The pygmy date palm (Phoenix roebelenii) is loved for its graceful, feathery fronds atop a upright, slender trunk. Usually seen growing in clusters of many trunks, basic pruning of this palm is focused solely on removal of dead or diseased fronds, keeping healthy green fronds. The branched clusters of flower and subsequent fruits may also be cut away to suit personal aesthetics.
Wear thick gloves to protect your hands from the thin spines found at the base of every date palm frond. Putting on a long-sleeved shirt is also a good idea if you will be reaching deep into the mass of foliage.
Look for brown, dead or diseased fronds and note them for removal. Resist pruning off green or yellowing fronds as they provide food and nutrients to the plant. A healthy frond should be considered for removal only if it is encroaching upon a structure or more valued plant nearby.
Grasp the palm frond to be removed with one gloved hand, while holding the pruners in the other. Look for a spot on the lowermost part of the frond, nearest the trunk or crownshaft (leaf base). Double check for access with your pruning hand so that you can reach the frond to be cut without contacting the spines on nearby fronds.
Make a crisp, one-motion cut of the pruner blades 2 to 5 inches above the point of attachment of the frond with the trunk or crownshaft. A forceful cut ensures that fibers in the stem do not tear or linger after the cut. If fibers remain, make additional cuts as needed to free the frond entirely from the trunk.
Pull out the detached frond, keeping it away from your face. Orient all cut fronds in a pile on the ground nearby so that when you pick them up later, all the fronds' spined ends are on one side of the pile.
Pour a small amount of rubbing alcohol on the pruner blades after pruning one palm canopy before going to the next. Sterilizing the pruners ensures you are not inadvertently spreading a living plant virus or small bug to the next frond you prune.
Cut off branched flowering structures or fruit clusters if desired. These plant parts do not have spines, but be wary of the frond bases nestled around the stem of the flower or fruit cluster. Cut the cluster stem 2 to 5 inches from the trunk or crownshaft, just as you did for fronds.
Things You Will Need
- Hand pruners (secateurs)
- Rubbing alcohol
- Pygmy date palm needs minimal pruning, mainly to remove clinging dead and brown fronds in the bottom parts of the canopy. It excels in hot weather with plenty of soil moisture, even though it is drought tolerant. Proper fertilization, especially in sandy soils, diminishes the number of yellow-tipped, nutrient deficient fronds on the palm.