Objectives:

  1. Remove dead and dying fronds to develop flowers and fruits to reduce risk and enhance aesthetics.
  2. Remove sprouts or stems to maintain one trunk.

Before Pruning

Consider removing lower fronds that are chlorotic or dead. There is no biological reason to remove live green fronds on palms. There is no research supporting the notion that removing live green fronds reduces future pruning requirements

Over-pruning

Remove lower fronds that are dead or more than about half chlorotic. Do not remove green fronds or the palm could become stressed. (If you decide to remove green fronds, do not remove those growing horizontally or pointed upward.)

Proper Pruning

Over-pruned palms look terrible and could attract pests. In the detail above you can see that many upright fronds were removed. Why remove green fronds when the palm was planted for its tropical look. That tropical look results from live green fronds.

Introduction

Palms and cycads are often thought of as low maintenance plants; however, most palms require regular pruning to keep them attractive and safe. Many palms maintain a set number of live fronds. A regular turnover of foliage occurs as dying lower fronds are replaced by new ones at the apex. These dead fronds are not detrimental to the health of the tree.

If there is an excessive number of older yellow fronds determine the cause before pruning. There could be a severe nutrient problem caused by a potassium or magnesium deficiency that could worsen if the palm is pruned or fertilized with high nitrogen or the wrong type of fertilizer.

There are several reasons for pruning palms

  1. Removing dead and dying lower fronds improves the appearance of a palm.
  2. Dead and dying fronds and loose petioles are weakly attached to some palms and can place people and property at risk should they fall from tall palms. People have been severely injured by falling fronds. Dead and dying palm fronds should be removed regularly to reduce this risk.
  3. Pruning can remove fruit clusters, especially in public landscapes where falling fruit and flower debris can be messy as well as hazardous. Some palms generate copious amounts of seedlings near the plant. Removing flowers or fruit reduces the number of potential seedlings.
  4. Remove sprouts from the base of the trunk.

Execution

It is preferable not to remove live, healthy fronds. If they must, then avoid removing fronds that are growing horizontally or those growing upward. Fronds removed should be severed close to the petiole base without damaging living trunk tissue. There is little reason to shave or sand the trunk smooth. The pineapple shape crafted at the base of date palms is not necessary for good health of the palm. Dead fronds can be removed with a small chain saw. Use a hand saw to cut developing flower and fruit stalks that emerge between live fronds so you do not injure the surrounding fronds.