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How to Cut Back a Mexican Fan Palm

By Barbara Fahs ; Updated September 21, 2017
Mexican fan palms can grow very tall
palm image by koko300 from Fotolia.com

Mexican fan palms are popular landscape plants in areas as far north as USDA zone 8, where winter temperatures rarely drop below about 15 degrees Fahrenheit. It will also tolerate high heat. Called Washingtonia robusta, the Mexican fan palm is native to northern Mexico and can grow as tall as 100 feet. The Mexican fan palm grows best as an outdoor landscape plant, but will do well indoors in a large pot. Removing brown fronds helps its appearance and is an easy task.

Cutting Back a Mexican Fan Palm

Trim yellowing, brown or broken fronds of both large and small Mexican fan palms. If your tree is large, old fronds will fall to the ground and possibly damage buildings and vehicles and injure people or pets if they fall on them.

Trim fronds from a small Mexican fan palm with your loppers or tree saw as close to the trunk as possible without nicking or cutting into the trunk.

Trim fronds from large Mexican fan palms by using a pole pruner or a tree saw. If your tree is too tall for your extendable pole pruner, use a tall ladder and carefully cut off the frond with a tree saw as close to the trunk as possible without nicking or cutting into the trunk.

Prune green fronds if you want to slow your tree’s growth or keep it tidy and attractive. You can remove many of the tree’s fronds once a year, but make certain you do not cut off more leaves than the palm has produced during the previous year—doing so can kill your tree. Be careful never to cut into the trunk.


Things You Will Need

  • Garden loppers
  • Tree saw
  • Pole pruner
  • Gloves
  • Ladder


  • You might also want to trim the fruit, or seedpods, of the Mexican fan palm to prevent unwanted trees from popping up in areas of your yard where you don't want them.


  • Dispose of dead fronds at your community green waste facility because if you leave them on your property they can be a fire hazard.
  • Never remove the uppermost fronds from a Mexican fan palm because this can kill the tree. Concentrate your pruning on lower fronds that are starting to become yellow or brown.

About the Author


Barbara Fahs lives on Hawaii island, where she has created Hi'iaka's Healing Herb Garden. Fahs wrote "Super Simple Guide to Creating Hawaiian Gardens" and has been a professional writer since 1984. She contributes to "Big Island Weekly," "Ke Ola" magazine and various websites. She earned her Bachelor of Arts at University of California, Santa Barbara and her Master of Arts from San Jose State University.