Anyone who lives in or has visited an area with an abundance of palms has seen palms with what is called a "rooster tail," or only a few fronds on top that stick straight up after pruning. While it is a common practice with many tree trimming companies, it is actually detrimental to the palms.
What Should and Shouldn't Be Trimmed From a Palm?
Properly pruned palms will have only bloom stalks and dead or dying fronds removed. Removing green fronds opens up wounds that can easily be attacked by insects and diseases. Palms feed on the dying fronds, so removing green fronds decreases the plant's ability to make food and can result in smaller, weaker new fronds. A palm is not a tree, rather it is related to grasses, so palms should never be "topped." Removing the growing tip of a palm will kill it, because it will not be able to grow back out from the trunk.
Should You Remove Palm Skirts of Dead Fronds?
While most palms drop their dead fronds rather quickly, Some palms, such as Washingtonian or Windmill palms, hold onto their dead fronds for up to a year. The dead fronds lay against the trunk forming what is known as a "skirt." These skirts can become the home for rats, snakes, insects and other detrimental creatures. They can also harbor diseases when they get wet that can be transferred to the palm itself. These dead fronds should always be removed.
What Should You Remove From a Storm Damaged Palm?
Hurricanes and tropical storms can do extreme damage to palms. The first instinct is to prune off as many damaged fronds as possible, but fronds with damage that are otherwise healthy should be left on the palm to retain the trees ability to photosynthesize sunlight and help the palm recover more quickly. Even once enough new fronds grow in to provide a decent canopy, the damaged fronds should be allowed to die back naturally.
What Diseases of Deficiencies Can Be Found by Examining Yellowing Fronds?
Yellow fronds are not always due to age. Some insects, diseases, or nutrient deficiencies can be the cause. In particular, spider mites like to attack the fronds of some palms during hot, dry weather. Yellowing of bottom leaves can result from a potassium or nitrogen deficiency. Frizzled leaves at the top of a palm are due to a manganese deficiency. It's best to treat these problems before you prune the fronds from your palm.
Palms are beautiful, graceful plants whose rustling fronds bring the look and sound of the tropics to any landscape. For healthy, happy palms, hire a tree trimming company that is experienced in the proper trimming of palms and will not leave you with a damaging "rooster tail." Contact a landscaper, like Good Morrow, for more help.