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How to Prune Cabbage Palmetto

By Dale Devries ; Updated September 21, 2017

The cabbage palmetto is Florida’s state tree. The leaves, or fronds, of the tree are fanlike and almost round and they come directly from the crown at the top of the trunk. The cabbage palmetto, also known as sabal palmetto, can reach a height of 80 feet. The tree flowers in early summer and produces a dark, shiny fruit that matures and starts to drop by fall. These trees are actually self-pruning; too much human pruning can be unhealthy for the tree and can damage it. Take care to not overprune the cabbage palmetto.

Prune off only brown or mostly yellow dying fronds with your pruning pole. Pruning green fronds is unhealthy and takes away the cabbage palmetto's food source. It also makes it susceptible to wind damage and cold. Use a ladder if the fronds are too far to reach with the pruning pole. Cut the fronds right up to the trunk; the tree will form a ring around where the fronds used to be.

Place the dead fronds in with your compost or leave them under the cabbage palmetto as mulch. The fronds make a compost high in nutrition for other plants. Mulching under the tree conserves water and keeps down weeds. This eliminates the need for a weed trimmer that can permanently damage the tree and leave an open wound for disease to come in.

Prune off seed pods in the fall as they start to ripen. They can cause a mess as they fall and sprout cabbage palmetto trees where you don't want them.


Things You Will Need

  • Pruning pole
  • Ladder
  • Mulch


  • The berries are food for many migratory birds and local wildlife, so if possible, leave the berries on top of mulch or fronds under the tree.


  • Heavy pruning, or "hurricane cuts," should be performed only by nurseries that are transplanting trees to sites where there is no irrigation. This type of cutting directs the energy of the tree to re-establish the root system. It should not be done as a regular practice on trees in your yard.
  • Do not use spiked boots to climb a cabbage palmetto because the spikes leave wounds in the trunk and allow disease to invade.
  • Because the cabbage palmetto is self-pruning, fronds too high to reach with a ladder and pruning pole will blow off themselves.