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How to Trim Palm Trees

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How to Trim Palm Trees

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Overview

Both single-trunk and clustered stem palms evoke a soothing, tropical feel to the garden or room if grown as a house plant. Occasionally these plants require trimming to remove a dead leaf, a persistent frond base or an unsightly flowering or seed stalk. While keeping as many green fronds as possible on a palm keeps it healthier, they should be removed if they pose a safety threat, such as hanging over a walkway, intrude into a doorway or block the view to a busy street.

Step 1

Evaluate the palm, making a tally of items needing trimming. Dead, diseased or broken fronds should be removed. If it is a clustering type palm, such as a parlor (Chamaedorea) or areca palm (Dypsis lutescens), look to see if any new shoots or the number of stems needs to be reduced. Trim emerging flower stalks that are unsightly or to prevent messy seeds from developing.

Step 2

Clip off fronds or fruit/seed branching structures with a hand pruners, making the cut 1/4 to 1/2-inch above the attachment to the palm trunk. If the palm fronds are larger, use bigger cutting equipment such as loppers or a hand-held pruning saw. An extension pole may be needed to reach taller fronds. Wear gloves when working on larger palms with heavier or coarser fronds and stems.

Step 3

Trim with restraint. Palms grow only from the tip of their trunk or stems, so take care not to damage or break these growing tips. Also do not over-prune and remove healthy green leaves. The leaves provide food for the plant and unnecessarily depleting food-making fronds weakens the palm and may slow its growth.

Tips and Warnings

  • Do not remove too many fronds from the growing tip of the palm, known as the crownshaft. Fronds help protect and balance the weight distribution around the growing tip. An unhealthy practice called "hurricane pruning" exposes the crownshaft to harmful winds more than if the frond canopy wasn't over-pruned.

Things You'll Need

  • Hand pruners (secateurs)
  • Loppers
  • Hand pruning saw
  • Extension pole
  • Gloves

References

  • University of Florida IFAS Extension: Pruning Palms
  • "Your Florida Landscape"; Robert J. Black and Kathleen C. Ruppert; 1998
  • Arbor Age magazine: Palm Pruning
Keywords: palm care, pruning palms, trimming palms, palm maintenance

About this Author

James Burghardt has written for "The Public Garden," "Docent Educator," nonprofit newsletters and for horticultural databases, becoming a full-time writer in 2008. He's gardened and worked professionally at public and private gardens in Colorado, Florida, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina and Pennsylvania. He has written articles for eHow and GardenGuides.