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How to Prune a Cat Palm

By Jacob J. Wright ; Updated September 21, 2017

Becoming a lush, weeping mass of feather-like fronds, the cat palm (Chamaedorea cataractarum) grows from low, prostrate stems, making traditional branch-pruning tasks irrelevant. The only pruning required is the removal of dead and broken fronds or those that are shading and encroaching upon nearby tropical border plants. Removal of the frond is done by cutting the frond's stem at the base, as close to the stumpy trunk as possible. It is a slow-growing palm, so do not overprune it.

Look over the health and shape of the clustering cat palm. Fully dead (browned) fronds can be pulled from the plant. Determine which fronds are problematic, either too tall or encroaching upon a building or shading other nearby plants.

Grasp the frond to be removed and trace its stem downward to the point where it attaches to the stubby trunk.

Cut the frond at its base with the hand pruners. Make the cut as close to the trunk as possible, taking care to not inadvertently wound or cut other frond stems.

Pull out the cut frond from the cluster and put in the compost pile.

Repeat steps 1 through 4 as needed. Always double-check the look of the palm after you prune out a frond. This slow-growing palm will look unattractive for some time if you overprune and leave a lopsided or scraggly specimen from overpruning.

 

Things You Will Need

  • Hand pruners (secateurs)

Tip

  • Cat palms look best if they are full and lush. Cut away lowermost fronds to make the clump look more tidy and if planted in proximity to other tropical plants in the border. Those grown as houseplants can look attractive left to their natural mounding and weeping form or revealing the frond stems if the smallest, lowermost fronds are removed, too.

Warnings

  • Cat palm will naturally grow as tall as 5 to 6 feet and up to 8 to 10 feet wide. Cutting or halving fronds will not shorten the palm's height, as new fronds will emerge and naturally grow to full length.
  • Do not remove healthy green fronds as it diminishes the palm's ability to make food. Keep yellowing fronds on as long as possible because nutrients are being relocated from the dying fronds to other healthy areas of the plant.

About the Author

 

Jacob J. Wright became a full-time writer in 2008, with articles appearing on various websites. He has worked professionally at gardens in Colorado, Florida, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina and Pennsylvania. Wright holds a graduate diploma in environmental horticulture from the University of Melbourne, Australia, and a Master of Science in public horticulture from the University of Delaware.