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Did a Storm Damage Your Palm Trees?: Care After the Storm


While many palm species are adapted to windstorms, a hurricane or major storm can damage even the most tolerant palm trees.  Make sure to wait until after the storm to venture outside and assess damage.  Once an assessment has been made, you can begin to care for your damaged palm trees.

stripped palm trees from hurricane irma

Pam trees stand ripped of their fronds in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma in Marco Island, Fla., Monday, Sept. 11, 2017. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

It is important to understand how palm trees grow.  The growing point of a palm is the palm bud or palm heart, which is located at the top of the trunk surrounded by leaf bases.  All new leaves come from this bud.  If the bud is severely damaged, new leaves fail to develop and palm will eventually die.  Unless the palm trunk is broken or it is otherwise obvious that the bud has been damaged, there is no way to predict which palms will survive wind damage.  Certain palm species are more tolerant of high winds than others.  This includes the native sabal palm and royal palm, both survive high winds, but in very different ways.  While sabal palms lose very few leaves, royal palms shed most of their leaves.

It takes 6 months or more before it is apparent that a palm will recover.  Recovery consists of new leaves emerging from the bud.  In some cases, the new leaves will not look normal.  However, over time, each emerging leaf should appear a little more normal than the one before. It is recommended to monitor damage over the following two years.  Sometimes problems occur before storms, but are not noticed until after a storm when close inspection of the palm trees is taking place.  The challenge is determining which problems existed before and which are caused by the storm.

Broken Palms – if the trunk of a single-stemmed palm is broken, it should be cut at the base and removed. If possible, the stump should be removed or ground up.

Uprooted Palms – Palms should be stood upright as soon as possible and replanted at the same depth at which they were planted previously.  Bracing is necessary and should be kept in place for at least 6 months. uprooted palm tree

Leaf Removal– If the broken leaves are still green, it is recommended to leave the attached.  If only a few leaves are broken, then removing only these leaves may be acceptable.

Fertilization– For palms that are not uprooted, maintain the same fertilization program that was in place prior to the storm. Replanted palms need to exhibit new growth before fertilizer is applied to the root zone.

Fungicides– The only chemical pesticides that may have an effect on both fungi and bacteria are copper-based fungicides which should be applied as a drench to the bud (only if the bud is damaged), not the soil.  All fungicides must be used in accordance with the label. Contact your local UF/IFAS Extension Agriculture Agent to learn about pesticides and their applications. It is best to reserve fungicide use for those palms that are highly valuable or severely damaged.

Yellow New Leaves Immediately After the Storm– Most commonly seen on royal palms, it has been observed on other palms as well. New sprouting leafs, known as the spear leaf, are unopened and stands upright.  In a windstorm, these leaves can be forced open prematurely and the leaf turns the color of a mature palm leaf.  If the bud is not damaged, the palm will produce a new canopy. It will take a year or more for the entire canopy to be replaced.

diseased palm tree

Soluble Salts in the Soil– If the landscape has been flooded with salt water, the evaporated salt can cause serious injury to many species of palm.  If a significant rainfall doesn’t occur after the flood recedes, it may help to heavily leach the soil around palms with fresh water as soon as possible.

Palm trees are beautiful for a Florida landscape and tough enough to ride out the storm.  However, sometimes they can be damaged if the storm is dangerous enough. For more information on damaged palm care, click here.




Jana Hart- Extension Agent- FCS/4-H


13 Comments on “Did a Storm Damage Your Palm Trees?: Care After the Storm

  1. After a strong wind storm my sabal palm tree is now loose and leaning. I can rock it about 6 inches and am worried that another wind could topple it. What should I do?

    • Hi, thank you so very much for reading my post. I am not an expert, so I have passed your concern along to an expert at the University and will get back with you as soon as I get a reply.

    • Your palm can be straightened and guyed securely to prevent movement. This will allow new roots from the base of the trunk to eventually (about a year or so) support the palm .

  2. What about fishtail palms. How low should I cut the broken stems?

    • According to the expert: To some people, petioles are stems. In this case, the leaves can simply be cut off near their origin. If a true stem or trunk is broken, it should be cut as low as possible to the ground. If the fishtail palm is a single-stemmed species (not common in FL), then make sure that they also have the stump ground out after cutting the stem off. This is to prevent ganoderma from moving in on the stump and from there it could move into living palms. That holds for the removal of any palm for any reason. Unfortunately, we can’t grind out the individual stubs of clustering palm species that may have been cut out and thus, ganoderma often invades the clump via these stubs and eventually kills off the living stems.

  3. My palm tree crown was blown over at a 90 degree angle during Hurricane Irma last September in central Florida. Is there anything I can do to save the tree? All the fronds still look healthy.

  4. Hi Mina, I will talk to our specialist and get back with you as soon as possible. Thank you so much for reading our blog! 🙂

  5. My Bismarck Palm was damaged during Hurricane Irma last year. The frond coming out of the heart at the time was blown over and turned brown. Many other fronds were damaged. There are still at least 6 fronds left on the tree that are green but no new fronds since the hurricane in Sept. 2017. If the damaged center frond remains on the tree hanging over and dead will new fronds grow from the center? How will I know when the Bismarck is dead? If all of the remaining fronds turn brown, should I assume the dead or should I give it more time? Would hate to see it go!! Thank you for the information.

  6. I have a 4 foot windmill palm that was pushed over by wind in recent storm. I live in upstate SC. I have righted it(in original hole) and supported it with rope. I have not added any soil around it, should I?? Is this sufficient or should I replant it?
    Thanks in advance for any advice.

  7. I have a yellow coconut in Brownsville, Texas. It was planted two years ago when it was about 5 inches tall, and it has never needed to be staked. This fall we had some nights near freezing. After a day of pre-cold front strong south wind, the palm is now a little loose in the ground. The lowest fronds are a deep yellow with brown around the edges, and some of the newer fronds are slightly yellowed at the leaf tips. A new spear is emerging fairly quickly. Should I do anything besides bracing the palm?

  8. Thanks for information…it was really helpful and informative.