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
"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
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
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
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
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
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