While most palm trees are relatively low-maintenance, providing an appropriate fertilizer for a palm tree is key to helping it grow in a healthy manner. The fertilizer should be applied conscientiously and some may require a different strategy at different points in their lives. Using a fertilizer specifically suited for palm trees often produces the best results, but palm trees also respond well to natural types of fertilizers.
Palm tree fertilizers come mainly as solids or liquids. Solids may be in granular form or may be fertilizer spikes, which are usually suitable for potted palms or smaller trees. Many landscapers prefer granular fertilizers for larger trees or trees that have been established. Some liquid fertilizers may come in concentrated formulas, so follow all label directions before application.
Fertilizers are typically marketed based on three major nutrients: nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium (NPK). These elements are generally displayed prominently on the fertilizer label somewhere. For palm trees, a ratio of 3-1-3 is recommended. This may be advertised as 12-4-12, 15-5-15 or some other similar ratio. Also a fertilizer with 1 to 2 percent iron and manganese is important for palm trees. Fertilizers should also have some copper, zinc and boron.
The timing of when to apply the fertilizer mainly depends on the type of fertilizer, the type of tree and its location. Generally, it is best to use a slow-release fertilizer with palm trees, which not only gives the tree time to absorb the nutrients, but also makes less work for you. Palm trees typically only require a time-released fertilizer twice a year, according to Jungle Music Palms & Cycads.
Whether it is a newly planted tree or an established tree, the type of palm fertilizer does not generally change. Remember that newly established palm trees need fertilizer to establish themselves properly. Generally, 2 oz. of fertilizer per inch of trunk diameter is recommended at the time of planting. After that, 1 oz. of fertilizer should be added for every 3 inches of trunk diameter, if using a slow-release fertilizer, advises Broward County, Florida.
Some palm tree owners may not wish to use synthetic fertilizers for a number of reasons. If that is the case, natural fertilizers, such as manure, bone meal and blood meal may be used as a substitute. The best product for the situation may depend partially upon the species of palm and the existing soil, so observe the tree closely and see how it may be responding to various products.