Proper Palm Pruning

Proper palm pruning beautifies these stately specimens in the landscape and protects them from stress from poor care and environmental pressure.
Benefits of Proper Palm Pruning Include:
• Preserving the health of the palm.
• Improving their appearance.
• Eliminating places for pests to hide.
• Reducing wind resistance during bad weather.
• Reducing fire hazards from the highly flammable dead fronds.
There are self-cleaning palms for people who don’t want to worry about pruning. Self-cleaning palms include King Alexander (Archontophoenix alexandrae), Royal palm (Roystonea regia), Chinese Fan palm (Livistona chinensis), and Christmas palm (Adonidia merrillii).

The first step in proper palm pruning is to inspect and assess the source of any damage to the palms. Trimming your palm tree is no substitute for appropriate fertilization and care. You can’t fix mineral deficiencies and damage from pests, pathogens, and disease by pruning the tree. 

What Tools do I Need to Properly Prune Palms?
Proper palm pruning tools include: gloves, eye protection, pruning shears, loppers, telescoping pole saw, ladder, rubbing alcohol, bleach, or other comparable disinfectants to clean tools before and after use to avoid spreading pathogens and disease between plants. Tree trimming services should use ladders or a bucket truck rather than climbing with spiked shoes that damage the trunks and invite pests, pathogens, and diseases. Ask others who prune your palm trees to disinfect their tools and don’t allow them to climb them with spiked shoes.

How Often Should I Trim my Palms?
Typically once per year in Spring is the best time and frequency to trim palm trees. Avoid removing the healthy green fronds. Instead, focus on eliminating brown and yellowing palm fronds damaged at the end of their life cycle. The fruiting flower stalks, or inflorescence, can be removed at this time to conserve the plants’ energy and reduce hazards from falling fruit and the corresponding mess, odor, and insect attraction. 

Proper Palm Pruning Techniques
Start pruning below the canopy and work up and around the tree to a horizontal frond position like arms on a clock at 9 and 3. Palms are monocots, plants that emerge from one leaf. Each new leaf emerges from the apical meristem, commonly referred to as the heart of the palm at the very top of the tree. “Death of the apical meristem in a palm results in the death of that stem in clustering species and death of the entire palm in single-stem species,” according to the University of Florida IFAS. “It also means that stem wounds, which would eventually be compartmentalized and grown over in dicot trees, are permanent in palms.”
Due to the circumference of the palm trunks continuing to expand trim fronds 1/2-3/4″ back from the tree trunk on smaller palms such as Pygmy date palm (Phoenix roebelinii) and 4-6″ from the trunk on large palm trees. The remaining portion of the frond on the trunk is referred to as the boot, which will die and in most species form a crisscrossing pattern that will eventually fall off or can be carefully removed.

The Sylvester date palm tree (Phoenix sylvestris) is known for its signature diamond-cut trunk. To create the diamond-cut tree farms prune for this look with a reciprocating saw that prevents trunk damage while exposing their orange genetic coloration. Although the color will fade in the months and years ahead it can be restored by pressure washing. Loppers and pole saws are recommended for Sylvester date palm tree annual pruning and a reciprocating saw, NOT a chainsaw when striving to duplicate the diamond cut.
The beauty of your tropical landscape will increase along with the health of your palms by using these proper palm pruning techniques.

For comprehensive solutions to your specific lawn, garden, and landscaping need, contact us at 904-996-0712. Earth Works operates a retail Garden Center/Plant Nursery in Jacksonville and provides landscaping, hardscaping, water features, lawn care service, lawn spraying, and drainage solutions. 

Earth Works proudly serves clients in Northeast Florida, including Jacksonville, Ponte Vedra Beach, Atlantic Beach, Neptune Beach, Jacksonville Beach, Nocatee, St. Johns, Fleming Island, Orange Park, Middleburg, Green Cove Springs, Amelia Island, Fernandina, and St. Augustine.


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