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How to Care for Sabal Palm Trees

The sabal palm tree (Sabal palmetto), also called the cabbage palm or cabbage palmetto, is a large, stately palm tree that grows 50 to 70 feet tall with a small, 12- to 18-foot-wide crown. Native to the southeastern United States, as well as Cuba and the Bahamas, the sabal palm is the state tree of Florida and is extremely tolerant of salt and droughts. Sabal palm trees grow best in USDA Hardiness Zones 8 through 10, tolerating winter temperatures as low as 15 degrees Fahrenheit.

Water your newly-planted sabal palm tree two or three times per week for the first six months, soaking the soil around the roots to a depth of 1 ½ feet. Water established palms deeply to soak the base of the tree at least once every two weeks during dry spells or droughts.

Mix into the soil 2 oz. of palm tree fertilizer per 1 inch of trunk diameter at the time of planting. Feed your newly-planted sabal palm 1 oz. more of slow-release palm tree fertilizer per 3 in. of trunk diameter immediately after planting it.

Apply a 12-4-12 or 13-3-13 NPK slow-release palm fertilizer two to four times per year to your established sabal palm tree. Feed the palm tree ½ pound of the fertilizer per 1 inch of trunk diameter, spreading the fertilizer on the ground to cover the entire canopy area but keeping the fertilizer about 1 foot away from the trunk. Soak the ground with water to dissolve the fertilizer granules.

Spread a 2- to 6-inch-thick layer of sterilized mulch on the ground around the sabal palm tree, keeping the mulch about 6 inches away from the trunk. Make the mulch ring about 1 ½ feet wide.

Treat “frizzle top” by feeding your sabal palm tree a manganese sulfate supplement, according to the directions on the package. This condition makes the upper fronds on the sabal palm appear frizzled, indicating a manganese deficiency.


Plant your sabal palm tree in full to partial sunlight. Stake the newly-planted sabal palm tree until it becomes well established, usually for the first six months to one year. Insert two tall wooden stakes or poles on either side of the palm tree and tie the trunk to the stakes with twine.


Avoid puncturing or wounding the sabal palm tree’s trunk, because this can seriously injure and even kill the tree. Also, don’t prune the sabal palm, because sabal palms are naturally self-pruning and shed their fronds themselves. Pruning sabal palms can severely weaken the trees.

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