Tools for Trimming a Palm Tree

Many garden tools are used to trim and tidy the variety of palm trees that vary in height, form and leaves. The biggest challenge is access to the palm, especially if the fronds are tens of feet above your head. Spines and falling fruits also require tools other than a simple hand-held pruners. Allow professionals with heavy-duty or safer equipment to tackle the palm maintenance, even if you have all the tools in your shed.

Cutting Blades

Common cutting blades are often used to trim away dead or undesired palm fronds or trunk fibers. Depending on the size of the palm, its fronds and stems and the strength of its tissue fibers, anything from a heavy-duty pair of scissors and hand-pruners to a machete or loppers must be employed. Match the cutting blade tool to the job. Scissors or hand pruners are appropriate for small stems, those under one-quarter inch in diameter. As the stems get larger in diameter or the plant tissues more rigid and firm, consider using the long-armed and bigger blade of loppers. The long handles of the loppers are also helpful to reach the interior stems or fronds in the palm canopy. When you use loppers to trim palms with sharp thorns and spines; you avoid reaching into a trap of pokes and pinching.

Sawing Blades

Cutting blades will merely chew extremely coarse fibers or rigid stems, and therefore a sawing blade becomes most useful. Hand-held pruning saws will tear through fronds, stems and dried boots on the trunk. Use either a single-handle saw or a bow saw; the only concern is whether there is room in the palm to move the saw back and forth among other palm fronds and stems. Heavy, massive palm fronds can quickly be trimmed with a power chainsaw. Moreover, large flower cluster branches and fruit clusters, like coconuts, are quickly trimmed off the plant and drop away, keeping the work area uncluttered.

Extensions

Pruning blades on extension poles permit you to cut small-diameter fronds above your head while you maintain good footing on the ground. A rope pulley controls the cutting blade, opening or closing it to make the cut. The pruning blade and pole head doubles as an arm, pushing, clasping or pulling at fronds while you work. Extension poles attached to saw handles allow you to reach palm frond bases without a ladder. Just make sure the saw blade is firmly attached and does not pivot on the pole once you start to saw. For large-scale projects, a hydraulic lift or arm on a vehicle allows workers to gain better, safer access to high-reaching palm canopies.

Other Necessary Equipment

Although not central in the trimming action, ladders and safety equipment are often employed. Thick cloth or leather gloves ensure that you have a good grip on plant materials, prevent any skin injuries and protect you against palms that are armed with spines. Eye goggles protect your eyes from being poked, and--perhaps more overlooked--the haphazard drifting of sawdust and debris into your eyes. Ladders help you to reach palm fronds, but they should be used cautiously as they may topple, wobble or provide a false sense of how far you can safely reach.

Keywords: pruning palms, pruning tools, palm maintenance

About this Author

James Burghardt has written for The Public Garden, Docent Educator, numerous non-profit newsletters and for Learn2Grow.com's comprehensive plant database. He holds a Master's degree in Public Horticulture from the University of Delaware and studied horticulture and biology in Australia at Murdoch University and the University of Melbourne's Burnley College.