Palm Tree Care

If you are new to palm tree care, or even if you have some experience, ATSS offers the following palm tree resources concerning proper palm tree care and additional resources via external links.

Most agree that proper palm tree maintenance begins with using quality tools when pruning is necessary. We are proud to offer to our prospective clients’ high quality ATSS palm tree saw.

Palms are monocots, which means palm trees do not have continued outward growth in their trunks like a typical tree. A palm’s growth comes from the expansion of existing tissues rather than the production of new cells.

Many palms maintain a set number of live fronds. A regular turnover of foliage occurs as dying lower fronds are replaced by new ones at the bud. These dead fronds are not detrimental to the health of the tree. If there are an excessive number of older yellow fronds, determine the cause before pruning. A nutrient problem caused by a deficiency of potassium or magnesium could worsen if the palm is pruned or fertilized with high nitrogen or the wrong type of fertilizer.

Poor pruning techniques will harm any tree, including palms. Many palm specialists discourage over-pruning, except when transplanting certain species. Other palm specialists recommend pruning as little as possible.

Green fronds produce the food that a palm needs to grow and remain healthy. Reduction of the green leaf area reduces food production and that, in turn, jeopardizes the health and growth of the palm. The only true palm food is that which the plant makes.

Fertilizer is used by trees along with water and sunlight to make food. Under ideal growing conditions, date palms (Phoenix dactylifera) can have between 120 to 180 fronds, each growing up to 15 feet long. Fronds are known to live from five to eight years. This includes leaf primordia in the apex. Many experts report Fan palms (Washingtonia robusta/filifera) have an average of 30 green fronds.

A correctly pruned palm should have an oval or circular silhouette. Palms do not need pruning or protection from high winds. Their flexible leaves and high wind resistance make them nearly storm-proof.

“Hurricane pruning”, which occurs in many regions, is a bad practice. In the desert Southwest, the practice is referred to as “rooster-tailing,” due to the plumed appearance of the remaining leaves. Rooster-tail pruning is harmful in several ways. Instead of protecting the palm from high winds, the practice actually weakens the canopy. The reason for this is that all fronds in the apex act together, with each frond layer supporting and adding strength to the one above. They all protect the bud and newly emerging spear leaf. The more leaves removed, the less strength and protection there is.

If you damage a palm’s trunk while pruning, there is a good chance the damage will not heal. Most palm species with trunks rarely branch, so extra care should be taken because if the growing part is damaged the palm's trunk is damaged.

When to prune palms:

  • To remove dead and dying fronds and loose petioles that are weakly attached to some palms. Palm leaves and leaf stems are heavy and can place people and property at risk should they fall from tall palms.
  • To remove fronds that might harbor insect pests, such as roaches and scorpions, as well as provide hiding places for other pests such as rats.
  • Removing dead and dying lower fronds improves the appearance of a palm.
  • To remove potential fire hazards in urban areas near homes and other buildings.
  • For safety reasons, so that signs can be seen and views from driveways and sidewalks are clear. Blocked views are most often caused by palms growing in the wrong place.
  • To prevent damage to buildings and walls during high winds. Planting palms too close to a building can cause damage to the structure.

Palms themselves don’t need to be protected from high winds. After Hurricane Andrew, the few trees left standing were palms.

Most had few if any fronds left, but they were still standing.