Answer: Generally speaking, the homeowner who is concerned about the effects of winter weather on their palms has little to worry about. However, the unpredictable climate of the winter months can sometimes produce unexpected 'cold snaps'. It is in the face of freezing temperatures such as these that your palms will require extra attention.
Cold weather can affect plants in a variety of ways. First, frost or freezing temperatures can damage the actual tissue of the plant as well as limiting the conduction of water through the trunk. As well, cold weather will slow down the growth of your palm and reduce the activity of the roots. As this occurs, the palm is weakened and susceptible to the perils of disease.
There are, thankfully, a number of preventative measures one can take to encourage the survival of palms through the winter. If you have the advantage of being able to choose where to plant a new palm, ensure that you decide upon a warm and sunny spot well protected from winter winds. Winds from the north and west are particularly harmful. Any number of evergreens will serve as adequate windscreens - fences or walls that allow some air through work well also. If you are able, situate your palm close to the south or east sides of your house. The heat of your home will further protect them.
If you are aware of an oncoming 'cold snap', there are a number of easy, preventative measures. If your palm is small, a box or blanket placed over it, and weighted down, will protect most species. Be careful not to leave the cover on the plant for more than five days at the most. Burying your smaller palms under a mound of straw or other type of mulch can also provide effective protection for your smaller palms. When the weather warms up, the mulch should be removed immediately so as not to promote rot.
For larger palms with tall, exposed trunks there are slightly different methods of protection. Again, when a colder period is impending, you can protect the plant by tightly wrapping the trunk in burlap, blankets, or similar materials. These materials should also be removed once the weather warms up.
Best wishes with your new palms!
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