b, than with protection 7a. I dont know why you guys cant beleive that you can boost your zone up 1 whole zone. Dr Franko (spelling?) even said that you could.

  • donrheinheimer

    I wasn't saying you had zone denial. I'm glad you're growing palms down there. I only wish our winters were as mild as yours. I think everyone has zone denial due to the very mild winters we've had recently.

    I'm surprised that you can grow Filifera in your area and have it come back in the spring. I pretty much expected the same with the trachys here. This winter for us has been brutally cold, coldest in about 10 years and still we've had a solid zone 7 winter. All my hardy palms have been started by seed, which allows me to protect these small plants if needed and select the hardy palms in the group which varies greatly in palms even among the same species. Last season I started appx 200 robustas from seed and i've kept them on my unheated sun porch for the winter and only 5 have lived. Sounds cruel i know, but my expirament was to select the hardiest of the bunch. Long term i am hoping for needle palms and sabal minor to become permanent landscape plants to accompany my yuccas, agaves, cannas and other "tropical" looking plants. I still have many palms in pots that i do not sentence to this harsh method of testing and they flourish outdoors in the heat and humidity of our summers. For the summer months we have pretty much the same exact temperatures and humidity as Miami, FL It's the winter months here that are similar to that of Miami, OH. You should have much more success with the winters we've been having lately. The winters of the 1980's were 100 year lows so i wouldn't expect them very soon with global warming and urban warming, but undoubtedly they will happen again. For the meantime, I'm with you, If it grows here for a few years then it's worth it, because i could just as easily blow that money on annuals that aren't coming back.


  • steve__k

    I know what you are saying. All the local home improvement stores have been selling CIDP, Livistonia, W. Robusta, and even some queens. I feel bad for those plants.

  • spockvr6

    "Thank you for that updated map, i have never seen it, now it is a fact that i am zone 6 not 5b anymore : ). SO with a microclimate it may be 6b, than with protection 7a. I dont know why you guys cant beleive that you can boost your zone up 1 whole zone. Dr Franko (spelling?) even said that you could."

    Heck...you can get mroe than an extra zone with protection! I have measured over 3 ZONES increase (30F rise) under what I call "palm socks" with supplemental heat.

    But, this increase, or even the full zone increase mentioned, is not possible in my yard merely by planting next to wall based on the temperature measurements I have taken. Unfortunately, it takes more work than that :-(

    All this zone talk is really foolishness! I am not sure why everyone wants to brag about a certain number? Just grow Palm "X" and "Y" for a good number of years and that will show what the zone is (or was). And, even that party might be over eventually. It all depends on what Mother Nature has in store. One unfortunate evening of 1 Zone LESS than the map says can wipe out an entire decade's worth of zone denial.

    Someone once said......take a look at your all time record low and add 10 degrees to it and youll have the low temperature you should expect to see every year. Its hard to find fault with that approach as it will more likely than not prove somewhat accurate over the long run.

  • chitown033

    Don okc,
    Thanks for those graph comparisons however O'Hare is not even in the same county as Chicago. It is not anywhere near the city, and not in the heat island. Midway would be a much better representation of Chicago. Meigs field is clearly the warmest, a strong zone 6, but they do not keep weather records at Meigs field, and how many people are lucky enough to garden right on the lake anyways?? Midway is much more practical to anyone in Chicago.

    Good luck next season, I'm sure you'll be showing us some great pictures. After you've experienced a few years you'll learn that the little nit picky zone game really means nothing... the gardening is the true part. Climate also is not everything, trust me. We have a lot of potential here in the north, and I have a better yard than many people in the south for sure. You can too.

    P.S. Check your e-mail


  • Don_OKC

    Hi chitown033,

    It's hard to find stations with datasets. O'Hare looked close to the lake so I thought it's climate would be influenced more into moderation than further inland station with datasets. Still even if Chicago has quite a heat island I bet it did not count for much back in those terrible winters of 1977 to 1989. Here in OKC the downtown heat island did not count for much in that winter of 1983 and I'm in the sunbelt. I hope we never see weather like that decade of the 1980's ever again. You can stay zone 6, I can be more zone 7b-ish and Dallas can keep their zone 8b-ish winters.

    Hi spockvr6,

    I agree don't worry about zone nonsense too much. There are so many variables from the plants to the climate it's hard to make a system of hardiness prediction that covers all the earth with the same rules. I guess plant it and see what happen is the only system that counts for solid facts. That is within reason of what would be sane to try.

    Hi Steve,

    All that Home Depot unhardy stock is cool to dream about and even I sometimes start to go delusional thinking I'll buy a butia or date palm to try. When I pull money out of my billfold to pay for junk my head clears and I place the plant back where I found it. Going down to Houston it's hard to keep control of my buying. Man there is nothing better looking than a nice container butia but I must only look and not buy. Cheap trachys are even harder to turn down but I always remember all 20 or so I have killed over the years. The one palm I would buy on a Houston trip is Sabal palmetto but you don't find them anymore. Mexicana is all that's stocked now and Mexicana is the sorriest Sabal for hardiness I have ever tried.

    Hi Don,

    I would not bother with trachys unless you willing to wrap the trunk with a plumbers heat tape and fiberglass. Trachys are indeed hardy but not for long durations in the single digits. They are great wrapped and grow like craze even in cool summers with cool soil. You have the hot sunmmer air temps but your deep soil might be cool most of the summer. Trachys like that and thrive. It's just a matter of getting the trunk overwintered and that's easy with a 32* plumbers heat tape and open face fiberglass.

    Needle Palm in a microclimate is indeed the best bet for a unprotected longterm in ground palm. They really are below zero hardy because I have seen it in person back in the terrible 1980's. Go with Needle and perhaps try a inland ecotype of Sabal minor. The Sabal need's deep soil heat or it will not grow so plan to plant within 1 foot of a hot south wall. When planting close to a wall consider that Sabals are a directional grower in that underground trunk. The trunk growth will always be in a direction away from where the first seedling roots happen. Dig down in your container and find the sharp point where the plants seedling trunk had started and place it toward the wall. It's hard to explain without a pic. I'll try to find a pic of a Sabal minor root/trunk system and draw what to do in planting close to a wall.

    For the tropical look yuccas are great and some large tree size species might survive even a bad winter in your area. Don't forget bananas are great for giving a tropical look and can easily be overwintered in a garage.

    Being a nasty day here in OKC with winter weather I could not work so I took some pictures for the board. Most of my plants look trashy after the early December frigid spell. I have found bitter cold in early December will damage marginal plants much worse than the same weather in late January. Two nights of lower single digits so early damaged most all the Sabal minor 'Louisiana'. Regular Sabal minor of all ecotypes were undamaged. Sabal 'Birmingham' were undamaged. Sabal uresana which has been a real surprise in cold hardiness was undamaged. Sabal palmetto varies with some being much hardier than others. Serenoa really got slammed with only a few live leaves left.

    Here are some pictures of crappy looking zone 7 palms. I have around 200 crappy palms so this is far from the whole collection.














    If you would like to see a short video showing my row of varoius Sabal species please click the link below.

    Row Of Sabals Video Click Here

  • chitown033

    Outstanding. I think you have a great collection of palms. It's quite neat how they are almost decidiuos.

    What is the coldest these palms have seen? I can't get over the washy still being alive.
    How would you compare Uresana to Birmingham in terms of growth rate and hardiness?

    I've been very happy with my Minor Mccurtain. I'll be planting a few Louisianas that I will protect, and definately some more minors, and a birmingham using only minimal if any protection after a few years.

    Nice work


  • Don_OKC

    Hi Kyle,

    The better palms like Needle and Sabal minor of inland ecotypes are not deciduous aka. damage. The garbage like filifera will always be deciduous but that is a misnomer. All palms are evergreen and they are being damaged even if the palm withstands the defoliation. Other sabals damage some years and survive undamaged other years.

    The filiferas you see in the pics withstood a brief -3*f low in February of 1996. I had other filiferas die that cold spell.

    Birmingham is hardier and far faster growing than uresana. However uresana seems much hardier than Sabal minor 'Louisiana' and palmetto specimens. Birmingham is a great plant that I would rate as 3rd in hardiness below Sabal minor of inland ecotypes and Needle Palm.

  • flound_1129

    now all of the things chpinoh7 has said make sense.. The last three winters make up 20% of his life.

    From now on I resolve not to argue with 15 year olds (but thanks for the laughs)

  • donrheinheimer

    Awesome pics. I'm definately hoping my needle palms sprout sometime soon. My trachycarpus has seen lows of 5F and seems to be unaffected. I have done nothing to protect this palm and it's on the north side of my house. The soil temperatures here in the summer are quite warm which leads me to think needle palms and sabals will grow well in the summer here. I know these trachies aren't long term survivors here but if they pull through a few winters i'm happy. I would definately be interested in some seed from your needle palm if you have any. I have 3 other trachies in pots that i refuse to plant outside as well as many others. I am definately not limited to palms here and i have found more gratification in grafting maples. Well good luck all

  • lovethosepalms

    Well, I am surprised that the Washingtonia filifera makes it at all so at least that one is hardier than some might think. Since you have given little protection of your Plants I think they look pretty darn well. Keep up the good work :)

  • southern_il_boy

    I'm posting a reply to bring this thread back to the top. It has some great info and especially those pics posted by Don_okc of his palms and their winter survival.

  • andyandy

    I don't know how I ever missed this post. Don's palms are outstanding. Very impressive. Although a little depressing to think about winter protection in mid-June and it's sunny and 82 at 11:30

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