Summer Care for Palm Trees

Arborist trimming a palm tree


Palm Trees thrive in the heat of summer. They do most of their growing between the months of May and August. However, these months also coincide with the Hurricane season in Florida and nearby states. So if you have a little time to attend to attend to your palms then summer is the time to do it. This article covers feeding and watering your palms in the summer along with pest control and trimming your palms for good measure.

For palm trees to grow, they need both nutrients and water in sufficient quantities.


Feeding your palm trees

The beginning of summer is a great time to start fertilizing your mature palm trees. Any application should be preceded by a simple DIY soil analysis test. This will reduce the amount of fertilizer needed in most cases and minimize run-off to waterways and also to avoid damaging your tree. Choose a soil analysis kit that tests specifically for Manganese, Magnesium, Potassium and Nitrogen as your palm will need these elements in adequate amounts to remain healthy in the summer growing season. If you see yellowing occurring at the tips of the upper green fronds, it could mean your palm is deficient in these nutrients.

The instructions on proprietary bags of palm tree fertilizer should be followed closely. Specifically, do not apply any fertilizer close to the base of the palm tree lest this burns the trunk or damages the fragile root system. Instead start applying in a wide circle starting at least 18 inches away from the base of your palm tree out towards the drip line. The drip line is the virtual diameter formed by the outer fronds of your palm projected downward to ground.

We recommend that you avoid fertilizing newly planted palms for the first 4 months in all cases.


Watering your palm trees

Just because palm trees like heat does not mean they like it dry too. In arid climates they need a source of water such as a nearby river, underground stream, an oasis or …you as an irrigator!

For palms which are fully grown, the amount of watering will depend on the climate and rainfall frequency. In many areas, water no more than two times during the summer months. If the ground is already moist after heavy rainfall, watering is not required, of-course.

For newly planted palms, more frequent watering will be required up to twice a week. Ensure that moisture is penetrating down to a depth of two feet.

Do not over-water either. You may need to add sand to your soil to improve drainage.


Checking your palm tree for pests

There are more than 2500 types of palm tree in the world and nearly all of them can and have been grown in Florida and other southern states of USA. Many palm species have pests which are unique to each type. So to list them all here would be an exercise in futility. Besides, signs of pest infection are often in and amongst the palm fronds and growing tip which are hard to reach.

Our advice is that if after you have watered and fed your tree as outlined above and your fronds are still discolored where they should be green, then call us. We’ll examine each tree for signs of infection or invasion and recommend a suitable course of treatment if the tree can be saved.


Trimming your palm tree

Now its June, the advent of the hurricane season is upon us in the southern states. you may have seen palm trees which have been trimmed very severely. The owners believe, mistakenly in our view, that a drastic trim will reduce the tree’s wind resistance and result in less damage from stormy weather. You may know the ‘pineapple on stilts’ look well with just a small tuft of green fronds remaining on the palm tree.

Hurricane Cut Palm Trees

What is less well known is that these so called “hurricane cuts” are completely unnecessary, solve nothing and are detrimental to the health of the palm.  

There is anecdotal evidence that it was the severely trimmed palm trees were damaged the most during Hurricane Wilma in 2005. And this article explains how an over-pruned palm can suffer more damage in hurricanes, not less.  

It’s our firm view that the vigor and health of palm trees is heavily dependent on a full set of fronds even if yellowing a little.

The science says that over-pruning palms removes access to a reservoir of nutrients like potassium and magnesium. These essential elements are necessary for the palm to thrive and stay green. The more fronds that are cut, the more your tree will attempt to absorb the lost magnesium and potassium from a reduced number of fronds. This causes further browning in a vicious cycle that will ultimately cause the death of your palm.

Excessive removal of green fronds and also the removal of live, lower fronds of a palm tree is not an acceptable pruning practice according to the Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA).

As a result of the over-exuberant palm tree trimmers in our industry, more city and county authorities are mandating that the pruning of all trees, including palms, follow the American National Standard as set out in ANSI A300 (Part 1)-2017 Pruning. Tree Top Pros supports these standards some of which are outlined here by way of example:

1. Damaged or dead fronds can be removed for reasons of reducing risk or improving aesthetics.
2. Healthy fronds are green and can also be yellowing; these are live fronds and should not be removed other than to provide clearance.
3. Yellowing fronds that are not diseased should not be removed except for safety reasons.
4. Diseased fronds can be either treated or removed to reduce the spread of pests.
5. Tree workers should not use climbing spurs on their boots to climb live palms

In practice, these are guidelines for tree workers as pruning mature palm trees at height is dangerous. As you may be considering employing tree companies to do the work for you, some knowledge of latest best practice in this area could be useful to you and for the health and longevity of your palm trees.

So when trimming palm trees, remember that less is definitely more! And that any trimming that you do commission does not have to be season-dependent.

Kindly Note: The accuracy of this calendar and timings shared within it cannot be guaranteed. States in the USA are at different latitudes, longitudes and have varying elevations. This makes the general advice we give hard to fit all states the same. Compounding these differences are the typical tree species sets between states. Furthermore, each state has its own weather patterns and levels of rainfall. All the calendar can do is broadly summarize best practice care for your trees. We therefore suggest that you consult your local arborist for more specific insights and advice relevant for your particular location.

Tree Care Diary - July
Tree Care Diary - June Part 2