Q: My neighbor paid someone to prune her palms and they look like they have Mohawk haircut. The landscaper called it a “hurricane cut” but it does not look correct to me. What is the proper way to prune a palm?
A: Hurricane season is the perfect time of year to discuss proper pruning cuts on palms. A few years ago, when we had four hurricanes come across Florida, can you guess which plant withstood the high winds the best? Much to our surprise, healthy palms came through the storms very well. As you may imagine, palms grown in tropical and subtropical areas have been exposed to storm conditions over the years and they are built to withstand wind gusts better than some of their woody tree counterparts. I
n general, it is best to leave palm fronds on the palm as long as any green is still visible on the frond. If the frond needs to be removed be sure the pruner does not cut into the bud area. Remember, the fronds or leaves supply the food to the palm therefore removing fronds too early reduces the amount of nutrients available to the palm. Removing too many fronds will unnecessarily stress the palm.
The best procedure for pruning palms is to think about the palm head in relation to the numbers on a clock. Generally, it is best to never remove fronds above three or nine o’clock position. You absolutely do not want to pay someone to prune any tree or shrub improperly. Attached is a publication from the University of Florida specifically regarding pruning palms: http://hort.ufl.edu/woody/documents/palms.pdf