Trees

Garden Palm Trees: Complete Guide

Pinterest LinkedIn Tumblr

Do you feel like adding a tropical theme to your garden? Consider going with some palm trees around your property. Palms add a sense of style, elegance, and wealth to your real estate, and they’re the perfect addition to a coastal home or estate in the tropics.

Palm trees are a species for intermediate gardeners, as these trees can be somewhat sensitive to transplanting and weather conditions. Depending on the variety you plant in your garden, your palm trees may require regular maintenance to ensure they remain strong and healthy.

This guide gives you everything you need to know for growing and maintaining palms trees.

Some Popular Types of Palms

  • Mexican Fan Palm (Washingtonia robusta)
  • Canary Island Date Palm (Phoenix canariensis
  • California Fan Palm (Washingtonia filifera)
  • Date Palm (Phoenix dactylifera)
  • Coconut Palm (Cocos nucifera)

Palm Tree Sunlight Requirements

Finding the proper site in your yard to plant your palm trees is a tricky situation. Species vary in light preferences, and if you plant in the wrong location, your palm may die off.

Some palms love the shade, and if you plant them in the direct sunlight, they’ll turn brown, wither and die. If you plant a palm that enjoys the sunshine in a shaded area, it will struggle to develop roots and turn out thin with minimum foliage.

Research your specific palm tree species on Google, or ask the nursery where you bought it about the best lighting conditions for optimal growth.

Palm Tree Temperature Requirements

Most palm tree varieties come from tropical zones that have warm summers and mild winters. Ideal temperatures for the majority of palm species is between 95F during the day, with lows of 78F at night. Some palms can cope with temperatures exceeding 110F.

However, there are a few varieties of palm s that can live in colder climates, with even lows reaching the 50s and 40s. Some subspecies can tolerate light snowfall on occasion as well.

Palm trees also prefer humid climates, which is why they’re such a common tree around coastal areas and tropical regions. However, some hardier species can survive in dryer conditions as well. Make sure you research the best varieties for your climate conditions.

Palm Tree Soil Requirements

Palm trees require a soil that drains well. If the roots continually have “wet feet,” it results in the onset of root rot. Most palm varieties are happy in either acidic or alkaline soil, and they don’t need the addition of any nutrients.

Planting Your Palm Tree

Palms make excellent trees along the border of the property. If you live in an area around Florida, the Keys, or the gulf coast, palms are an excellent choice for your garden. However, these areas are also a hurricane risk, and palms don’t have a deep root system.

Therefore, there a chance your palm falls over in high wind speed conditions. Don’t plant any large palm tree species near your home, as storm winds may knock them over and damage your property. After siting your tree, you’ll need to dig a hole that’s twice the size of the diameter of the root ball, and deep enough to cover the top of the roots.

Plant during the mid-spring after you’re sure the coldest weather is over. When planting, make sure you don’t damage the heart of the tree where the leaves originate. Damaging the heart of the tree will stunt growth and distort leaf growth.

Remove the palm from the pot, and place it in the hole. Backfill the hole to ensure that the bottom of the trunk is flush with the gardens surface, then fill in the rest. Don’t press down too hard when filling the hole, as this may compact the soil, affecting the root growth and soil drainage.

How to Brace Your Palm Trees

Open-grown palms have smaller root balls than container-grown trees. Therefore, you’ll need to brace your tree for the first year to 18-months to ensure the roots take into the ground to provide the necessary support.

Without bracing, the top-heavy palm tree will fall over in wind gusts. We recommend bracing over staking your palm trees. The ties you use in staking methods will slip down the smooth trunk of most palms.

Take three 2×4-inch lumber braces and space them equally around your palm tree. The braces need to provide adequate support in high winds, so ensure they are far enough from the base of the tree. Use burlap to secure the bracing to the tree, and protect the trunk from scrapes and scratches.

Use smaller pieces of wood to form a bridge between the braces, and nail the structure together to provide strength. Stake the bases of the supports into the ground and nail the supports to the stakes.

Caring for Your Palms

Palms can live without fertilizer, but you can dramatically increase the growth of your trees if you feed them four times a year. After four weeks, when your palm tree starts establishing its root system, you can begin feeding your tree.

Use a fertilizer with one-part phosphorous, one-part magnesium, two-parts nitrogen, and three-parts potassium. Water your tree at least three to four times a week, and if the weather gets hot, water five to six times a week. The best strategy is to form a dam around the planting area and apply the water directly to the soil around the root ball.

When transplanting your open-grown tree, make sure you provide it with plenty of water in the initial weeks to reduce transplant shock. Some desert varieties of palm trees may only require watering every 10-days after they establish roots.

The most crucial part about watering your palm trees is the drainage. If you have a well-draining soil mix, then make sure that you apply mulch around the base of the tree during the summer to retain moisture. As the mulch decomposing, it feeds the palm tree with a steady flow of nutrients.

If you notice pests or weeds growing around your palm trees, try to remove them by hand. Palm trees are sensitive to herbicides and pesticides, and using these products may result in brow foliage, brown leaf spots, growth deformities, and possible death of the tree.

Pruning Your Palms

Your palm trees will require regular pruning and maintenance to keep them as healthy as possible. Start with removing the old fruit stems and dead leaves (fronds). After the fronds turn brown and fall toward the trunk of the palm, it’s safe to prune them.

The key to successful pruning is to ensure that there is no green visible on the frond. For large palm trees, you need a pruning saw to remove the fronds. A sharp pair of pruning shears is sufficient for pruning smaller palm trees.

If you’re pruning different species of palms, make sure you treat the blade of the pruning tool with hydrogen peroxide between pruning session. This strategy helps to mitigate the risk of spreading disease between palms.

When pruning your fronds, make sure that you cut as close to the trunk of the tree as possible. The base of the leaf will eventually fall off as the tree grows, but it may take years for this to occur. If you make the mistake of tearing it off of the trunk, it may result in scarring.

Pruning your palm tree isn’t necessary, but it helps inspire new growth. If you have a tall palm, and you can’t get to the top to prune the fronds without using a crane, then leave them. Eventually, the fronds will fall off by themselves.

However, dead fronds hanging from your palm look unattractive. If the sight of the dead leaves is annoying you, hire a tree felling service to prune the tree.

Wrapping Up – Overwintering Your Palm Trees

As previously mentioned, palms trees are hardy and suit a wide range of climate conditions, but they do better in warmer tropical regions of the US. However, if you live in middle America, it’s possible to grow palm trees, and some species survive further north as well.

If you live in one of the colder areas of the United States, then you’ll need to overwinter your palm trees at the start of the season before the weather starts to reach temperatures of below 45F. Overwintering your palm trees is a simple process. When you plant, make sure you provide the tree with a windbreak, like a perimeter wall. The windbreak protects the tree from wind chill, which may kill the tree.

If you’re growing your palms in pots, consider taking them inside before the cold weather starts. Leave the palms in a well-lit area of your home that’s close to the window. If the potted palm is too heavy to move, or its growing outdoors, cover the top of the tree with burlap and secure it to the trunk with ties.

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. If the water freezes, it may cause scarring on the trunk and withering or brown spots on the leaves.

Robin Watson

Robin owns his own Landscape Gardening company based in the UK and has over 10 years professional experience working outdoors, creating beautiful landscapes for his clients in the UK. He is also a keen garden-grower and maintains his own fruit and vegetable gardens. He also has a level 3 Certificate in Practical Horticulture from The Royal Horticultural Society and is currently working on his first book about gardening. Contact him at Robin@gardenbeast.com

Write A Comment