Palm Trees are one of the most durable and low-maintenance trees you can own, provided you planted them in their preferred conditions. The best palm tree care starts with choosing the right tree for your garden. Healthy palms naturally resist insect pests and diseases so you rarely have to worry about that. In most cases, insects are more of an annoyance than a real problem.
Occasional trimming of dead leaves to keep their beautiful appearance and some cold protection in case of a cold snap might be needed for some species. With minimal effort, your palms will flourish for years to come gracing your outdoor spaces with their tropical splendor. Below we’ve outlined some tips in caring for your palm tree, to keep it flourishing and living up to it’s ultimate potential within your landscape.
1. Newly Planted Palms
Give them special care for the first several months. After three or four months of growth in the new planting site, the palm tree has pretty well established itself. After a year of growth, the palm tree has a fully developed root ball.
Newly planted palm trees have the greatest water needs. Depending on your local weather conditions, and for the first few weeks, you should continue with deep irrigations three to four times weekly and sometimes daily if conditions are especially hot and dry. Avoid watering your palms in the late afternoon during the wintertime. The soil will remain cold throughout the night, potentially damaging the roots of the tree.
Avoid getting water on the trunk and foliage in cold weather as well. Keep them screened to avoid sunburn if they are in intense light for extended periods and watch for yellowing or browning of leaves.
2. Fertilize Correctly
Regular applications of a high-quality fertilizer specific to palm trees will help. Providing needed nutrients with the right fertilizer is crucial to your palm’s long-term health and ability to resist disease. Avoid burning your plant by keeping fertilizer applications at least two feet from the trunk. Plan on applying the appropriate fertilizer at least five or six times a year during the warmer months.
Some palms are needier than others. Feeding your palm tree promotes healthy growth, the best looks, and assists in warding off potential health problems that arise from missing essential nutrients.
The best time to start applying your palm fertilizer, with the first application around April. Then spread out an additional three to four applications equally divided throughout the growing season through early fall.
Be careful not to fertilize too late in the season and too close to winter because the palm can put out tender new growth that could damaged by the cold temperatures. Stop feeding the palm tree after early fall, generally September or early October until it warms again in spring. When it comes to applying the palm fertilizer it’s best to spread the product evenly over the planting site and under the palm’s canopy.
3. Benefit of Mulching
Use mulch around the base of the palm to help the soil retain moister and to keep the weeds out. It works much better than the lawn which can use up all the nutrients and water intended for the palm. Adding a 2- to 3-inch layer of organic mulch over the planting site helps cut down on unwanted growth like weeds and grasses, as well as helping the soil retain moisture and thus keeping the palm’s root system cooler.
Mulching will also help insulate the roots and keep the palm warm during the winter. With lawn too close to a palm, there is a chance of trunk damage during the grass trimming. Place it about 1 foot away from the trunk since excess mulch piled against the trunk can cause trunk rot and fungal disease and prevents water from penetrating into the root zone.
4. Protect Your Palm From the Cold
Most palms like warm weather and get cold damage if the temperature drops below 45F. However, there are some species that can survive cold winters with temperatures as low as 10-15F. You can use a blanket during cold night hours and wrap it around the trunk. If the temperature gets lower than typically expected, a small heater and light bulbs will keep the area around the tree warm. Consider stringing holiday lights throughout the palm’s canopy to help produce warmth. Apply 4-6 inches of mulch around palm root zone to protect the roots.
5. Trim Palm Trees
Most palm trees shed their old fronds naturally, however, sometimes you may have to trim them yourself. A general mistake many make is to trim their palms too often and/or incorrectly. Palms get many of their nutrients through their leaves, and removing them can starve a plant or leave it vulnerable to disease. Contrary to how you often remove damaged leaves from many plants, leave them on the palm tree until they are totally dead.
Therefore, if you trim them too soon, it will create more stress for the plant and will slow down the formation of the new beautiful leaves. Don’t cut them until they are dry. Otherwise you would be hurting your tree instead of helping it. When removing the leaves, cut as close to the trunk as possible without injuring the trunk. The remaining leaf base will eventually fall off on its own or you can pull it off when it is dry and loose.
The biggest and first job in palm maintenance is choosing the right palm trees to purchase and planting them in the right location. The secret to successful palm tree care is in creating an environment as close to it’s natural habitat as possible.
Palms make every yard more attractive and appealing, and you can protect your investment in this distinctive plant with just the right amount of TLC. A huge aspect of having the yard of your dreams is designing your yard to ensure your trees, palms, and plants are well-placed for proper style, sun exposure, water needs, and growth patterns.