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Proper Palm Tree Care & Maintenance

There are over 2,500 different palm tree species in the world. Palm trees can be separated into few major types depending on their trunk, leaf structure, growth rate, size, and cold tolerance. Aside from this basic segregation, palms also differ in salt and drought tolerance, leaf color, fruit and flower production.

In South Florida, care and maintenance practices of landscape palms are relatively easy and simple. Only occasional pruning to remove dead leaves and/or fruit stalks to prevent dangerous or messy litter, regular irrigation, and one or two, annual applications of a "palm-special" fertilizer are necessary.



Palm roots need lots of oxygen, so well drained soil is critical. Poor drainage and/or too much water keep soils constantly wet and are bad for palms, especially those that have been recently planted and are in the establishment phase. Establish an irrigation regime based on soil moisture levels, not a calendar or clock. Irrigate large, established landscape palms when the soil two inches deep becomes dry. If the soil at that depth is moist, do not irrigate. At each watering apply enough water evenly over the root zone to moisten the soil to about one foot deep.



Palms are sensitive to deficiencies in nitrogen (N), potassium (K), and magnesium (Mg). Fertilize according to label directions with a "palm special" fertilizer, one that has high N, K, and Mg with micronutrients. Nitrogen deficiency shows as a generally yellowing of all leaves. Potassium and magnesium deficiencies appear on older leaves and are characterized by yellow or orange flecking and yellowing along the outside of the leaf. A micronutrient deficiency can occur with improper soil pH or when root activity is low, which can be due to a number of factors, including mechanical damage, disease, and too much water/poor drainage/lack of oxygen.



Too much leaf removal and trunk skinning with a chain saw can leave gaping wounds through which diseases can enter the trunk and cause decay. Be conservative when pruning and refrain from using a chain saw. Prune out only dead leaves or, at the most, leaves up to the horizontal (an imaginary line through the middle of the crown). Avoid removing leaves above the horizontal. Although sometimes esthetically pleasing, refrain from excessive trunk skinning and ball shaping since they can create large wounds. Prevention through sanitation and more conservative leaf pruning and trunk skinning is the only way to control diseases. Some deadly palm deseases include Fusarium, Thielaviopsis and “pink rot”.


Common Palm Tree Varieties

Common varieties include Royal Palm, Sabal Palm, Canary Island Date Palm.The list goes on with over 2,000 species. Others include:


  • Bismarck Palm

  • Cabbage Palm

  • Carpentaria Palm

  • Chinese Fan Palm

  • Christmas Palm

  • Fishtail Palm

  • Key Thatch Palm

  • Macarthur Palm

  • Pindo Palm

  • Paurotis Palm

  • Pygmy Date Palm

  • Queen Palm

  • Senegal Date Palm

  • Sentry Palm

  • Washington Palm

  • Windmill Palm

  • Yellow Butterfly Palm

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