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Palm Tree Care - Pruning. Your typical care and maintenance for the health of your Palm Tree includes Pruning cautiously. Even though this article is on the importance of pruning (trimming) your palm trees always remember that Palm trees are still low maintenance trees.
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Palm Tree Care - Pruning


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Palm Tree Pruning

Most palm trees shed their fronds naturally, but other palms drop the fronds after some time. When it is necessary to prune the palm trees, never remove fronds that do not hang below a line parallel to the ground.

Pruning palms can reduce their vigor, transmit diseases, reduce their health nutritionally, affect cold hardiness and lower their tolerance to handle windstorms. So what pruning should be done on a palm tree? Remove only badly damaged or dead fronds, also remove flowers. Be sure to visit the Palm Tree Types and Palm Tree pictures page for information on stalks and fruit

Palm Tree species information and pictures.

Palm Tree Pruning (trimming) - Care and Maintenance of Palms

Pruning Palm Trees or as it is sometimes called trimming palms is an important part of the care for your Palm Trees. It is as atypical as Palm Trees themselves. Palms are monocots which means Palm Trees do not have a continued outward growth in their trunks like a typical tree where new wood is being created. A Palm's trunk may appear to grow like a tree but in reality it is an expansion of the tissue first formed.

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"Palms produce a leaf at a time, and once a full crown of leaves is achieved in a mature individual (for some palms this is just 4-5 leaves, while in other species, this can be over 120 leaves), every new leaf formed is followed by an old leaf dying. This number, unique to each palm, is the ideal number of leaves for that palm to have to grow optimally. Any less leaves than that number and the palm will grow sub-optimally, or slower. Sub-optimal numbers of fronds can weaken a palm, too, and make it more vulnerable to wind damage, parasites and fatal infections. For some reason there is a myth going about that pruning palms will speed up their growth rate. This is actually the opposite of what happens and I have no idea why this myth persists. In an ideal world, we would ONLY prune the dead or broken leaves off each palm.

Green palm leaves, or fronds, are the palms sole source of food (from photosynthesis).  Fertilizer is NOT food, but a source of micronutrients the palm uses, along with water and sunlight to make its food.  When green leaves are removed, the palm cannot make the ideal amount of food it needs to survive.  Fortunately most palms are quite tolerant of this ‘abuse' and can deal with sub-optimal amounts of green leaves... up to a point.  So there should be good reasons to prune palms ‘prematurely' as well as pruning in general." (excerpt in Dave's Garden from Pruning Palms By Geoff Stein, February 23, 2008)

Palm Tree Care - Pruning a Palm Tree - What hat does this mean to me? (caution)

Be very wary of Palm Trees trunks and avoid anything that you think can damage the trunks. If you damage your Palms trunk while pruning there is a good chance the damage will not heal.

Most species of Palms (variety of Palm Trees) which have trunks rarely branch, extra care should be taken in this situation because if you damage the growing part of Palms you are damaging the Palm Trees trunks.

With Palms you need to care for the the rootball of the trunk, unlike a typical tree it Palms do not have roots growing deep beneath the tree, thus called a rootball. Rootballs branch but little and do not increase in size with the growth of the aboveground parts. Palms derive a bulk of their nutrients from the top soil and the top of the nearby ground which means proper fertilization care is required.

Pruning Palms is a natural part of the total care package for Palm Trees. Even though this article is on the importance of pruning your palm always remember that Palm Trees are still low maintenance trees. Palm Trees are purchased for their beauty and tropical flavor and thus the importance of having your Palms look as spectacular as possible!

Pruning Your Palm Trees - Part of Palm Tree Care

1. If Palms' fronds are yellow, brown or broken prune them off.

2. Remove loose petioles or boots by hand. If they don't pull off, leave them on.

3. Care of Palm Trees include removing Palm flower and fruit stalks. The formation of fruit and seed takes strength away from Palm Trees unnecessarily. When mature, fruits may provide food for pests such as rodents and birds. Palms, such as date Palm Trees, produce infertile (where there are no male trees near by) or fertile fruit that will later drop, make a mess or stain concrete surfaces. The seeds of some Palms such as Fan Palm Trees (Washingtonia robusta/filifera) will germinate in undesired areas of the landscape.

4. Proper care includes that some clumping Palms may need to be thinned out or new growth pruned off if the Palm Trees are getting too big for the space in which the Palms are growing.

5. When Palm Trees are field dug and transplanted bare root, half of the fronds on most species can be removed. This care reduces the transpiration rate and facilitates handling and shipping by taking up less room on the truck. Some experts believe that after planting Palm Trees, the fronds of field dug Palms should be untied when new root growth is noted (Pfalzgraf 1999). The University of Florida has found that Sabal Palm species survive transplanting better if all fronds are removed. (Broschat 1991). However, this is an exception, true only for this genus.

6. Palm Tree care includes removing fruits and seeds. Some palms produce seeds that germinate in the landscape or fruit that makes a mess and smells bad when it drops. Most Palm Trees do not produce either fronds or fruit large enough to cause damage when falling. Removing flowers or developing fruit can free up starch that benefits developing fronds, roots and storage reserves.

Keep Palm Tree Pruning to a Minimum

Good Palm Tree care can mean avoiding removing most of the leaves (fronds) yearly or more frequently because it may weaken the Palm and slows its growth. Mature fronds provide food for developing fronds, flowers, fruit, roots and storage reserves in the Palm's trunk (Banjerth 89 in Pfalzgraf 2000).

When Palm Tree green fronds are pruned, the nutrients they would have produced are lost to the rest of the Palm Tree. Some nutrients move from older leaves of Palms to newer leaves as they die. With potassium (and to lesser extent other nutrients deficiency), removal of older green or chlorotic leaves exacerbates deficiency. Nutrient deficiencies also cause narrowing of the Palm Trees trunks and decline in the size of the fronds.

Another care point, the pruning now causes the Palm Tree to obtain its potassium from younger leaves in the canopy. These previously green and healthy leaves will then become chlorotic and unsightly. Regular removal of potassium deficient leaves can eventually kill the Palm

Research has shown that mature fronds are those found below the current year's blooms. When pruning, take care to leave at least two rows of mature fronds, preferably more.

Never prune or off more of the Palm's leaves in one year than are produced during that time. Research done by E. J. H. Corner (1966) indicates that each species of Palms has a set number of green live fronds with the same number of developing fronds inside the bud area of the Palm Trees. As a new frond emerges, the oldest frond dies. The age that a frond may attain will be determined by many factors including size of mature Palm Trees, number of fronds produced, etc.

To prune Palm Trees the key care factor is that only the Palm knows when a frond needs to be pruned off, and that is when it is dying (yellow or brown). As each new leaf opens, it will take the place of a dying leaf. The Palm knows the exact amount of fronds needed for a healthy Palm Tree. When Palms reach their ultimate height, the fronds will decrease in size and the Palm Trees will decline and die.

Damage from Pruning a palm Tree is more likely the cause of death than old age.

Palms must store sufficient reserves of starch in their trunks that can be mobilized to restore fronds in the event that Palms experiences some type of stress such as fire, frost or pruning. Palm Trees must have as many green fronds as possible to produce a continuous supply of food to grow, stay healthy and build storage reserves. Fronds may take 3 to 5 years to mature.

Proper care includes never pruning for cosmetic purposes (to a certain degree). Some people will prune Canary Island Date Palms (Phoenix canariensis) to look like a giant pineapple or will skin Fan Palms (Washingtonia robusta/filifera) to look like more tropical Palms. Desert Palm Trees are not tropical, so it is best to accept that and not try to change the Palms into something they are not.

Palm Tree leaves are designed in a cantilever effect to facilitate survival in high winds. During pruning care - When too many fronds are removed, the palm can be more easily damaged (Pfalzgraf 2000). Immature fronds that have been robbed of the support and protection of mature fronds are more susceptible to wind damage, desiccation and structural failure

Maintaining care for Palm true pruning can be very dangerous to your Palm Trees but there are benefits as well. Just be careful and if you are unsure of a pruning action, study up on it before you make your next move.


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