The Do's and Don'ts of Palm Pruning

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The interesting thing about palms is that they are not often pruned or trimmed.  They are actually known as monocots.  Essentially, that means they don't grow outward in their trunks the way typical trees do.  This is why it is essential that care be properly taken when pruning or trimming.

Palms grow one leaf at a time. Clearly, this slow process requires some thought and planning before running at your palm with a pair of pruners.  Not using proper techniques and guidelines could kill your palm.


Don't damage the trunk when pruning.  If you do there is a good chance that it will not heal. Care should be taken to protect the root ball.  Much of the nutrients for the palm come from the topsoil through the root ball.  Damaging the root ball or the trunk will prevent the whole palm from absorbing those important nutrients.

Prune during the correct season, generally speaking this means pruning either in the months of summer or spring. This way, you will be able to see which branches or sets of leaves are still healthy or are showing no signs of growing again

Remove the palm's foliage if it is loose or discoloured (yellow or brown).  If it doesn't remove easily, leave it.  Removal of older green leaves can speed up the deficiency and break down of the younger leaves, causing them to look discoloured. Remember, with palms, it is better to err on the side of caution.

Don't let the palm's flowers and fruit stalks thrive.  These essentially weaken the plant because they absorb energy.   When the fruit matures they will fall and make a mess of the surrounding area.  As a result they also attract certain undesirable elements like rodents or birds. It is simply best to address this issue upfront and carefully remove the flowers and fruit stalks.

If necessary carefully trim out some of the clumping palms or some of the new growth, but only if the palm is getting too big for the space provided.

Don't prune the green fronds. These leaves provide food for newer leaves.  Removing them will mean poor growth for the plant.  Remember, palms don't branch out from the trunk like typical trees. Their source of energy and food come strictly from their root ball at the base, and their fronds at the top. Removing these healthy fronds keeps this energy from getting to the plant.

Do not over prune or trim your palm.  Pay attention to what your palm is doing.  If you trim four mature fronds, make sure that your palm has produced at least four new fronds.

Fronds can take up to three to five years to mature.  If you look at the current year's new growth, the mature fronds are just below them.  Leave at least two rows.  If you can leave more, then do it, but at least two fronds.

Palms protrude out in such a way as to protect themselves from high winds.  This is commonly called the cantilever effect.  Those mature fronds are there for a reason. If you prune too many of the mature fronds before the younger ones have a chance to grow, the high winds could rip them from the trunk, thus damaging the palm and inhibiting its future health.  Those mature fronds are there to protect the younger ones.

Don't presume to know more than the plant does.  The plant knows how many fronds it needs and how tall they should be.  It knows that if the first frond is dying, then it should be replaced with a new one.  It knows exactly how long it takes the frond to mature, and as a result, it knows when to begin growing a new one.

Pruning the plant for aesthetic purposes isn't the best idea.  You run the risk of damaging the palm beyond repair.  However, sometimes it is necessary that is why you must use caution and knowledge before beginning.  Let your plant live to a ripe old age, and not die because of carelessness.


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