Pruning your palms is a necessary part of tropical tree care here in Florida. By pruning off old, damaged parts, your tree has more room to sprout new, healthy leaves, and it will be able to better direct its energy towards new growth instead of feeding the old leaves that are finished developing. Plus, old dry leaves are quite flammable, so by removing them, you’ll help reduce fire hazards. Here are some basic guidelines on how to prune palms, so you can safely and easily complete it all yourself.
How Do You Trim a Palm Tree?
Unlike many other trees or shrubs, palms don’t need to be pruned as drastically to stimulate new growth. In fact, if you overdo it on the trimming, it could actually inhibit growth and hurt the plant. Never prune it for aesthetic reasons or for reshaping—only prune when there is dead and damaged material. Take the less is more approach—do it infrequently, but do it properly, and your palms will be happy. Early spring is the best time to prune, and you should never do it more than once per year.
When trimming off the leaves, or “fronds,” you want to make sure they’ve turned almost entirely brown. If there’s still a significant amount of green throughout the leaves and stems, just leave it be until they turn fully brown. If you cut it too early, you could end up permanently scarring the trunk. When removing the frond, try to cut it as close to the trunk as possible.
Wear thick gardening gloves to protect your palms—you know, the ones on your hands!
On top of trimming off the leaves, you can also nip off any old fruit stems that remain on the plant, as well as seed pods and flowers, which drain energy from your trees and slow down their growth. Remember to always sanitize your cutters with isopropyl alcohol or hydrogen peroxide before using them, to prevent introducing fungi or disease into your tree. If there are any loose petioles below the fronds, you should be able to gently pull them off by hand. If they’re still securely in place, just leave them be.
Palm Tree Trimming Equipment
If you’ve got smaller palms on your property, you should be able to use handheld pruning shears to nip off leaves and fruit stems. However, if it’s a larger, more mature plant, you’re better off using a long pole saw. Luckily, damaged or dead fronds tend to droop downwards, so they’re a bit easier to reach than the healthy ones. Ensure the blades of your trimming tools are well sharpened because if the blades are dull, you could end up with a pretty unsightly hack job.
Wear thick gardening gloves to protect your palms—you know, the ones on your hands! When you’re sawing, this can dislodge a lot of particles and shards from the trunk, so it’s also a good idea to wear safety goggles to avoid having any bits of debris getting stuck in your eye. You may need to use a small ladder to reach the higher branches, but take caution and be very careful in maintaining your balance. We recommend having a friend or family member hold your ladder steady in place, especially if the terrain is a little uneven.
Now, if your palms are super tall and you aren’t confident you can reach the leaves with your pole saw when they’re that high up, it may be in your best interests to hire a professional service to do the work for you or rent a cherry picker so you can access those hard-to-reach areas without losing your balance.
How to Dispose of Trimmings Properly
The leaves and branches of your palms can be quite sharp, so continue to wear your gloves as you gather the cuttings to dispose of them. If the leaves don’t show any signs of fungal growth, you can put them in your compost bin. Be sure to dispose of all fallen fruits and seeds, as they can attract pests that cause damage to trees and other plant life. The fruits can also stain your pavement, and it’s quite tricky to clean off.
Consult with your local waste department to see if there are specific regulations or recommendations on disposing of debris from palms. In Fort Lauderdale, residential yard waste collection comes by weekly, and they will collect your clippings so long as they’ve been cut short enough to fit in your designated bin with the lid shut. Check our local Property Information Reporter if you’re unsure of your assigned collection day.
Want to add some new saplings into your home landscape? We have plenty available at Living Color Garden Center, and we offer home delivery and planting services to make it as simple as possible. Trees are an excellent way to increase your property value, and they help keep our air clean, so they’re always a sound investment!