Last Updated on January 14, 2022 by Grow with Bovees
If you are thinking of palm tree trimming, and don’t know where to start, this guide will help you from start to finish.
Palm trees are an iconic plant that many people have in their homes or yards.
They add a tropical feel to any space, and they look great with other plants, but how much to trim palm trees is an often asked question.
This article will go into detail about how to trim a palm tree properly and everything you should consider to make your trimming process a success.
How and When to Prune a Palm Tree
Before you get into pruning, the first question to answer is if it’s the right time to trim the palm tree. Most people prefer trimming the trees before the hurricane season or during droughts when fires are all over.
The best time for pruning your palm tree:
- When your palm has dying or dead fronds hanging
- When it has dry fronds that are a potential fire hazard
- When you need to keep your sidewalks and driveways visible and safe
- When it poses a risk to damaging physical structures, utility lines, or other property
- When you need to remove flowers, seeds, and fruits
The first step to pruning your palm tree is assessing the tree and determining its type. Short palms are easier to trim from the ground, but you might need to have a ladder or a hydraulic lift to trim a tall tree. If the palm tree is too tall for you to trim safely, then you may consider hiring an arborist for the palm tree trimming work.
Still, it’s important to remember that even when pruning your palm tree is necessary, overpruning can easily occur and that will affect the health of the palm negatively.
Check The Health of Your Palm Tree
It’s important to assess the health of your palm tree as it may be an indication of when the tree needs trimming. Overall, health problems that may call for pruning your palm include;
- Brown, white, or yellow fronds that appear wilted or drooping down
- Potassium deficiency, which is marked by yellow spotting on the oldest leaves. Potassium deficient palm trees should not be trimmed as this will only make the deficiency worse.
Potassium deficiency is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies of palm trees. Palm trees facing high potassium deficiency are found in areas where the sandy soils are highly leached. Symptoms may vary, but they first appear on the old leaves.
They include mottled leaves with yellow translucent spots, marginal or tip necrosis with minimal or no yellow spots on withering leaves. Other symptoms include dropping of palm leaves, In some cases, the palm tree may only be left with a few chlorotic, stunted and frizzled leaves. At this stage, the trunk may start tapering, which is followed by death.
Balancing the Nitrogen:Calcium:Potassium ratios in the soil will help to take care of the deficiency.
Use the Right Pruning Equipment
- Pruning Equipment
There are several palm tree trimming tools that you can use to trim your palm trees, but the size of the tree will affect the type of equipment you need.
- A serrated knife will help cut small palm fronds that are less than 1 inch in thickness. You will also need this knife to remove flower stalks from the trees.
- Pruning shears or large clippers will work better when dealing with large fronds of a diameter larger than 1 inch.
- A pruning or hand saw might be necessary if you are taking care of large thick fronds.
- You may need to cut the extra-large fronds with a chainsaw.
- Ensure that you also have either a bench grinder, oilstone, or whetstone to sharpen your blades. Using a chainsaw on the tough fronds will cause it to get blunt fast, and having the sharpening equipment will come in handy.
- Climbing Equipment
Palm trees come in all sizes and shapes. They could be as short as a Bonsai tree, or they could grow into tall trees, up to 197 ft. Ensure that you pick the equipment that matches the height of your palm tree.
- Use a step stool or small ladders if you are working on small trees.
- Extension ladders come in handy if you are working on trees with a height of up to 15 feet.
- A bucket lift or cherry picker might be useful for pruning the extra tall palm trees.
- Climbing spikes or cleats are not recommended as they wound the trunk, cause damage, and expose the tree to diseases.
Ensure that you are also in the proper safety gear. Unless you’re working on small indoor palms, wear a hard hat with a face screen, gloves, long sleeve shirts, heavy pants, and sturdy boots.
Sterilize Your Pruning Tools
Make sure that you sterilize your pruning tools before starting the palm tree pruning process.
Sterilized pruning tools prevent the spreading of pests and diseases from one tree to another through the tools. You can sterilize your equipment by putting them in a solution made of 1 part of bleach and 3 parts of water.
Remove the Dead Palm Fronds
Set up your climbing equipment and make sure it is safe, supportive, and stable before climbing on it. Ensure that the climbing equipment you use does not damage the tree.
First, start by removing any dead plant material from the tree’s base.
Then, using your climbing gear if necessary, work your way up the tree, cutting away any old fronds or seed pods that are dead, damaged, hanging, or look unhealthy. You don’t need to prune the healthy green fronds as this doesn’t benefit the tree in any way.
Leave at least two rows of mature healthy fronds. A mature frond is one row below the current year’s fronds.
You can also prune the flowers and developing coconuts if your palm tree is a coconut palm variety. Flowers and developing fruit consume nutrients from the tree, are a hazard to people walking below, and attract pests.
Once you are done with pruning, ensure that the removed fronds, petioles, and flowers are disposed of properly. Pick up any fallen fruit, as stormwater may cause germination and growth of other unwanted vegetation.
Don’t Prune Excessively
Avoid removing the green fronds. Over pruning your palm tree will lead to a weak and unhealthy palm tree. Also, avoid cosmetic shaping, where you trim your tree into a pineapple shape.
Your palm is much better if left with as many green fronds as possible. This will ensure that the palm tree has enough healthy green fronds to make its food through photosynthesis.
The Dangers of Pruning Palm Trees
While understanding the ins and outs of palm tree trimming is important, it’s worth noting that it can be dangerous to prune a palm.
First, handling sharp equipment up and down a tree and on ladders poses a great risk to your wellbeing. Ensure that you protect yourself adequately to prevent any accidents from happening.
It is also worth bearing in mind that there have been several tragic cases of death of palm tree trimmers by suffocation from heavy fronds collapsing on them. For that reason, make sure you are not positioned directly below the fronds that you are trimming.
Consult a Tree Service Professional
If you are pruning a tall palm or one that’s spiky and hard to deal with, the best thing is to consult a tree service company. Make sure that you look for an experienced tree service professional who deals with palm trees.
Also, if you choose to hire experts to prune your trees, go for a specialized professional who uses the right gear to prune your palms.
FAQs About Palm Tree Pruning
How Often Do You Need to Prune a Palm Tree
As an expert would have it, the best time for pruning, is during spring (1). Experts recommend that you trim your palm tree only 1 or 2 times a year.
While the dead branches may be not be particularly aesthetically pleasing, they will keep the palm from the winter cold and summer heat. They also provide the plant with extra nutrients, as organic mulch.
If you need to consider palm tree removal, specialists say that complete palm tree removal can be carried out at almost any time of year, these companies will also remove the palm tree roots from the site.
Although if you were to want to use the palm wood as firewood, you should maybe do it at the onset of winter.
How Do You Prepare Your Palm Trees for Hurricane Season?
Pruning your palms before the hurricane season is important. It will help you get rid of dead or dying fronds that can become dangerous projectiles during a hurricane.
Does Trimming Palm Trees Make Them Grow Faster
No. Contrary to a common misconception about pruning palm trees to help them grow fast, palm tree trimming slows down the growth.
What Happens If You Don’t Trim Palm Trees?
Most palm trees, such as Kentia palms, Jubaea palms, and King palms are self cleaning palms. They don’t require any pruning because they can shed dead fronds. Healthy palm trees that are adequately fertilized can get rid of their old leaves through shedding by detaching from the tree at the crown shaft.
For some types of palm trees, manual removal of the dead fronds is necessary. If these fronds are left to remain on the tree, pest and disease infestation might happen. The tree can also become a potential fire hazard.
We hope that you have found our palm tree trimming guide helpful and you can now maintain your garden with confidence.