Palm Tree Trimming Tips

Palm trees are valued for their tolerance of harsh coastal conditions and for their exotic appearance. Palm trees stand up well to the elements, but they may need the occasional trim. Following a few palm tree trimming tips will help to keep your palm tree looking neat and healthy.

Use Discretion

Pruning should be done infrequently and with intent. Frequent, vigorous pruning can cause immeasurable harm to a palm tree. It's much safer to prune less than more. Palm trees remove nutrients from browning fronds and recycle them back into the tree, therefore pruning fronds too soon will deprive the tree of valuable nutrients. Many palm trees will naturally shed or drop their fronds when they no longer need them. Fronds that are acceptable for trimming are those that are brown, yellow or broken and already hanging low on the tree. An annual or bi-annual trim that removes dead and broken fronds is all that is necessary to keep your palm's appearance neat. It is also good practice to gently remove loose petioles or boots, although if they don't come off easily, they should be left on the tree.

Prune Lightly

Never trim more fronds than the tree can produce in a year. Depriving the palm of nutrients from older leaves can cause deficiencies such as smaller palm fronds and narrow, unstable trunks. By pruning lightly, you also help the palm to stay upright. Storms and hurricanes are more likely to knock over palms that have fewer stabilizing fronds. Be careful with your equipment as you prune, as an accidental slice into the trunk will make the tree more susceptible to fungal problems and pests.

Clean Equipment

Avoid complications by thoroughly cleaning equipment before use. A dirty tool is more likely to promote disease in the palm, especially if its trunk is accidentally nicked. Clean pruning shears and handsaws by dunking them for five minutes or so in a half and half solution of bleach and water. Though chainsaws give faster results than manual saws, they are difficult to sterilize and not an ideal choice for palm tree trimming. Always use a blade to create a smooth, sharp cut. Breaking or tearing away fronds by hand will leave a jagged wound that's more susceptible to disease.

Remove Fruit and Flowers

Use a handsaw to cut off fruits and flower stalks, as they take energy from the tree that most gardeners would prefer went to producing fresh palm fronds. Fruit and flowers may attract unwanted animals and bugs, while also causing a mess and an unpleasant odor when they drop to the ground. Some palms may self sow if fruits are allowed to rot below the tree.

Keywords: pruning palms, palm tree, trimming tips

About this Author

Michelle Wishhart is a writer based out of Astoria, Ore. She has been writing professionally for five years, starting with her position as a staff arts writer for an alternative weekly paper in Santa Cruz. She has a B.A. in fine arts from the University of California in Santa Cruz and a minor in English literature.