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How to Prune a Needle Palm

Needle palm, known botanically as Rhapidophyllum hystrix, is a low-growing clump form palm. According to the University of Florida IFAS, they are among the palms most tolerant of cold temperatures and can even tolerate moderate to heavy frost. Needle palm takes it name from the thin, long spikes that stand sentry over the crown of the palm. These make the palm tricky to work with and around. Needle palms require little pruning save the removal of damaged or dead fronds, size control or should it need to be transplanted.

Prune away any yellow or brown and dessicated palm fronds each year in the spring, using long-handled loppers. Cut each dead frond off cleanly at the bottom of the stem, just above the crown of the palm clump, and compost or discard them.

Remove green, living fronds only when absolutely necessary to control the size or shape of the palm and never remove more green fronds than were produced in the previous years growth. If the palm produced only two fronds, never remove more than two. On the rare occasion that you do remove green fronds, cut away the older, perimeter fronds and leave the newer central fronds in place to mature.

Prune away 50 percent of the living, green fronds when digging and transplanting your needle palm. This will reduce moisture loss and stress on the palm, helping prevent shock and boosting the odds of survival. Place cuts evenly throughout the canopy, removing more of the older fronds than new.


Don heavy duty canvas or leather gardening gloves when working with or around needle palm. Gloves that extend over your forearm are ideal. A thick, long-sleeve sweatshirt or canvas jacket may also come in handy. The sharp, long spines and the sharp edges of the fronds themselves can each cause nasty cuts and wounds. Do not attempt to prune this plant without protection.

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